The Game of Dreidel & Moshiach

Written by Rabbi Yisroel Rice & Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum Posted in Holidays

For "Nun," the player wins nothing; "Gimmel" wins the entire pot; "Hei" wins half the pot; "Shin"—the player must add two tokens to the pot.

Once you run out of tokens, you’re out of the game. The game ends when one player has collected all the tokens.

The letters of the dreidel appear in the Torah to spell the word "Goshnah," meaning "to Goshen." Goshen was the city where the Jews lived during their slavery in Egypt. When Jacob went to meet his son Joseph in Egypt, he realized that his descent marked the beginning of the Exile. To ensure that his descendents would maintain their heritage even in a foreign and oppressive land, he sent his son Judah "to Goshen" to build a center for Torah study. Goshen symbolized "the first dreidel,"—where holiness is pursued in the most unlikely places. 

Every Hebrew letter has an associated numerical value, called "Gimatria." Many congregations offer contributions in increments of $18 because the word chai (life) has the numerical value eighteen. The letters of the dreidel equal 358—the numerical value of "Moshiach," the Messiah, who will reveal the Divine purpose in every facet of life. Even the experience of exile and darkness will be illuminated, since in truth all of life is a tapestry of Divine wonder.


The letters on the dreidel are also the initials the physical, emotional, and intellectual elements of the soul, in addition to the general force, which comprises the totality of human capabilities.

  • Guf = physical - gimel

  • Seichel = intellectual - shin

  • Nefesh = emotional - nun

  • Hakol = everything / totality of human aptitudes - hai

On the festival of Chanukah, when the flame/light of our messianic hope begins to shine forth in the darkness of our exile, the dreidel becomes the symbol of the four kingdoms (Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans) that dominated us as a result of the deterioration of these four human elements within us. Concomitant to this reminder of our exile and its cause, we reflect upon the other meaning of these letters: the message of Moshiach and the hope of redemption. As the dreidel spins, we are reminded that all human history "rotates" around the axis of Moshiach and that everything will one day lead to Goshnah = Moshiach. May he come speedily in our days!

Based on the writings of Rabbi Zvi Elimelech Spira (known as the "Bnei Yissaschar") This segment of the article is provided courtesy of the Shema Yisrael Torah Network

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