Youth of Mendota Heights Synagogue Prompt Fresh Look at an Old Hanukkah Tune
Winner of 'Dreidel Song' contest at Beth Jacob Congregation to be announced at Shabbat dinner
I have a little dreidel, I made it out of clay; and when it's dried and ready, the dreidel I will play...
Children and families learned a few new songs in preparation for Hanukkah during a special family service held recently at Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights. But as usual, participants concluded their session with the tried and true "I Have A Little Dreidel," also known as "The Dreidel Song."
In a burst of spontaneity, two youngsters at the service told Rabbi Lynn Liberman, director of congregational learning at Beth Jacob, about ideas they had for a new dreidel song, pairing different lyrics with the original melody.
"On Monday morning, we started talking in the office and decided it might be fun to run a little contest to find new words for 'The Dreidel Song'," said Rabbi Liberman.
So tonight, Dec. 3, during the Shabbat dinner and Hanukkah celebration at Beth Jacob, a booklet containing the dozen submissions to the contest will be handed out, and community members will join together to sing the newly penned versions of "The Dreidel Song."
"We received entries from both kids and adults," Liberman said. "Some of them just make you chuckle. It was also interesting to see the many ways that the word 'dreidel' was spelled."
Here is an entry submitted by an adult member of the congregation: "I have a little dreidel, it's cute as it can be; When I went to spin it, it smiled up at me."
"One woman told me her version just popped into her head while she was out running. She said she thinks the oxygen opened up her brain to new possibilities," said Liberman with a smile.
"I Have A Little Dreidel" was written about the game, played with a spinning top, that has its roots in ancient civilization.
A dreidel has four sides, and on each a Hebrew letter is marked, which notates the first letter of each Hebrew word in the phrase "a miracle happened there." The miracle refers to the army of Jewish soldiers in Israel putting a stop to religious oppression by the Greeks. According to Liberman, dreidels that are sold in Israel actually spell out "a miracle happened here."
The game is played with pennies, small candies (such as gold foil-covered chocolate coins) or matchsticks. Each player spins the dreidel and the letter it lands on reveals what happens next: they either do nothing, take half the pieces in the middle, take all the pieces or put more of their pieces into the middle.
"Games of chance were popular in ancient societies," said Liberman. "It's possible that this game was just brought into our sphere and became known as a Jewish game."
The game has strong roots in an English game called "totum" and its German equivalent played with a "trundl,"according to an chapter written by Rabbi David Golinkin of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies included in "A Different Light: The Hanukkah Book of Celebration."
The winner of The Dreidel Song contest at Beth Jacob will likely be chosen by chance as well—the exact method of selection is still being determined.
"I'm not sure I could actually choose the best one," said Liberman. "We've definitely been having fun with the contest."
The prize? A dreidel, of course.