Fifth Day and the Light is Spreading!

Day five of the Miracle of Lights!

What is “gelt” and why is it associated with Chanukah?

Gelt is the yiddish word for money. Back in the 18th century (and maybe earlier) in Poland, parents would give their children gelt to learn Torah during Chanukah. The children would save the gelt and on the last day of the holiday, each child would take 10% of the money they saved and give it to charity. In this way the children were learning Torah along with the importance of sharing what they had earned with those who were in need.

In addition to giving gelt to children to learn Torah, parents would give gelt for the children (usually boys because girls did not go to school at that time) to take to their rabbis during Chanukah, a gift of gratitude. Gelt was used for playing dreidel, too, and in early 20th century America (1920 to be exact) chocolatiers began making chocolate gelt, wrapping them in gold or silver foil, and packaging the gelt in small yellow net bags (money bags) for Chanukah treats. These treats make their appearance around Chanukah time to this day, and we are reminded of the importance of learning Torah, giving charity . . . and playing fun games and eating sweet delicacies during Chanukah!

Chanukah gelt English: Chocolate coins for Cha...
Image via Wikipedia

Day Four of the Miracle!

Four days, and the flame still flickers!

In Judaism it is important that the stories, the traditions, the beliefs and teachings of the sages be passed from generation to generation so that the Jewish people never forget that Hashem is our G-d. But how do you do that, pass on our stories, if the authorities forbid you to learn those stories, or to study the sacred writings and teachings? Well, one way was to design games of learning that to the outsider appeared to be simple games of chance, something the common folks would play. Children and youth would learn in secret, but when they heard the guards coming they would quickly hide their scrolls and bring out a game. And that brings us to the delightful dreidel game that has been played by Jewish children at Chanukah for centuries!

The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top. On each of its four sides is a Hebrew letter, forming the acronym for “Ness Gadol Haya Sham,” or “A Great Miracle Happened There,” thus insuring that as the children played, they would be reminded of the great miracle in the temple when the oil burned for eight days and nights. To play the game, everyone puts “gelt,” (money or tokens) in the pot. Each player takes a turn spinning the dreidel. If it lands on Nun, pass to the next player. If the dreidel lands on Gimmel, take the whole kitty. Land on the Hay, the player gets half the kitty, and if it lands on Shin, the player contributes to the kitty. When the kitty empties out, each player contributes equally back to the kitty once again. There is usually singing and laughter during the game, and every child knows the dreidel song by heart!

I have a little dreidel

I made it out of clay

And when it’s dry and ready

Then dreidel I shall play

CHORUS

Oh dreidel dreidel dreidel

I made it out of clay

And when it’s dry and ready

Then dreidel I shall play

It has a lovely body

With legs so short and thin

And when it is so tired

It drops and then I win!

CHORUS

My dreidel’s always playful

It loves to dance and spin

A happy game of dreidel

Come play now, let’s begin!

CHORUS

For some reason, this won’t embed properly. This is the best I could get it. Hopefully you will be able to enjoy it.

Blessed holidays to you all!