Do you need a Chanukah Menorah or candles in preparation for Chanukah? Stop by Hillel during business hours to pick up your supplies! Free for MIT students.
Lighting Candles in the Dorms
While candles are not usually MIT approved, for religious purposes they do make exceptions. Here is the safety plan you must follow if you want to light candles on campus.
If you want to plan a Chanukah candle lighting in your dorm/FSILG or for another tight knit group, Hillel has resources to help!
-Step by step planning guide,
-Menorah and Candles
-Dreidels and Gelt
-Suggestions for where to obtain Latkes and Sufganiot, plus money to reimburse your effort to provide a celebration for your friends
-Recipes if you want to get ambitious and make them on your own
Written by Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder
You can learn a lot about a person about how they play dreidel. I’m not talking about spinning skills - whether they can get it to go for 35.8 seconds, which is the current world record, or whether you can get it to spin on its head (which is also cool) or spin with your weak hand (commendable).
I’m talking about how people react to the spins that they get. You’ve probably heard that gimmel means “gimmme all the gelt”, heh gets you “half”, nun is “nothing”, and shin is “shucks, I have to match what’s in the pot?!”
But it’s a trick. It’s one big test of your inner Zen. You could just as easily read it as: gimmel means “greedy”, heh means “half isn’t so bad. It is better than nothing, and the glass is half full, from a certain point of view”, nun means “nothing has to change. Everything is perfect just the way it is” and shin means “I get to share with other people!”
I personally think that nun is the best. A person who is happy with nun is a happy person indeed.
The truth is that dreidel is a pretty surprising ingredient in a Jewish holiday, considering that, in Jewish tradition, gambling is frowned upon. In this sense, dreidel is in the same category as stealing the afikomen at Passover: stealing is frowned upon, but here we have a sanctioned exception. And it is an exception because 1) there is a larger purpose and 2) it is an ancient custom, and Jewish tradition values ancient customs. But these two factors only play in if the action is seen to have some real value. In the case of the afikomen, the value is that it keeps the kids involved in the Passover Seder, which is the whole point. But what is the real value of the dreidel?
The dreidel, according to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, tells an important and eternal story: what is now on the bottom will soon be in the top, and what is now in top soon won’t be. Revolving around a thin axis, the dreidel does not stagnate. All of its facets are in motion. The outcome - at least from the perspective of the observer - is always in motion.
In the words of Bob Dylan, “What now is first will later be last.” And that is the Hanukkah story: the Greeks were on top, and we had every reason to believe they would stay on top. The Jews were losing, and it seemed likely they would continue to do so. And then, the whole situation changed. Jews up, Greeks down. (And, on another level, God up, nature down.)
I personally don’t think everything will change. I think the gravitational constant will always be the gravitational constant. But in so many realms that effect us or catch our attention, what now is up will soon be down, and the opposite. Politics? Sports? Entertainment? Remember Black Eyed Peas? Exactly. Goals? You are quite likely to take a job that seems thrilling - until it isn’t. Bull markets? We’ll see. Men in power? Every day another famous, powerful man is fired, dismissed, or impeached. So much is in motion that it behooves us not to fully invest in snapshots of reality.
Rebbe Nachman strongly encouraged his followers - especially the adult ones - not to think of dreidels as child’s play. He wanted everyone to give it a spin so that they could remember that so many things in life are in motion, and we would do well to remember that.