History of The Menorah And The Dreidel
- ArticlesandContent.com (CIRCA 2005)
- Oct 8, 2021 (written 2005)
Most people will associate the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock with Thanksgiving and eating turkeys at this time of year. However few will realize that the history of the Thanksgiving turkey is not so straightforward.
Anyone who is interested in the history of Hannukah will know that the Menorah plays a large part in the celebrations. This is a candelabra that will hold nine candles in total. The candle in the centre of the Menorah is slightly higher than the other candles and this should remain lit at all times. The centre candle is used to light the other candles that are on either side of it.
‘A great miracle happened here’
The Menorah story goes back to the time when the Holy Temple was rededicated and there was not enough oil to light the Menorah in the Temple. In fact there was only enough oil to last for one day, but it lasted for an amazing eight days. It is from here that the tradition of celebrating Hannukah for eight days originated from. Today one candle is lit each day during the course of Hannukah until each one is lit by the eighth day.
The Dreidel And Hannukah
The dreidel is another item that is commonly associated with the history of Hannukah. A dreidel is a four sided toy that is used like a spinning top. Each of the four sides of the dreidel is marked with a Hebrew letter, each of which represents a letter from the Hebrew sentence ‘Nes Gadol Haya Sham’. The translation of this sentence is ‘A great miracle happened here’ which is a reference to the Hannukah story.
While there are no clear indications of where the dreidel game actually came from and some people believe it to have stemmed from children’s games from many centuries ago. Others believe that the origins of this game are far more interesting and a key component in the history of Hannukah.
Keeping Religion A Secret With The Dreidel
A much more interesting take on the history of Hannukah relating to the dreidel is the belief that it was used to study the Jewish religious book, the Torah in secret. Hundreds of years ago Jewish people were banned from practicing their own religion. This led to people finding ways to keep their religion alive in secret and avoid the prying eyes of the inspectors that would to try enforce this unfair ban.
While Jewish students were studying their holy books they would keep a dreidel close by. When they saw the inspectors approaching they would quickly hide their books and pretend that they were playing a simple game together. These help them to continue practicing their religion without being seen to break the ban and coming under scrutiny from the inspectors. For a much more detailed look at this part of the history of Hannukah and to see how the dreidel game is played take a look at the Gold Menorah website which can be found here http://goldmenorah.com/archives/history-of-the-dreidel/