Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin 02:15

Liner Notes

Hanukka observances have traditionally reserved a central role for children in the context of family celebrations. Over the course of centuries, various games were devised, especially for the duration of the burning Hanukka lights. These games serve dually as associative learning reinforcements and sheer entertainment. The most ubiquitous symbol of such Hanukka diversions is the dreidl (Yiddish, from drei, to spin or turn), or s’vivon, in Hebrew. This is a spinning top, on each of whose four sides appears the initial letter of one of the words of the sentence nes gadol haya sham (A great miracle happened there). Those letters are the Hebrew characters nun, gimel, hei, and shin. (In modern Israel, those initials are often adjusted to read nun, gimel, hei, pei, representing nes gadol haya po— a great miracle happened here.) The reference is of course to the miracles of Hanukka.

The latkes in the lyrics refer to flat cakes or pancakes (usually potato-based) fried in oil, which have become the most typical symbolic Hanukka food among Ashkenazi Jews. Although such customary Hanukka foods vary among different traditions and regions (in Israel, for example, the prevailing one is a type of doughnut, or sufganiya), the common element is the oil in which they are fried, recalling the lumination oil involved in the rededication of the Temple.

Judith Shatin’s Nun, gimel, hei, shin is a simple, gay-spirited round, reflecting the dreidl’s momentum as it spins. The song’s parts may be repeated at will, and the composer has also suggested improvised accompaniments—either in lieu of or in conjunction with the printed piano part recorded here. It is also published in an a cappella version.

By: Neil W. Levin



Sung in Hebrew

Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin
Spin the dreidl,
Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin
Plenty of latkes.

A great miracle took place there.



Composer: Judith Shatin

Length: 02:15
Genre: Choral

Performers: Ronald Corp, Conductor;  New London Children's Choir

Date Recorded: 03/01/2001
Venue: The Warehouse, London, UK
Engineer: Campbell Hughes and Morgan Roberts
Assistant Engineer: Weir, Simon
Project Manager: Levin, Neil

Additional Credits:

Publisher: Colla Voce Music on Henry Leck Series


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