Treasure Trove: David Matlow explains the significance of a rare 5-sided dreidel

The traditional dreidel is four-sided with each side having a Hebrew letter: nun, gimmel, hey and shin. These are the first letters of “nes gadol haya sham” meaning a “big miracle happened there”. 

In Israel, shin is replaced by the letter peh (for poh “here”) as the miracle of Hanukkah happened here, in the land of Israel.

This dreidel is unique as it has five sides, and includes both the shin for there and the peh for here. It was made in 2022 by the Z3 Project of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, Calif. Z3’s mission is to shape stronger bonds between the global Jewish community and Israel. The five sides reflect the belief that miracles are happening here and there.

That there are miracles (and the need for more miracles) both inside and outside Israel is readily apparent in 2023. The spirit of community and unity felt in Israel, in Canada, and between Israel and the Jews in the diaspora might be considered miraculous when one considers the internal conflict in Israel that preceded Oct. 7. The fact that Jews can no longer be killed with impunity would be considered miraculous from the perspective of those who experienced the Holocaust and the antisemitic persecution of the 2,000 years prior to Israel’s independence.

It might take a miracle though, for Israel to live in peace and for Jews around the world to live without the scourge of antisemitism. However, each of us can play a role in making miracles happen. Just as someone in the Temple lit the lamp with only one day’s worth of oil hoping it would turn out OK and last for eight, so too must we help miracles happen—both here and there. Happy Hanukkah.