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The Kabbalah of the Dreidel


Do you know the rules of Dreidel? You spin a top with four Hebrew letters on it. A Gimmel wins the whole kitty, a Hei gets you half, Nun gets nothing and for a Shin you must pay in. Aside from the inherent Kabbalistic meaning behind this method, there is the practical Yiddishe origin. Gimmelstands for Gantz, meaning the whole thing. Hei is for Halb, meaning half.Nun stands for Nisht or nothing. AndShin is for Shtell arein or put in.

These are four basic modes of being, depending upon the person, his or her period in life, or the particular day. We all have our Gimmel days. This is when we feel that everything is going great and turning out in a sensational way. (It’s been a while, eh?) We have our Hei days, when things are going quite well. The Nun and Shin need no explanation.

But each of these letters represents only one face of the Dreidel — only a single angle or perspective of the whole. What do the letters spell out? What is the “whole” of the Dreidel? Ness Gadol Hayah Sham, “a great miracle happened there.” This refers to the great miracle of Chanukah that occurred in the Holy Land. The situation there seemed dire and beyond hope. They were definitely having a Shin day. The commitment of a few people turned the situation around (like a Dreidel) and brought out the miracle and G-d‘s salvation.

The Macabees did not dwell on the fact that they were being oppressed and persecuted. They focused on the Gimmel that was on the other side of theShin. And then they acted to create a vehicle for a Divine miracle.

It is vital to remember that whatever letter we seem to be getting at a particular point in life, it’s all part of one Dreidel. And that Dreidel is telling us that miracles happen. We can transform the dark situations of life into the bright light of theChanukah Menorah. This depends upon our faith in G-d’s plan, and our commitment to create a vehicle for the miracle.

The Dreidel in the Bible?

Based on this theme we find a phenomenal “coincidence” with these four letters of the Dreidel. The first place where these letters occur as a word in the Torahis in the Parshah (Torah Reading) of Vayigash


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