Religion & Beliefs

Does Anyone Actually LIKE to Play Dreidel?

Now, I don’t want to rain on your parade… but it seems that we didn’t invent the dreidel.  According to this site (and some others), it’s just another borrowed custom: It is believed that the Jewish game of dreidel is … Read More

By / December 19, 2006

Now, I don’t want to rain on your parade… but it seems that we didn’t invent the dreidel.  According to this site (and some others), it’s just another borrowed custom:

It is believed that the Jewish game of dreidel is a Judaicized version of the German gambling game. The Yiddish word dreidel derived from the German word drehen, which means "to spin." The letters on the faces of the gambling toy, which were mnemonic for the rules of the game, varied in each nation…In the German game, the letters were: N for Nichts (nothing), G for Ganz (all), H for Halb (half), S for Stell (put).

Sound familiar?  In fact, an English version of this game was, it seems, mightily popular at…. Christmas!

Ach!

So where does that leave us?  Are we supposed to stop hosting our ridiculous (world record setting) dreidel-spinning contests?  Are we supposed to sell off  all our fancy-shmancy high art Judaica?  Close down performances of silly dreidel-centric holiday plays?

Quite the contrary.  I think its time we recognized that symbols aren’t enough… in and of themselves.  I think it’s time we made the dreidel mean something more…

Or at least turned it into something more fun.

Look, I’ll admit that maybe I’m not the best judge.  I think dreidels are lame.  Especially in my family, where we play for apricots and figs (figs??  What kind of loser kid likes figs?)    But why is that?  Gambling is, after all, super fun!  How is it possible that we’ve turned something as risky and wonderful and naughty as gambling into a game as boring as Go Fish? 

Figs?  C’mon, Dad!

It seems like the solution is to amp up the gambling aspect.  It seems we should build a whole casino-night tradition out of the dreidel.  Martinis and cleavage and roulette wheels… and high stakes dreidel.  Let’s get a little sexy with it.  Let’s get risky like the Maccabees.  Let’s let our oil run out.  Let’s defy our Hellenistic oppressors by gambling ALL NIGHT LONG!

And then, of course, let’s  take a lesson from the Jewish frat boys, and donate all the proceeds to a worthy cause. 

That’s what I got, folks… my answer to the “dreidels are dull”  dilemma.  High stakes dreidel, as charity.  Anyone got anything better?