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The Dreidl

dreidlTHE SECRET OF THE DREIDL

Some call it a sevivon, preferring the Hebrew term. However, most of us stick to dreidl, the Yiddish word. But on this everyone agrees: the familiar Chanukah spinning top had nothing to do originally with Chanukah. It was an ancient gambling toy familiar to many cultures and was probably adapted from a German top by Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews during the medieval period. Ironically, while the Maccabbees fought cultural assimilation, the dreidl game is an excellent example of the very thing they opposed. These days we welcome the exchange of ideas that comes from living in an open society. But we still need to figure out where the limits are to all that our culture offers us. The choices are abundant. They are enough to “dreyen zihn undz der kop” – to make our heads spin around.