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How can we play dreidel on Chanukah, isn't it gambling?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Holidays » Chanukah » The Customs | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Indeed, according to Jewish law, it is forbidden to gamble with another person. Any money that you win is conceded with a heavy heart, since your opponent would not have gambled had he originally known that he would lose. Therefore, the money won is not “clean” money.

This is why when playing dreidel on Chanukah, you must make sure that the ante (amount being put into the “pot”) is an insignificant amount – say a nickel or less. This way, the one who loses won’t be bothered by the “loss” and the winner won’t be guilty of theft.

Alternatively, you can play with as much money as you wish, but at the end of the game everyone must return all the “winnings.”

There are some who prefer not to play with money altogether due to these concerns, and play instead with chocolate coins, nuts or candies.


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Chanukah
An eight day mid-winter holiday marking: 1) The miraculous defeat of the mighty Syrian-Greek armies by the undermanned Maccabis in the year 140 BCE. 2) Upon their victory, the oil in the Menorah, sufficient fuel for one night only, burned for eight days and nights.