There comes a time in every urban 20-something’s life when cherished childhood artifacts are reclaimed for drinking or sex.
If you’re an urban 20-something Jew, perhaps that artifact is the game of dreidel, and perhaps you’ve been sitting around a table in a bar, chatting with other 20-something Jews and sorta-Jews about how the game Apples to Apples is a lot more boring when played with family, or how getting high and watching Fantasia is pretty life-changing, man, or how doing it to your dad’s old Leonard Cohen records puts certain songs in a whole new light.
Someone offers this: Imagine getting drunk and playing hide-the-matzah at Passover. How amusing would that be if the people drinking the wine were the ones knocking over chairs, getting dusty, and sneaking gelt from the kitchen?
“Even better,” you announce, “like Spin the Bottle—Spin the Dreidel.” They laugh. “No,” says a friend, “just normal dreidel, but with alcohol. Or real money.”
What were the actual rules? No one remembers. But in your pocket, you have an iPhone with an app called Show Me Now.
And here it is: Spin a dreidel. Gimmel (shouldn’t it be gimel?), hay (hei?), shin, nun. Everything in the pot, half the pot, add a piece, do nothing. There are nine easy steps in nine ’80s-throwback instructional illustrations. You flip through ’em on the phone with your thumb; you pass around the pocket-sized guide.
And suddenly the old game—domain of the ancients, of heritage and history—has relevance again. It’s been translated and decoded with generation-defining technology. Memories come flooding back.
But something’s different. It could be the Dixie Cups of Yuengling in the center of the table, waiting to be guzzled by the first gimel spinner. (You admit your great-aunt might be a little ashamed to see you now.) But it could also be the sacrilege of using digital media to remember part of a culture that survived on the inheritance of ancient oral tradition.
The Show Me Now app is almost too easy, too accessible. It’s designed for the edutainment of short 20-something attention spans. Guilty. You hate to imagine goyim blaspheming the dreidel in the same way you’re blaspheming the dreidel.
On your friends’ faces is pure childish glee. Gimel, gimel, come on, gimel. And then you realize, screw it—it’s not even Hanukkah. And you reenter the game.
But without thinking, within minutes you check your iPhone again. Maybe because there might’ve been a text or email that never buzzed. But perhaps you got a sneak peek of how to make a killer Christmas wreath with a coat hanger, and let’s be honest, even though you may never put together any kind of Christmas decoration, these how-tos are pretty damn addictive.