Brass Candle Cups
Dreidel and Menorah Woodshapes
The festival of Chanukah is celebrated mainly in the home, and
is marked by kindling the Chanukah lights, eating traditional foods, playing
dreidel, and giving “Chanukah gelt” to the children.
The exchange of gifts is a latter day adoption of the holiday traditions
of the surrounding non-Jewish culture in Western society. The authentic
Jewish tradition is to give coins (gelt, in Yiddish) to the children.
This tradition also has caused confusion in the tradition of playing “dreidel”,
a put–and-take game played with a four-sided spinning finger top,
which is properly played with candies or nuts, but not with coins. The
dreidel game became associated with Chanukah several centuries ago, but
contrary to popular legend, does not date to Maccabbean times. It was
simply the Yiddish version of a popular European parlor game, adopted
from the surrounding culture, from the Renaissance on.
Traditional Chanukah foods recall the legend of the miracle of the sacred
lamp oil that lasted eight days—potato pancakes (latkes)
in Europe and America; jelly donuts (sufganiot) in Israel—both
fried in oil.
The Chanukah Menorah, or Chanukiah
A kosher menorah has all eight candle cups at the same height,
with the “shamash”, which lights the others, above
or separate from the others.
On the first night of Chanukah, one candle is put in the candle cup on
the far right end of the menorah. On each successive night, one candle
is added, from right to left (think in terms of reading Hebrew.) However,
on each night, the newest candle added, the one furthest left, is the
first to be lighted by the shamash, which is lit first by a match or other
source of fire. The candles are lit in order, from left to right.
As the candles are lit, the two brachot (blessings) are recited,
followed on the first night by a third blessing, Shehecheyanu,
and the paragraph Hanerot Halalu, found in the Siddur,
and finally, traditional Chanukah songs, such as Maoz Tzur and
Mi Y’malel. On Shabbat, the Chanukah candles are lit first,
and then the Shabbat candles.
“Bubbie’s Menorah Miracle”
by Rabbi Eli Hecht
This brief account of the return of a missing Menorah illustrates the
powerful effect of a treasured ritual object upon a family and a community.
Just follow this link:
THE GAME OF DREIDEL:
Rules of Play
Dreidel is the traditional game for the festival of Chanukah. Any number
can play. Each player contributes some nuts, raisins or candies to a central
“pot” and spins the dreidel in turn. The Hebrew letters on
the dreidel stand for Yiddish words which tell how much you win...or lose!
“NUN” stands for Nisht--win nothing,
“GIMMEL” stands for Gantz--take all; win the pot.
“HEY” stands for Halb--win half the pot.
“SHIN” stands for Shtel--put one in the pot (or other
If the pot is won, every player can “ante up”
In some places, NUN is said to stand for Nem, or “take”,
which wins the pot,
while GIMMEL stands for Geb, “give”, meaning put
and SHIN stands for Shtey, which means “stand”, that
is, do nothing.
HEY still wins half the pot.
The letters on the dreidel have also been interpreted to stand for the
“Nes Gadol Haya Sham,” meaning “a great miracle
happened there” in reference to the story of Chanukah (either the
miracle of the oil that burned for eight days, or the miracle of the military
victory over the Syrian Greeks.)
In Israel the dreidel says, “A great miracle happened here.”
Therefore, the last letter is changed to “PEY” to stand for
the word “Po,” meaning “here.”
While these are the best known, numerous other interpretations have been
put forward to connect the dreidel to the Chanukah tradition, or to other
Jewish values. One such interpretation is as follows:
“NUN” stands for neshama, the soul.
“GIMMEL” stands for guf, the body.
“SHIN” (or it’s other vocalization, “SIN”)
stands for sekhel, the mind, and
“HEY” stands for Hakol, the entirety, that is the
In this way, the dreidel reminds of us the balance of the key components
to the complete human being.
Another, similar tradition says that:
“NUN” stands for neshama’i, the spiritual realm,
“GIMMEL” stands for gufani, the physical realm,
“HEY” stands for hiyuli, the realm of energy, and
“SHIN” stands for shamaymi, the heavenly realm, that
is, that which created and governs the other three.
Thus, the little dreidel is a simple representation of G-d’s creation.
1. Learn the blessings for the Chanukah candles,
and Chanukah songs.
2. Make wooden dreidels from a kit, and learn the
rules of the game, and various interpretations of the four letters on
3. Bring in family Chanukah Menorahs and dreidels,
especially old ones, and compare the materials, methods, and designs used.
4. Bring in recipes to compare, and make potato latkes
in the group for a Chanukah party.