- Question: [Thursday, 24th Kisleiv 5781]
Is it permitted on Shabbos to play Dreidel? Also, may I play using beans that we designated for this purpose or are they considered Muktzah?
This is a complex question, as the playing of Dreidel on Shabbos can involve a “gambling” prohibition, and when playing with beans we have the added issue of Muktzah, and Bizuiy Ochlin. Practically, the following is the directive on this matter in accordance to the different forms of playing:
Playing Dreidel for the sake of winning and losing items of value/food: It is forbidden to play Dreidel on Shabbos for the sake of meriting something with each spin. Thus, it is forbidden on Shabbos to play dreidal in the typical way that it is played during the week even if money is not used, such as to use chocolate coins or chocolate lentils or any food or other item of the like in which there is a benefit for the players to win. This applies even to children, and the father is therefore obligated to educate them not to play dreidal in this fashion on Shabbos.
Playing Dreidel without any item to win or lose: It is permitted for children below the age of Bar/Bas Mitzvah to play dreidal without any purpose of gain or loss simply to spin it and see who gets what. Accordingly, it is permitted to play dreidal using items that have no value or importance if gained, or if there will be no gain or loss, such as if the children will have to return everything they won back into the pile when they are done playing, and they will not gain or lose any more or less than any other child due to the game. Thus, they may play using almonds even if they are in their shell if at the end of the game they will return it back to the bag and no one will keep what they won. It is proper to designate a special beautiful Shabbos dreidel for this purpose in order to avoid any question of Muktzah or Uvdin Dechol that may be relevant to a Dreidel that is commonly only used for playing for gain and loss which is forbidden on Shabbos, as explained above. Regarding adults: It is best for them to avoid playing Dreidel on Shabbos both due to the general negation of playing games on Shabbos, as well as the stringency against playing games that involve luck.
Playing Dreidel using predesignated beans: It is permitted for children to play Dreidel on Shabbos using beans that have been predesignated for this purpose to be used annually for Dreidel playing. Here too, a special Shabbos dreidel should be designated for this purpose as explained above. If the beans are not designated to be put away for annual use on Shabbos Chanukah and will be thrown out right after Shabbos, then it is best to avoid doing so, although those who do so have upon whom to rely. Even when playing with beans in which there is no true gain or loss for the players, there’s a stringency to avoid doing so as explained above, and thus it should only be done by children below the age of Bar/Bas Mitzvah.
Explanation regarding playing Dreidel: The sages decreed against playing “gambling” games on Shabbos which refers to all games that involve a gain and loss of items of the players, even if it is not money but rather food, if the items gained and lost retain a monetary value. This is due to their general decree against doing business on Shabbos. Now, although in the case of children the items that will be won by the players belongs to the father of the home and is hence not exactly similar to business, nonetheless, this would still seemingly fall under the lottery prohibition applicable on Shabbos which is itself forbidden due to the gambling prohibition which is similar to business. Now, if there is no gain or loss at all achieved through playing the game then seemingly it would be permitted. When permitted to be played, seemingly it may be played even on a tiled floor and not just specifically on a table, being that it is never common to play Dreidel on a dirt floor, and hence it is not similar to the prohibition recorded in the Poskim against playing rolling games on even tiled floors. Now, although there are Poskim who prohibit playing any luck game on Shabbos, practically we do not rule this way, and therefore certainly children may be lenient to do so. However, since there are Poskim who rule that using a regular weekday Dreidel can transgress the prohibition of Muktzah and Uvdin Dechol, therefore, to avoid all issues one should designate a special Shabbos dreidel for playing on Shabbos. Likewise, it is best for adults and as well all children above bar/bas mitzvah to avoid playing it in order to avoid all the halachic issues and use one’s time properly on Shabbos.
Explanation regarding using beans-Muktzah: Any item that is Muktzah Machmas Gufo because it doesn’t have the status of a vessel may receive the status of a vessel- before Shabbos if we designated to be used forever for this purpose. This applies even if it is not common to designate the item for this purpose, although in such a case a permanent designation must be done in a temporary one does not suffice. Now regarding our question of designating beans for Dreidel playing on Shabbos: Although beans are not commonly designated for such use, and hence a mere temporary designation does not suffice, nevertheless, if one designates it for this purpose alone and then throws it in the garbage when done playing, then this itself can be considered permanent use. It goes without saying that designating it for annual dreidal playing would suffice to remove its Muktzah state and practically this is the best option to be done rather than designate it only for one Shabbos. Likewise, this option of annual designation should be done in order to avoid a prohibition of Bizuiy Ochlin.
Explanation regarding using beans-Bizuiy Ochlin: Although using beans for dreidal playing will cause them to not be used anymore for eating being that they must be permanently designated for dreidal playing as explained above, as well as become dirty, nonetheless this does not transgress the prohibition of Bizuiy Ochlin being that is being done for a meaningful purpose to be able to create this game of entertainment. It is no different than the allowance that was followed throughout history to use flour for various nonfood purposes, such as to make playdoh, dolls, and to stuff up holes in the wall, which created a discussion in the laws of Passover regarding Chametz. It is likewise similar to the allowance to smear edible oil on the body.
Sources: Regarding the prohibition of playing games for the sake of gain and loss and against doing a lottery: See Admur 338:6; Rama 338:5; Rambam Shabbos 23:17; Shabbos 23 and 148; Beis Yosef 338 in name of Igor 521; Bach 338; Michaber 322:6; M”A 322:9; Mur Uketzia 338 [forbids even for food]; Aruch Hashulchan 338:13; SSH”K 16:32; Piskeiy Teshuvos 338:11 [old] 14 [new]; Chayeh Halevi 10:58; Mishnas Yosef 7:128; Avnei Yashpei 126-2; Metziyon Teitzei Torah 117; AkeidasMoshe 4:33-3; Maaglei Eliyahu 3:30; Emes Leyaakov 679 footnote 593; Mishnas Aaron Leiberman Muktzha 88; Avnei Derech 13: 83; Chevel Nachalaso 20:10; Regarding the prohibition of playing what games, see: Bach 338; Olas Shabbos 338:5; Kaf Hachaim 338:41; omitted from the majority of Poskim, including Admur; Regarding the prohibition of playing rolling games on a floor see: Admur 338:6; Aruch Hashulchan 338:12; Ketzos Hashulchan 146 footnote 60; Shevisas Hashabbos; SSH”K 16:5; Piskeiy Teshuvos 338:9; Regarding if the above prohibition applies to children see: Admur 338:6; Rama 338:5 and Darkei Moshe 338; Piskeiy Teshuvos 338:14 footnote 123 Regarding having a special designated Dreidel just for Shabbos see: Igros Moshe 5:22-10 [not Muktzah]; Mikdash Yisrael 274-275; Chayeh Halevi 10:58; Regarding designating beans so they are no longer considered Muktzah see: Admur 308:8; 53; Michaber 308:22; Ketzos Hashulchan 110:5; Regarding the prohibition of wasting food see: Admur Shemiras Haguf 14; Michaber 171:1, 4, 5; Torah Lishma 401; Mayan Omer 11:5; M”A 171 in Hakdama; M”B 171:4 and Biur Halacha 171:1 “Lo”; Setimas Kol Haposkim who discuss placing oil on the body and never stipulated that it must be inedible – See Admur 160:15; 327:1-2; Mishneh Shabbos 111a; Ma’aser Sheiyni 2:1-2; Shevi’is 8:2; Rambam Ma’aser Sheiyni 2:6; Terumos 11:3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 171:5