web analytics
March 30, 2015 / 10 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Miracles And Dreidels: What a Modest Little Spinning Top Can Teach Us about God and History


The dreidel teaches us about our own psychologies. We are only “whole” when all the aspects of our being – body, mind, soul – hakol – are balanced and blended. When the dreidel spins, who can distinguish between each of the individual sides? No one. As we spin in perfect balance, on our central point, we are balanced and whole.

Perhaps most important, the dreidel teaches us these powerful lessons by being fun. The dreidel spins from above (the stem is on top), teaching us that assistance and salvation come from God, unlike the Purim grogger which spins from below, teaching us that there are times when our help must come from within.

So it is not the spinning alone that teaches us. It is something more. For on both Chanukah and Purim we Jews take pleasure in spinning objects. These objects needn’t be shiny or beautiful in and of themselves. Each in its own way teaches us a valuable lesson of the holiday. And is not only young people who love to spin the dreidel at Chanukah or spin the grogger at Purim.

But the two spinning objects are profoundly different. The one teaches us by how it lands and the other drowns out the cruelty of history. Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapira, author of B’nei Yissaschar, explained the difference as follows: God wishes to constantly bestow only abundant blessing upon His nation, but we must initiate with an “inspiration from below.” If we create an opening the size of the “eye of a needle,” then God, in turn, will respond by “opening up the gateway to a large banquet hall” (Shir HaShirim Rabba, 5:3).

All God asks is that we take that first step – no matter how modest – toward behaving appropriately in the world and He will answer with such an outpouring of supernatural kindness that we will be astonished and our faith will be upheld and strengthened.

Even a small amount of Torah, repentance, and mitzvot opens the gates wide, allowing boundless inspiration from above to come our way – inspiration that very often takes the form of miracles.

During the time of Antiochus, our prayer and repentance were not sincere. The people had assimilated. They were “as the Greeks,” and so in the beginning it was a mere handful of Hasmoneans leading the charge while most of our people failed to demonstrate the inspiration from below to earn God’s abundant blessing from above.

And yet God showered us with miracles. Despite the people’s lack of faith, He provided us, mercifully, with inspiration from above. His inspiration was undeserved – which made it all the more miraculous.

And so the specific miracles arrived and we emerged victorious, rededicating the grand Temple and lighting a miraculously burning oil.

On Chanukah we spin dreidels on which are inscribed the first letters of the words “nes gadol ha’yah sham” – a great miracle happened there. (In Israel, of course, the letters spell out “nes gadol ha’yah po” – a great miracle happened here.) We rejoice with our dreidels but we spin them specifically from their top part to constantly remind ourselves that Chanukah was a time when miracles came undeserved from God, when the Almighty bestowed His infinite compassion upon His people and things began to spin down to us in the form of undeniable miracles.

How surprising that the dreidel, silly top, should carry such weight – not only a theological truth and a statement about the role of the Jewish people in the miracle of Chanukah but also insight and knowledge into powerful historical dynamics.

Kabbalah teaches us another aspect of the dreidel. In this understanding, the four letters do not represent a statement about God’s presence in the world – a great miracle happened there/here – but rather they each represent one of four different historical empires – Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman – that tried to destroy the Jewish people.

Four empires the likes of which the world had never seen. And the Jewish people? A relatively puny people dedicated to the study and the performance of God’s commands. Is it any wonder that, when given the opportunity, we seek to assimilate and become part of these “great” cultures and empires? But something always holds us back. Internally and externally, we are different. We are “like” – but not the same.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran is an educator, author and lecturer. He can be reached at e1948s@aol.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Miracles And Dreidels: What a Modest Little Spinning Top Can Teach Us about God and History

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
One-third of polled Republicans see President Obama as the biggest imminent threat to the USA.
One-Third of GOP Voters See Obama Worse for US than Assad and Putin
Latest Indepth Stories
Photo from President Barack Obama's past visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

{Originally posted to author’s website, FirstOne Through} TRUST Trust is the bedrock of a functional relationship. It enables one party to rely on the other. A trust that includes both intention and capability permits a sharing of responsibility and workload. The relationship between US President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu started off badly and further […]

jabotinsky with sword

Jabotinsky said “Go To Hell” was a good retort to opponents of the Jewish people; fitting for Obama.

Obama Racine

Obama pulled off one of US history’s greatest cons,twice fooling a gullible electorate and most Jews

Auschwitz Entrance

While in Auschwitz I felt a tangible intensity. I could sense that I was in a place of sheer evil.

Obama needs to wake up. The real enemy is not Netanyahu but Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad,IS

My beliefs & actions have led to numerous death threats against me; my excommunication by my church

In November 2014, Islamic Relief Worldwide was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Erica Pelman is a spiritually-driven woman. She is founder and director of “In Shifra’s Arms” (ISA), an organization that offers aid to pregnant Jewish women of all religious backgrounds practically, financially and emotionally. Its arms are open to any pregnant woman in need whether single, divorced, separated, or from a financially-strapped family. “Presently, we are […]

Many so-called “humanitarian NGOs” frequently abuse Israel by applying false moral equivalencies

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

In their zechus may we all come to appreciate that life is a fleeting gift and resolve to spend every precious moment of it as if it were the last.

In any event, Mr. Netanyahu after the election sought to soften his statement on Palestinian statehood and apologized for what he conceded were remarks that “offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli Arab community.”

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Safran
Safran-032715

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Safran-021315

Jews cover the head not as ID but because wearing it makes concrete to ourselves our devotion to God

It’s easier to take Jews out of galus than to take galus out of Jews – Chassidic master

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

It is difficult to remain faithful in galut, the ultimate Rorschach test for all Jewish generations

Racheli Frankel: “I didn’t think they were thrown just anywhere. The tears of Hebron embraced them”

Yes, God judges, but His judgment is that of a loving father who longs for his child’s quick return.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/miracles-and-dreidels-what-a-modest-little-spinning-top-can-teach-us-about-god-and-history/2008/12/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: