Instead of a Dreidel, try a Zarbout

One fixture of the festival of Hanucah, now being celebrated,  is the spinning top, also known as dreidel in Yiddish or sevivon in Hebrew. The dreidel, whose square sides are each inscribed with a letter, has replaced the spinning tops which were current in the Jewish communities of the Arab world.

Abraham Bar-Ishay remembers the zarbout or zarbouta of his childhood in Tunisia. In a post on the website Harissa he explains the rules of the game:

1- The object of the game is to keep your top spinning for as long as possible.

2- The forces that hold the top upright are so strong that one can move it from the floor to one’s hand without it stopping turning. Simply move your index finger away and quickly slide your hand under the top at ground level. Spinning in the palm of your hand you can use it  to knock over your opponent’s top, propel if off balance and, most importantly, become scratched as it falls. You can tell a champion player by his pristine top.

3- To start the game off, a player vigorously launches his top over  a pile formed by the tops of his opponents. If a top is hit by the sharp tip of the tossed top it could be seriously damaged.

4- One can  pass the spinning top from one hand to another. There are other stunts one can do with a balancing top spinning on its tip.

           WISHING all our READERS who are celebrating HANUCAH 

                                                   HAG SAMEAH!

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  • Very interesting!! Thank you for posting. I also have a question for you: how did Friday night challah/bread look in Arabic and Sephardic Jewish culture? I've always wondered whether if it was similar to the Ashkenazi braided bread most Jews are familiar with but I suspect it wasn't. I haven't found any answers in academic or popular food studies. Any way you could clarify this for me? Thank you and…chag sameach. S.

  • Just confidentially I am a great dreidel and top spinner, which is a great way to keep the attention of my grandchildren. Otherwise, we should point out that the dreidel has a special connection to Hanukkah. As said, the dreidel bears four Hebrew letters, one on each of four sides or facets. The letters stand for a phrase linked to the holiday. Each letter stands for a separate word:
    Nun – Nes
    Gimel – Gadol
    Heh – Hayah
    Shin – Sham

    Nes gadol hayah sham
    A great miracle took place there.


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