The Dreidel-a-gram, or the 4 Laws of Money and Who We Are and Can Be at Any Moment – As the Spinning Stops

[Editor’s note: Tikkun’s Contributing Editor Phillip Wolfson M.D. is a psychiatrist and author of The Ketamine Papers, Director of The Center for Transformational Psychotherapy and CEO of The Ketamine Research Foundation in San Anselmo, California.  Phil has transformed the traditional Chanukah Dreidel-game into something for adults–an invitation to use the spin of the dreidel to provoke deep self-reflective thought about our own personal lives. You may have read Dr. Wolfson’s article “Psychedelics, the Spiritual and Consciousness” in the winter 2018 issue of Tikkun magazine. Wolfson is also the principal investigator for the MAPS sponsored study of the impact of MDMA on patients facing life-threatening illness.  His version of the Dreidel game–try it, it’s not for young children–may inspire you to come up with your own creative interpretations or new directions for the game. If so–send them to us at Tikkun so we can share them with others.]

The Dreidel is used for Hanukah gambling. You spin the Dreidel and it falls on its side—eventually.  It doesn’t count if it falls off the table—although rules are often made up on the spur of the latke.

The acrostic of the Dreidel leads us into the depths of our attitude towards possession and money, the greed, poison, the depressive voice—and the realized and elevated voice of sharing, empathy, and love.  It opens the door to knowing about risk taking and what and how much we want for ourselves–finding the balance moment to moment. 

On the side of the Dreidel are 4 Hebrew/Yiddish letters.  The systems are slightly different depending on the choice of language—Yiddish here.  The associated Deep Archetypes are access points to how we live inside.  Some, a few, many of them may apply.  Note the echoes of familiarity as you scan the Archetypes.  All of us contain something of them.  Each has its fear-based resonance.  Each has the possibility of transcendence, peace, satisfaction and joy.  We are complexes of attitudes shaped by material and spiritual life.  We all struggle with ordinary mind and are moved about by the circumstances we encounter. The Archetypes that are dominant at any moment will shift about.  

The Dreidel-a-gram is a compass to locate your self in this domain of the material—money and possessions.  Reflect on where you are and where you would like to be.  The essential medicine to shift a negative balance is to let go of attachments and allow your spacious mind and heart to unfold.  Not always so easy to accomplish –and forgiveness in a responsible way is the key to Do No Harm.

Sharing the discovery of your attitudes with those with whom you play turns The Dreidel-a-gram game into a forum for the exploration of being and doing—of lives’ meanings.

The acrostic has a reference: “נס גדול היה שם” Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – “a great miracle happened there”. 


Start spinning…




There are two forms of Nun—Nun and Final Nun.  Nun is on the Dreidel.  Final Nun—that is something else for you to figure.

Nisht–GornishtYou lose. Your money is gone, taken.

The Circumstance: You are out of luck.  There are many lucks, How do you cope?

The Deep Archetypes:

The Light:

–Equanimity: Finally, I am relieved of acquisitiveness and possessiveness, territoriality and competition.  I am putting on my Dhoti and walking unencumbered.  Desire is attenuated.  I can attend to the Spirit fully.  What I have to offer is pure and unadulterated, without manipulation or intrigue.  I am learning about the base of life and what is enough. I am watching my ‘more’ button and not letting it run my show.  I have empathy for others who have so little.  I am fully practicing kindness and devotion. It feels effortless.

–Self-Soothing: I will take care of myself.  Luck is fickle and not a true entity.  I have the capacity to recover.  I have the ability to ask for help.  I am a kind person and others are also kind and will help me out.

The Shadow:

–Loss and Being Lost: Nothing, nada, ziltch, bankrupt, lost it all, goodbye to life, go to an Ashram, a life of service, on the street—homeless, Schlimazel—luckless; how can I have been so stupid, so deluded. I trusted Bernie Madoff—what a fool I am. A Schmendrick for sure.  Certainly a Schlemiel.  No respect! The view to my past is full of pain.  I weep when I look behind.  I am too ashamed to go home.  I am irritable as a defense. I avoid intimacy and friendship. I feel the grief of loss.  I have symptoms that come from loss and plague me.  I have become a pessimist and my mind is full of negativity. I long for escape.  Maybe booze, drugs, flight.  Can’t afford a therapist—what good would that be anyway.

