Let’s talk dreidel. Dreidels have fascinated me since I was a kid. I think it is the simple fact of not knowing which face comes up that intrigues me. Not knowing is at the heart of spirituality. Only when we don’t know are we open to the possibility of true knowing.
Playing dreidel on Hanukkah is a way of adding a deeper dimension to the holiday week. Here’s how: As you prepare for the first night of Hanukkah think of eight questions the speak to the direction and quality of your life. They may be private such as “Where am I most blocked in my life?” or relational such as “How might I deepen my connection with Ploni ben/bat Ploni (so-and-so)?”
Be careful how you phrase your questions. Don’t ask empty questions such as “Is there a God?” Ask instead: “How can I know there is a God?” Action oriented questions will send you on a path, and walking that path is your present to yourself this Hanukkah.
Each night of Hanukkah, as you light the candle for that night, focus on one of your eight questions. Then, after the candle is lighted, spin the dreidel and discover what it has to teach you regarding your question.
The four letters of the dreidel: nun, gimmel, hay, and shin stand for Nais gadol hayah sham/A great miracle happened there. The “there” is Jerusalem. If you buy a dreidel in Israel the shin is replaced by a peh for po, “here;” a great miracle happened here.
The four letters also stand for the four dimensions of human experience: body, heart, mind, and soul or Assiyah, Yetzirah, Beriah, and Atzilut. Understanding the dreidel in this way allows you to use it as a tool for self inquiry.
For example, let’s say you ask “How can I deepen my relationship with my beloved?” You spin the dreidel and up comes the letter nun, Assiyah/Body. More physical intimacy is the answer. How that plays out in your life is up to you, but at least you have a direction.
Or the letter gimmel comes up suggesting you need to be more romantic or more open about your feelings. Or the letter hay comes up urging you to engage more with your mind, listen more deeply, talk more openly, or maybe take a class together. Or the letter shin comes up and you begin to think about how you and your beloved can deepen your spiritual connection by adding more ritual and contemplative practice to your lives.
The dreidel provides the direction for inquiry, not the details of what to do. That is up to you. So think about the questions that matter to you, empty your mind of knowing, and let the spinning dreidel open new directions for the new season.