Nun, Gimel, Hey, Shin.
The dreidel spun around and around. Finally it toppled over and came to a halt.
"Gimel," cried Joel. "I win! You owe me a dime Leah!"
"Okay," said Leah, being a good sport. Now it was her turn to spin the dreidel, but for some reason Leah felt that she wasn’t going to do very well in this game against her older brother Joel. With all the twist her fingers could manage, she gave it a swift spin. Sure enough though, it landed on the wrong letter. She had to give Joel another dime.
Dime after dime, Leah kept losing. Joel was having a great time, but Leah, trying not to reveal her disappointment, was very sad. She had planned for weeks ahead of time what she would buy with the "Chanukah Coins" that her grandparents gave the kids each year. On her way home from school she passed by the windows of her favorite shops eyeing the things she could buy.
When Chanukah finally arrived, Grandma and Grandpa came over with their traditional gifts. All the kids were very happy of course, but when Joel pleaded with Leah to play dreidel with him for gift money, she got a bit nervous and uneasy. Leah never had much luck in this game. She didn’t want to cop-out though, so she agreed to play.
It took no more than 20 minutes for Joel to win everything Leah had. He was flying, or rather spinning, from happiness. Leah managed to crack a little smile, as if to say, "It doesn’t matter." But really, it did matter. Leah was devastated inside. She felt awful and angry with herself for agreeing to play the game.
"Just look at it this way," said Joel, "before Grandma and Grandpa came, you didn’t have any money anyway. So it’s not such a big loss. Just like before you didn’t have any money, now also you don’t have any money."
By this point Leah was not able to squeeze out anymore half smiles. She just turned her back and left the room.
Joel decided to go visit his next-door neighbor, Ben. When he got there, he found Ben laying quietly on his bed. "Hey Ben, how’re you doing?" asked Joel. "Why are you looking so down tonight? Is there something the matter?"
"My parents gave me some Chanukah money, and it all got lost," said Ben. "I put it in my pocket, but I didn’t realize that my pocket had a hole in it."
"Oh my," said Joel full of pity for his friend. "That’s awful. I feel so bad for you."
Then a light bulb turned on in Joel’s head. "Hey Ben, I’ve got an idea. Look, I’ve got double the amount of Chanukah money that I was originally supposed to have. I played driedle with my little sister Leah, and won everything she had. So, I don’t mind giving you what I won from her."
"Oh my, " said Ben full of pity for Leah. "That’s awful. I feel so bad for her."
All of a sudden, it struck Joel. "Why should Leah be any different than Ben?" he thought. "Why should I feel more badly for Ben than I feel bad for my own sister.
Joel went home and found Leah already asleep in her bed. He looked closely at her face and noticed a tear on her cheek. He felt so bad for not being nicer in the game. He took all of his coins from his pocket and made two equal stacks. One stack he returned to his own pocket, and the second stack he put on Leah’s nightstand.
Then he kneeled down next to her as she slept. "Leah," Joel whispered, "I feel I've taken advantage of you. It was no big deal to win the money from you. I’m older than you are, more skilled, and obviously I had an advantage over you in the game. I’m sorry."
"Huh?" Leah stirred, waking up. She saw the big stack of coins and smiled sleepily. "Why’d you give it back?"
"On account of Chanukah," said Joel. "When the Jews beat the Greeks in the Chanukah story, it wasn’t because they were stronger or more in number. The opposite was true. The Jews were physically weaker, and fewer in number. To win, you don’t have to be physically stronger or more skilled than your opponent. Where it counts is in the heart. A strong but flexible heart makes for a good winner. If I had told you at the end of the game that I’m giving your money back to you, then I would have been a real winner. Better late than never, Leah. Goodnight, sleep well."
"Good night," said Leah, still smiling.
At that moment, Joel felt a happiness of victory that he had never felt before. He knew this was a real victory.
Q. How could have Joel played the game in a way that Leah wouldn’t have been so hurt?
A. He could have said they are not playing for real money. Alternatively, he could have said, "At the end of the game, everyone gets their money back."
Q. How do we see from the Chanukah story that the secret of victory doesn’t always lie in ones physical strength?
A. The Jews were weaker than the mighty Greek army and fewer in number. Even so, the Jews defeated them.
Q. The real game that Joel won was not against his sister, but rather against his own internal struggles.