Part 1


Interior of a cave in the times of the Yevanim.  Three Yidden – Azzi, Berish, and Chanina – are sitting around a table when a trio of Greek soldiers bursts in, wearing togas and armor and brandishing spears.  The Greek soldiers have names too, but we’ll give their English approximations.

SANCTIMONIOUS: “Aha!  Gotcha!”

AZZI: “Hey!”


AZZI: “Hey!”  (He looks at Chanina.)  “That means you get half!”

Chanina takes some coins out of the pile in middle of the table and looks at the soldiers.

CHANINA: “We’re playing dreidel.  What do you mean by “Gotcha!”?”

BERISH: “Wait; his dreidel has a hey?  Mine has nun, gimmel, yud, and pey.”

AZZI (squints): “I dunno; maybe it’s a yud.  It’s very dark in here.”

SANCTIMONIOUS: “Oh, okay; we thought you were...  Never mind.  Isn’t that a kids’ game?”

CHANINA: “We’re playing for money.”

FRIVOLOUS: “So all you’re doing is gambling?”

BERISH: “In a way, yes!”

FRIVOLOUS: “Then why are you doing it in a cave?” 

BERISH: “Um…  We all have wives?”

OBLIVIOUS: “I hear you there.  I’ve got a wife too.  Carry on, I guess.” 

BERISH: “You guys want to play?”

SANCTIMONIOUS: “No, that seems kind of boring.” 

CHANINA: “Well, it’s not like we have anything else to do.” 

FRIVOLOUS: “And I don’t really carry cash on me.  I’m wearing bed sheets.”

AZZI: “Yeah, that’s like one step down from pajamas.”

SANCTIMONIOUS: “I don’t either.  All those coins would jingle when we run.  We wouldn’t be able to sneak up on people.  Like in caves.”

AZZI: “Oh; I figured soldiers would have a lot of money.”

SANCTIMONIOUS: “To be honest, this is not a very well-paying job.  We patrol the mountainsides trying to see if people are studying Torah – we get a bonus based on how many people we find – and to be honest, we have not found anyone.  It’s mostly people playing this dreidel game.  And I’m not sure why.  What is the appeal here?”

BERISH: “It travels well.”

FRIVOLOUS: “I think we’re gonna go.”

(The soldiers start to leave.)

AZZI: “Okay, bye!...  Don’t tell our wives!”

BERISH (sarcastic): “Are you guys sure you don’t want to join us?”

One soldier, Oblivious, stops and turns around.

OBLIVIOUS: “Actually, you know what?” 

BERISH: “What?”

OBLIVIOUS: “I’m going to play.”

AZZI: “What?”

BERISH: “What?”

OBLIVIOUS: “I mean it.  We’ve been giving you Jews such a hard time lately, we’re trying to bust you, and you’re just sitting around and playing an innocent game of… What did you say this was called?”

AZZI: “Dreidel.”

OBLIVIOUS: “And if we can’t just sit together and play a game, how are our nations ever going to get along?”

Chanina kicks Berish under the table.


OBLIVIOUS: “Also, it’s raining.  Deal me in.”

AZZI: “No, no…  We don’t want to keep you.”

OBLIVIOUS: “No, really, it’s okay.”

AZZI: “Maybe a quick game.”  (He looks at the candles providing illumination for the cave, which are currently at about half-size.)

BERISH: “Really quick.  You heard the man; deal him in!  Ow!”

OBLIVIOUS: “Where are we holding?”

AZZI: “We, um… We haven’t actually started yet.  We were just spinning for first.  I guess.”

OBLIVIOUS: “So how do you play?”

BERISH: “Well, you spin and then see what letter comes up.  Like this one’s a pey.”

AZZI: “And each one means something different.  Like if you get a pey, you have to put money in the middle.”

OBLIVIOUS: “Oh, I get it!  Pay!” 


OBLIVIOUS: “Pay? Nobody?.”

AZZI: “Just pick a dreidel.” 

OBLIVIOUS: “Boy, you sure have a lot of them… So how do I choose here?  Like what are the benefits of each one?  Do they each have special abilities, or…”

AZZI: “Not really.”

BERISH: “Well, with that one you can see the letters in the dark.”

CHANINA: “And this one’s flammable!”

OBLIVIOUS: “So it doesn’t really matter what color I pick?” 

AZZI: “You’d think that it would.” 

OBLIVIOUS: “Then why do you have so many?”

BERISH: “Nobody knows.”

OBLIVIOUS: “Okay, fine, I’ll be red.”

CHANINA: “I’m red.”

AZZI: “You can both be red.”

OBLIVIOUS: “We have a similar game at home, but the thing has 6 sides.”

BERISH: “How do you spin it?” 

OBLIVIOUS: “You don’t; you just throw it.” 

CHANINA: “That’s dumb.” 

BERISH: “It’ll never catch on.”

AZZI: “That’s how my kid plays dreidel!”

CHANINA: “And what’s this six-sided thing called?”

OBLIVIOUS: “It’s called a die.”

CHANINA: “That’s typical.”

OBLIVIOUS: “And what did you call this game again?”

CHANINA: “Dreidel.” 

OBLIVIOUS: “What is that, Yiddish?” 

BERISH: “Oh; um… Sevivon.” 

OBLIVIOUS: “Sevivon?  It sounds like a musical instrument.  As in, “Look, I’m playing the sevivon!”” 

