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The Unbearable Dumbness of Dreidel

How does this game possibly make any sense?

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The Spinagogue. Two dreidels enter; one dreidel leaves. Or something.(Modern Tribe)

Hanukkah starts tonight, and Major League Dreidel is offering something called a Spinagogue, which is sort of a stadium for dreidel-spinning. The Spinagogue encourages you to aim to make your dreidel move impressively or in specific directions, or simply to make it spin for a really long time. Setting aside the obviously-made-by-and-for-people-who-are-high video (after the jump), there is actually something ingenious about it, in that it divorces the dreidel itself—the ceremonial Hanukkah spinning top—from the game that is basically synonymous with it. (Yeshiva U. also did this, yesterday setting a new Guinness World Record by simultaneously spinning 618 dreidels.)

Because—and here’s my point—has anyone actually ever successfully played the game? You know the rules. You put your gelt in the center and take turns spinning. Get a gimel, you get the pot. Get a nun, nothing happens. get a hei, you get half the pot. Get a shin, you put back in the pot (depending on various rules I’ve played) one of your gelts, half your gelt, or all your gelt.

See the problem? The game is over basically right after it’s begun! At best, it turns into some weird and boring stalemate-cum-lesson on fractions, in which you learn that if you keep halving a pile you will never get to zero. Moreover, the game requires none of those characteristics—wit, ingenuity, or even brute strength—that the Maccabes used to vanquish those evil Syrian bastards two thousand-plus years ago.

Oh, and raise your hand if you’ve ever actually made your dreidel out of clay? I thought so.

I’m going to let Howard Jacobson, writing in today’s Times, have the last word:

How many years did I feign excitement when this nothing of a toy was produced? The dreidel would appear and the whole family would fall into some horrible imitation of shtetl simplicity, spinning the dreidel and pretending to care which character was uppermost when it landed. Who did we think we were—the Polish equivalent of the Flintstones?

BUT STILL: Happy almost-Hanukkah!

Major League Dreidel’s Spinagogue [Modern Tribe]
Hanukkah, Rekindled [NYT]
Yeshiva U. Group Tops Dreidel-Spinning Mark [JTA]

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Since when did a children’s game have to make any sense? Didn’t you ever play Candyland? Or Sorry? Or any of a large number of “games” that just involve taking turns, performing an arbitrary action, and so on and so forth. At least when you play dreidel you get to sit on the floor, watch a top spin, eat nuts or chocolate the whole time, *and* it’s a half-hour when you’re in the same room as your Great-Aunt Sadie without her pinching your cheeks!

Cute article! Yes its true – dreidel sucks. But, though rather suspiciously, it has become part of the tradition, and so tonight after lighting I dutifully played it with the kids. Nu Nu, 15 to 20 minutes is not so bad. At least dreidel hasnt been politically corrected since I was a kid, unlike all the other board games. (Have you seen Candyland, LIFE, lately? Black faces everywhere. Like it was a sin, god forbid, to have white faces on a board game. Now I dont identify with them and thus dont buy them)

Digression. anyway, happy chanukah!

You think thats dumb ??

Check this out about the real story of X-mas…

You have a reader who objects to “black faces” on the Candyland gameboard. Even worse, your reader seems quite comfortable expressing his objection in writing. Disappointing, to say the least. Indeed, your reader is so offended by “black faces” on Candyland that he/she strained to find a place to voice the objection as a comment to a small story about dreidel. A shonda.

My dreidel game lasts forever. You need over 100 pieces of gelt. You don’t start out with all the gelt in the pot. You have equal small amounts doled out to all the players and and a larger amount in the pot. When the pot is empty, everyone has to put in 2 gelt. When you roll shin, you have to put in 4 gelt. If you get half of the pot and it’s an odd number, the rolling person has to eat the extra gelt. Etc. This way the pot diminishes. You’re out of the game if you owe more gelt to the pot than you have. By the time someone wins, everyone has a pleasant sugar buzz. Winner has to drink all the leftover wine.

Janet S. Katz says:

Just a note to the person who objected to black faces. What rock did he/she come out from under. We Jews come in all colors and sizes – thank G-d! – just like the beautiful flowers in a garden. Grandma Janet

I’m pretty sure that “Yeed” is poking fun at the author by showing himself to be the perfect stereotype of a a shtetl simpleton.

Too bad the author didn’t do any research into the mystical significance of the dreidel. I’d have enjoyed reading that.
Instead we get someone ‘dissing’ an activity he thinks he knows about because he played dreidel as a kid.

It just makes me sad.

Alan Luria says:

The point was not the spinning of the dreidel but the eating of the foil-wrapped chocolate that my Father doled out so that everyone got the same amount.

The Spinagogue rocks. Thanks for including ModernTribe!

Have you thought about putting some social bookmarking buttons to these blog posts. At least for twitter.

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I’ve said that least 3030460 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

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Stuart Sinon says:

I like to play Dreidel when I celebrate Chanukah with Gentiles. It is fun once a season.


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The Unbearable Dumbness of Dreidel

How does this game possibly make any sense?

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