One of the most well-known Hanukkah games is dreidel. If you went to a school where you learned about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, as well as Christmas, surely you learned about dreidel. You may have even made your own little top, from paper … or if you were lucky, from clay. I have glass dreidels that I treasure.
Dreidel involves spinning a little top. When it lands, you look at the Hebrew letter and find out whether you get to keep some of your goodies or give them away. You can play for Hanukkah Gelt (chocolate wrapped in “gold” foil and made to look like money), raisins, dates, or a host of other goodies.
You have to let your candles burn all the way out. They must be big enough to burn for at least 30 minutes after sunset … but many candles burn longer. You’re not supposed to work while the Hanukkah candles glow … so you play. This is great family time. Jewish families tell the story of the Maccabean revolt, dance the hora, sing songs, eat, and play games. Dreidel is the most well-known Hanukkah game.
But what’s the history behind it? There are a lot of different traditions regarding how the dreidel game came to be, but my favorite is this. During the occupation of Israel by the Seleucians/Greeks, Jews were forbidden from studying the Torah. Well, it’s the same as if we were forbidden from studying the Bible. What would we do? Study in secret, of course!
Their cover was the dreidel! If soldiers came upon a group of Torah students, the books would quickly disappear and the little tops would come out.
Not that everything has to be made into some huge spiritual lesson. I think you can play dreidel just for the fun of it. But just for a moment, I have to ask: Is the Bible that important to you? Would you find a way to study even if it was illegal? What are the risks you would be willing to take?
I personally know people who take great risks on behalf of the Word of God. I can’t tell about them here, but I can tell you that they would lay down their lives for God’s Word.
If God’s Word isn’t that important to you, can I issue you a challenge? Read the Bible every day for just three months. Try one of these two ways.
- Read for half an hour. You don’t have to start at the beginning of the Bible. Start anywhere. There are 66 books in the Bible. Pick one. And ask someone to help you find a modern translation that will be easy to understand. Or …
- Start with prayer. Ask God to show you where to stop each day. Start reading and when He shows you to stop, don’t read further. Spend some time thinking and praying about what you read … especially right before God stopped you. What is He showing you?
After 90 days, see if this has changed your life in any way. If nothing else, you’ve explored a best-seller.
It may seem like kind of a gamble (see how I slyly brought the topic back to the dreidel?), but I’m reasonably sure that if you give it ninety days, you will find that reading the Bible changes your life in good ways and you’ll want to keep reading.
If you try it, could you let me know? (Whether I’m right or wrong.)
If you don’t have anyone to play with or don’t have a dreidel, click on the picture to try this online version.