Hanukkah Toy Story
by Robin Gilman
Note: The reader may notice a striking
similarity between this story and a very popular animated movie, but this story was actually written several years before
One crisp December morning the owner of a small toy store hummed
softly to himself as he prepared to open his store. He was enjoying the quiet of the early
morning - especially as these days his store was crowded with noisy hurried customers
almost from the time the store was opened until the minute he closed it for the night.
To the storekeeper, it was quiet. That was because his ears couldn't
hear the awful ruckus that many of the toys were making as they sat on the shelves. The
sounds that toys make are not the kind of sounds that most people can hear. Nor would
anyone especially want to hear them for they are usually quite boastful. These toys were
no exception: the dolls were all showing off their dresses, their hair, or their shoes.
The games and puzzles all tried to look very intelligent and knowing as the lay in their
boxes, and tried to use long words that no one would understand. And many of the toys that
were modeled after movies or cartoons bragged to all the rest about how they were the
strongest, the cutest, the smartest, the most powerful, and other such silly boasts.
Finally, one of
the toys looked over at a small wooden dreidel who was gazing quietly out of the window.
"Hey, Woodhead!" He sneered. "How come you're so quiet? No one is ever
going to buy you unless you do something with yourself!" Some other toys joined in
and laughed at the quiet toy.
The dreidel spun around and looked at the others. You may be
prettier, shinier, and louder than me," he answered humbly," but you probably
don't know the meaning of the letters printed on each of my sides." "How can
we?" exclaimed the Scrabble game on the same shelf. "Those aren't English
letters!" "No," agreed the dreidel amicably. "You're quite right.
They're Hebrew." "Humph," snorted a snooty little purple pony. "Do you
know what they mean?" "Certainly," replied the dreidel. "Each
letter stands for a Hebrew word. Put the words together and they say, "Ness Gadol
Hayah Sham." In English it means, "A Great Miracle Happened There."
"What are you talking about?"
By now, all the toys were curious and clamoring to know more.
"It all started over two thousand years ago," began the
dreidel, "when a Syrian ruler named Antiochus wanted to get rid of the Jewish people.
He tried to force them to give up their Jewish customs and beliefs - he ruined the temple
in Jerusalem where they worshipped God, burned the Jewish Scriptures and killed many
people who refused to worship his idols. A brave Jewish priest named Matityahu and his
five sons led a revolt. When Matityahu died, his sons continued to fight, and as they
trusted in God, He led them into victory after victory. The motto on their flag was 'Who
Is like You among the gods, O Lord?' and the initial letters of these words were taken to
form a surname for the family - the Maccabees. When Antiochus finally sent troops to wipe
out the Jewish people completely, the Maccabees and all those with them fasted, read the
Scriptures and prayed. Trusting in God, although there were not many of them, they won the
battles against the large heavily armed Syrian armies, Judah and his men were finally able
to march in Jerusalem and cleanse and restore the Temple. When they rededicated the
Temple, there was a great celebration for eight days, and it was determined that the
Jewish people should observe this festival every year."
"Every year at this time, the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah
- the feast of Dedication - by eating special foods, retelling the story, lighting
candles, and playing with dreidels like me - whose four sides remind them of the miracle
that happened so long ago in Israel when God once again gave the Jewish people victory
over a mighty army."
The dreidel finished his story and there was silence among all the
toys. The toy who had mocked the dreidel said, "I - I - -I'm sorry I called you a
woodhead. I - I - -I guess you know some pretty important things. You're pretty important
, after all. I bet you'll get sold first!"
Just then, the very second that the storekeeper unlocked the door, two children
bounced in and spoke to him about what they wanted. It all happened so fast that the
dreidel only had time to look back at the other toys and wink, before he was put in a bag
and given to the children to take home.
© 1990 Robin Gilman. Updated November 29, 2012
(reformated December 18, 2014.