Sunday, December 9, 2007

Nun, Gimel, Heh, and Shin by Author Unknown

Nun, Gimel, Heh, and Shin,

Nun, gimel, heh, and shin,
See the wooden dreidel spin.
Nes gadol hayah shin,
If I'm lucky I will win!

I play with my new dreidel
upon the shiny floor.
I ask some friends to play with me-
we must have two or more.

I give the players pennies-
the same amount to each.
We sit down in a circle,
the pennies within reach.

Each player puts a penny
in the proper spot.
The middle of the circle
is what we call the pot.

Next I take the dreidel
and spin it round and round.
Which letter does it land on?
What fortune have I found?

I read the letter facing up-
it tells me how to play.
The letters are in Hebrew,
and here is what they say.

Nun means I do nothing-
I neither give nor take.
Heh means I take half the pot-
what a lucky break!

Gimel means I take it all.
It looks as if I'll win!
But I must put a penny back
when it lands on shin.

We go around the circle-
it's lots and lots of fun,
till one has all the pennies.
Then the game is done!

Nun, gimel, heh, and shin,
See the wooden dreidel spin.
Nes gadol hayah sham,
If I'm lucky I will win!

Here's a poem without any sort of poetic language at all. Yes, it rhymes, and the rhythm is mostly regular, but it exists to impart information rather than to set a mood or express information. I'm posting it because it's handy to be reminded of the rules of the game every once in a while.

We were watching Chuck on TV last week, and one of his co-workers kept cheating everybody at the dreidel game -- if they protested, he's as if they had been through a bar-mitsvah. We got the impression that he didn't really know the rules either, but made them up as he went along. It was pretty funny. You should watch that show if the writers ever stop striking and they make some new episodes.

I remember the year Mom got us all plastic dreidels at Hanukkah and taught us how to play. I put mine in my backpack, and while walking home from school one day (it was about a about a mile and a half), David and I decided to play. It's amazing how quickly one can get good at spinning a top in the palm of one hand while holding a handful of pencils in the other (the other person's spare hand is the pot). It's kind of silly, I know, but it's the stuff memories are made of.

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