AZZI: “Please stop putting your mouth on it.”

OBLIVIOUS: “So I just spin it?”

BEISH: “Sure.”

He spins.

OBLIVIOUS: “And now what do I do?” 

AZZI: “Now we all wait for it to stop spinning.” 

OBLIVIOUS: “I just did a huge spin.  So most of the game is about waiting?” 

CHANINA: “Yes.” 

AZZI: “And… bonding.”

OBLIVIOUS: “Oh.  So… you guys just believe in one god?”

Awkward silence.  The dreidel stops and Berish squints at it.

BERISH: “Gimmel! You got a gimmel!”

OBLIVIOUS: “What happens now?”

AZZI: “You win!”

OBLIVIOUS: “The whole game?”

CHANINA: “Yes!  Take all the money.”

BERISH: “Great game, everyone!  Bye, now!  Come again!... Ow!”

OBLIVIOUS: “What?  No, now I feel bad.  Is this really how the game ends?  You get one gimmel and you’re done?” 

BERISH: “You think we’re just making this up to get rid of you?  Ow!”

OBLIVIOUS: “Here, let’s do another round.  Like how about everyone puts in a little more now, and we keep going until one person has all the money?”

CHANINA: “What?!  That’s worse!”

OBLIVIOUS: “Hey, I might not win…  How do you usually play?”

AZZI (looks around): “Yeah, how do we usually play?” 

BERISH: “Oh…  (thinking) Usually, usually…”

AZZI: “How about a gimmel gets you four coins and a yud gets you two?”

OBLIVIOUS: “How is it that you guys can’t agree on the rules here?  Don’t you play this all the time?”

AZZI: “We mostly argue.”

OBLIVIOUS: “Yeah, that tracks.  I actually heard arguing as I was coming toward the cave!”

CHANINA: “No kidding!”

OBLIVIOUS: “Okay, so one of you go.”

AZZI: “Fine.” 

He spins.

CHANINA: “So… why do you believe in multiple gods?”

BERISH: “Pey!”

AZZI: “Oh, man!”

BERISH: “My turn…”

He spins so hard that the dreidel flies off the table.

OBLIVIOUS: “Whoa!  Careful!”

BERISH (from under the table): “Pey!  Oh, man!”

CHANINA: “Here, want to see something?  I can spin mine upside down.”

OBLIVIOUS: “Is that extra points, or—Whoa!”

Chanina’s dreidel rolls off the table and into the dark. He gets up to chase it.

CHANINA: “Shin!” 

OBLIVIOUS: “You didn’t even look at it.” 

CHANINA (looking): “Shin!” 

BERISH: “For real?” 

CHANINA: “Yeah!  Look!”

AZZI: “Why does yours have a shin?” 

CHANINA: “It’s made in China.”

OBLIVIOUS: “Okay, I’m spinning… It went under your arm.”

CHANINA (looking under his arm): “Gimmel!”

OBLIVIOUS: “Are you sure?  It kind of looks like a nun from here.”

AZZI: “That’s because it’s dark.”

OBLIVIOUS: “Under your arm?”

AZZI: “No, the whole cave!”

OBLIVIOUS: “What about clay dreidels?  Are those easier to see?

CHANINA: “I don’t know.  We made a bunch.  None of the clay ones spin.” 

BERISH: “I’m still waiting for mine to be dry and ready.” 

OBLIVIOUS: “Well, did you leave it in the sun, or in a damp cave?”

AZZI: “Okay, my turn…  Whoops!”

It flies off the table.

OBLIVIOUS: “This keep happening.  Wouldn’t it be better if you guys didn’t keep doing trick spins?”

AZZI: “It helps pass the time.  Pey!”

BERISH: “My turn!”

He spins.

OBLIVIOUS: “How is this happening that you’re all getting peys?  What are the chances of that?” 

BERISH: “Uh… nun!”

CHANINA: “My turn!”

OBLIVIOUS: “I gotta be honest; before I got in here, I thought you guys were studying your Torah.” 

AZZI: “In the dark?”

OBLIVIOUS: “We heard you arguing and assumed.”

BERISH: “Oh, we argue about everything.”

OBLIVIOUS: “I know.  Even without words.  You’ve been kicking each other under the table since I got here.”

Berish picks up Chanina’s dreidel.

OBLIVIOUS: “Hey, you know what?”

BERISH: “Hey.  Ow!  Nun.

AZZI: “What?”

Oblivious spins.

OBLIVIOUS: “You’re not such bad guys, and I feel bad that I’m winning all your money.  You don’t even know me.” 

Berish picks up Oblivious’s dreidel.

BERISH: “Gimmel!”

OBLIVIOUS: “Look, if I win, you guys are all coming to my house for a meal.”

CHANINA: “Wait, what?”

OBLIVIOUS: “I will not take no for an answer.  Haha.”

Azzi picks up his own dreidel.

AZZI: “Gimmel!”

OBLIVIOUS: “Wow!  How do you like that?”

BERISH: “My turn… Gimmel!”

OBLIVIOUS: “How’s everyone getting a gimmel now?”

CHANINA: “…Hey!”

OBLIVIOUS: “Hey yourself.”

He spins.

OBLIVIOUS: “So…  Who’s willing to talk politics?”


Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist, and has written six books, all published by Israel Book Shop.  He also does freelance writing for hire.  You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.