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Chanukah: The Dreidel

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The dreidel for Chanukah and the gragger (Ra’ashan) for Purim have the exact same structure, have you ever noticed? Both have a round bulb from which a stem protrudes. The difference is that the dreidel’s stem protrudes from the top of the dreidel and points upward, the gragger’s stem protrudes from the bottom of the gragger and points downward.

The dreidel is a spinning top that you spin by twirling the stem at the top. The gragger is a noisemaker that is rotated by swinging the stem at the bottom. What does this represent?

First a word about these two toys. Tradition holds that Jewish children would hide in the Judean hills to study Torah. When Greek soldiers would venture into the area, they would hide the scrolls that they were studying and play dreidel. We commemorate this by playing dreidel on Chanukah.

The gragger is a noisemaker that we use to celebrate the downfall of Haman. When the story of Purim is chanted on Purim, we swing the graggers to make a racket when Haman’s name is recited. It indicates our jubilance over our victory and Haman’s downfall.

Now that we know their uses and backgrounds, we know that there is scant connection between the two. If so, why is their construction so similar and yet, in one detail, so different?

Purim and Chanukah
The truth is that Purim and Chanukah share a special kinship. Of all the holidays in the year, these are the only two that were established by the sages and are not mentioned in the Torah.

There is some symmetry between the stories of Purim and Chanukah. In both cases, the........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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