Need: I am going to starve to death.  I will have to resort to theft and craftiness to get something.   I am consumed by anxiety. I am at the bottom of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.  Nothing will save me.  Nothing is everything and everywhere.  I feel so empty and so envious.  I am too depressed to do anything.  My mind just goes in circles.  I need help but am too ashamed and appear too miserable to others to even ask.  Who would want to help me?  No one.  Brother–lend me a dime! I have nothing—the only way is up.  I would love a bit of kindness, the touch of a friend.  I covet as an obsession.

The Lesson: Loss and grief are part of life for all of us.  Connection broadens our safety net. Kindness and friendship build security.



Gans—you take it all 

THE CIRCUMSTANCE:  You are the winner.  What do you do with this? 

The Deep Archetypes:

The Light:  I am so fortunate.   I would like to share my good luck. And take care of others. I will work with my greed.  I have enough. There is such a thing as enough. There is such a thing as ‘too much’.  My good fortune is one of life’s accidents—to whom and where I was born, being in the right place at the right time.  I am not alone in my cleverness.  So many others have great talents and great goodness and aren’t rich in money.  I will share my wealth for the benefit of all beings.  That will bring me great joy.

The Shadow

—Narcissism: I got it all.  No one can beat me.  I am the best. The only way is up. I am immortal and covered in fairy dust.  I cannot lose. I’ll just get more and more and go on and on. There is no stopping me. I am the best. Let the others take care of themselves. This is mine, I earned it.  It came to me because I am special—better.  It’s a dog-eat dog world and I am the Great Dane.  I am in my castle and the portal is closed.  I can always buy what I want.

The BurdenIt’s too much for me.  Everyone will just want my money.  I will never be seen for who I am. It will all go away, and I will be pushing a puschke on the Lower East Side. I will spend it all recklessly and give it away foolishly.  They will come and take it all. Better to not show my money.  All I think about is how to keep it.

The Lesson:  Great Gratitude for being alive and fortunate enough to share. 



Halb—You take half the pot

THE CIRCUMSTANCE:   You are in balance between giving and taking. No great gain, no great loss. 

The Deep Archetypes:


My glass is half full and that is plenty.

Community and self-interest are in equilibrium; I have balance between giving and taking. I have enough.  My spiritual values like friendship, love, creativity, community are in balance with my material desires.  I can be satisfied.  I feel happy and engaged.  I am OK.  Reaping and sowing are in ecological balance.


Traumatized: ‘I only have half—I need more; I am an under-achiever–if only I tried harder. Not good enough–that is for sure.’

You are never enough. You are ordinary. You have not lived up to your, or really anyone’s expectations– A Mediocrity.

–Reactive: You have resentment as to your position in life; and little or no gratitude for what you have.  Regret, envy and getting more are your passions.  You have contempt for those who have less and are threatened by them at the same time. You feel vulnerable and you fear a collapse and your own failure.


Balance is its own reward. Knowing when you have enough yields both relaxation and opportunity. 



Shtelput in. Put your money in!

THE CIRCUMSTANCE: You are out of luck.  This is it—take your chances.

How shall you fare? 

The Deep Archetypes:

The Light:

–Generosity: Your needs are greater than mine. I am pleased to give. I am investing in all of our futures.  I am practicing beyond immediate outcomes and satisfaction.  I care about my children, my children’s children and the planet. I have enough—I can give this to others.  To give is better than to receive. To give is to replenish and the rewards are incalculable and unending.  I feel good about myself when I give—I like myself.  I am rich beyond all measures. I will be taken care of if needed.  I am building a community of sharing and that is my true security.

The Shadow:

Gambler: You cannot lose—you are a winner—you will go on forever.  Types–Bulvan—one who flaunts boorishly; The King—you have all the luck in the world—your streak will never end.  You are the Mazel—the luck itself. You are immortal.  You can have it all.  No worries—it’s a sure thing.

–Fear: You will lose it all and go to the bottom; sink like a stone; disappoint everyone; never amount to anything; the risk is too great; You will certainly lose.  Standing on the edge of heaven or hell. Might as well kick the bucket now.  I don’t want to know.  Close my eyes…

The Lesson: Try the Trust Fall— see who catches you, see where you land, and if you can pick yourself up.  Life is a dream, and this is just one episode.

The Dreidel Tells All. Spin and Feel. The Dreidel is not just a top.  It is also a bottom, 4 sides, and a view.


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