December 18, 2008
Hannukah, like Christmas, is just around the corner.
And while I’ve long out-grown my Hebrew School days and the eight nights a year spent playing dreidel with my siblings (always figuring out a way that *I* could win the most of whatever we were playing for, be it money, chocolate coins, etc) … I recently had the opportunity to revive my Jewish roots by teaching a friend’s bright-beyond-his-years four-year-old son about Hannukah …
Hannukah, the Festival of Lights, the holiday where Jews around the world remember the miracle that occured when, at the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, oil that should have burned for only one night, burned for eight.
Sharp as a whip, her son had come prepared with really good questions to ask me about one of my favorite holidays. I answered them, and we talked about special Hannukah foods and shared some Hannukah songs, which of course brought me back to my childhood.
Then, we played dreidel, a game beloved by children around the world. For anyone who doesn’t know what a dreidel is, it’s a small top that children play with on Hannukah. The prize can be anything, but it’s usually gold chocolate coins (called “gelt“), which are distributed to each player before the game begins.
(Since I couldn’t find Hannukah gelt here in western Michigan (gr!), we made do with the Hershey’s mint chocolate assortment — quite delish! God, times like these I soooo miss living a stone’s throw from Rockville/ Bethesda, MD!)
But I digress.
Each face of the top has a different Hebrew letter on it, so each spin of the dreidel yeilds a different letter. Based on the significance of the letter, you either have to put a coin in the pot, take all of the pot, take half of the pot, or do nothing/pass your turn.
Per Wikipedia’s explanation:
Nun - nisht - “nothing” - nothing happens and the next player spins.
Gimel - gants - “all” - the player takes the entire pot.
Hey - halb - “half” - the player takes half of the pot, rounding up if there is an odd number.
Shin - shtel ayn - “put in” - the player puts one marker in the pot.
As we played the game, winning some chocolate and losing some chocolate, I kept thinking of how each day in our lives is really like a spin of the dreidel. Some days we just “exist” … nothing necessarily good or bad happens. We could call this “normal.” Or … “maintenance.”
Some days we feel like winners … everything goes our way. We eat right, we exercise, we feel good. It’s like someone gave us a pot of gelt, and it’s a very good day. In the weight loss world, these are “losing days” and in the DE/ED world, these are days where we don’t exhibit any of those behaviors we associate with our DE/ED.
Some days we get the benefits of being healthy without putting in as much effort; maybe we exercise but indulge a little too much, but don’t feel bad about ourselves. Maybe have ED/DE thoughts, but nip the thought in the bud, before it turns into an action — a huge victory (especially since I’ve (grrr) had quite a few chew-and-spit moments over the past couple days PLUS two nights of midnight eating — blaming both on that time of the month).
And some days (day after day), we find ourselves giving back to the pot, even though we might get nothing tangible at that moment in return. This goes back to the notion of delayed gratification. We put in a lot of effort, but don’t win the pot at that moment. Yet the pot is still there.
I guess the only thing that could discredit this analogy is that when we spin a dreidel, we don’t know how things will turn up; it’s up to chance, fate, karma, whatever you want to call it.
But when we view life as a dreidel - one where we’re Master Spinners and can choose the letter it’ll land on … with each day being a new gift … well, then each day has a new meaning — one we’ve created, one we will fill however we please.
And if the pot doesn’t look full today … well, take a look again in a couple days, weeks, months …
After all, Rome (Jerusalem, Athens, Beijing, etc.) wasn’t built in a day.
How about you? Can you see this analogy or have I fallen off my rocker?