Jewish Rituals and Symbols

What is a dreidel?

The word dreidel derives from a German word meaning “spinning top,” and is the toy used in a Hanukkah game adapted from an old German gambling game. Hanukkah was one of the few times of the year when rabbis permitted games of chance. The four sides of the top bear four Hebrew letters: nun, gimmel, hey, and shin. Players begin by putting into a central pot or “kitty” a certain number of coins, chocolate money known as gelt, nuts, buttons or other small objects.

What is a menorah, or a hanukkiyah?

A menorah is a candelabra, and can be used for Hanukkah if it has nine stems. Another word for a Hanukkah menorah is hanukkiyah. A hanukkiyah has one stem for each of the eight days of Hanukkah, and one for the shamash, or “the helper candle” that is used to light the other candles. Candles are added each night from right to left and they are lit from left to right.

What happens on each night of Hanukkah?

Two blessings are chanted or recited every night of Hanukkah. The first is a blessing over the candles themselves. The second blessing expresses thanks for the miracle of deliverance. A third blessing—the Shehecheyanu prayer, marking all joyous occasions in Jewish life—is chanted or recited only on the first night.

Yes, We Still Need an Orange on Our Seder Plate

Rabbi Phyllis Sommer
April 12, 2016

The orange will remain on my seder plate as a sign that we are always striving to help everyone to feel included, a sign that we are always looking out for those who might not feel that they belong, and a sign that we are full of juicy vitality: always growing, always changing, and always aware, keenly aware, that our history of bondage requires us to tell those stories.