No Gelt, No Glory
Getting your spin on for Chanukah
Welcome to Extreme Sports: Jewish Style. Leave the suicidal snowboarding to the kids; as a rabbi, I’m more of a dreidel blackbelt. While it isn’t as transformative as the Kabbalah or as lucrative as a lottery win, I’m uniquely qualified to reveal to you another very powerful secret of the universe: the Upside Down Dreidel Spin.
This is the bubbie of all spins, but in the spirit of Chanukah, remember: just as the oil in the temple burned for eight days, a great dreidel player must cultivate patience and perseverance in order to master this move.
- Despite what the song says, most dreidels aren’t “made out of clay.” That’s the good news, because when it comes to dreidels, materials matter.
Start with a good quality dreidel, not one of those cheap plastic ones — ideally made of wood and measuring about 1 inch square. Here’s the key: make sure the very top of the handle is smooth, without any nicks or cracks.
- You also need a hard, smooth surface to spin on. Based on my extensive experience, I highly recommend the underside of a challah (bread) board.
Now, grip the dreidel’s handle between your index finger and thumb, with your palm facing upwards. The back of your hand should be no more than 6 inches above the spinning surface.
- Spin the dreidel with a snap of your thumb and index finger as you normally would — but release the dreidel with a gentle upward toss.
- Watch the amazed and impressed expressions on the faces of your family and friends.
Because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. The very shape of the dreidel is a metaphor: when all its square, chunky contours spin, the dreidel looks round and smooth. And just as the circle has no top and bottom and all its points are equivalent, so too is the family. When we come together in a circle of embrace, each member is equally important.
That doesn’t stop me from wanting to outdo them all with my Upside Down Dreidel Spin, though.