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The Beit Yosef (Shuchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 370:2) forbids gabling as gezeilah derabanan. (The Rema permits gambling under certain circumstances.) With this in mind, is it permissible for Sepharadim to play dreydel on Chanukah? Does it matter whether the players are playing for money, versus playing for chocolates?

Please share any teshuvot you are aware of on this subject.

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There are actually two questions: is it considered theft (based on how you read the various gemaras of asmachta); and is gambling altogether prohibited as a blanket prohibition, even if you somehow got out of the asmachta problem, based on the mishna in shabbos about lotteries. The latter is R' Ovadya Yosef [shlita]'s opinion. –  Shalom Dec 6 '10 at 4:28
    
@Shalom: I thought that by asking within the context of the Beit Yosef, I was stipulating a particular answer to those questions, and that all that was left was how this particular minhag relates to the prohibition. Am I misunderstanding the extent to which the Beit Yosef actually settles the question (for those who follow his ruling)? –  Chanoch Dec 6 '10 at 15:19
    
@Chanoch, Beit Yosef rules like Rambam that many forms of gambling are prohibited because they're a form of theft (though not enough so to invalidate a witness). Beyond that, some poskim hold that Hazal went further and prohibited all forms of gambling as a safeguard; others say no. I don't know what Beit Yosef's opinion is on the second question, it's very possible he's lenient. Your question was about the first one and is certainly valid on its own, sorry for my interfering. –  Shalom Dec 6 '10 at 17:12

3 Answers 3

The Chochmas Adam dismisses this question and says that we play Dreidel not to earn money but rather to be Mikayem a Minhag Yisroel and therefore the whole question is not relevant.

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The Chasam Sofer is infuriated that people are gambling on Chanukah. He says if it was up to him, he'd say "if you'll pick one night to gamble anyhow, do it on December 25th when you're not learning Torah anyhow", but that would mean he'd be telling people to gamble on a night when they might not otherwise be (years such as this when chanukah falls out well before Dec 25), so he doesn't have the power to do so.

(I don't think the Chasam Sofer talks about dreidels specifically, just gambling.)

The shocking truth is that dreidels are a fairly new, entirely Ashkenazic practice, to the very best of my knowledge, so it wouldn't surprise me if Sephardic poskim (such as R' Ovadiah Yosef, yibadel l'chaim tovim v'aruchim, who prohibits even lottery tickets) couldn't give a ki hu zeh of concern for the fact that dreidel is "a custom."

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Shalom, Yibadel LeHaim is only said when mentioning the name of a person who is alive right after mentioning the name of a person who was already niftar. –  Yahu Dec 6 '10 at 6:34
    
@Yahu, thanks. Yes, I was figuring I mentioned it a few words after the Chasam Sofer (who died more than a hundred years ago), but yeah it was a stretch. Shlit'a would have been better. –  Shalom Dec 6 '10 at 13:18

It would not make a difference if it was money or chocolates. I am not a dreidle player, but don't players put their money on the table into a pot before spinning? That would lessen the problem of gezailla.

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inSeattle, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks very much for contributing this insight! I look forward to seeing you around. Your answer could be improved by adding information about why you understand that putting money on the table first makes a Halachic difference. –  Isaac Moses Dec 6 '10 at 3:44
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Tosfos' opinion is that the problem is conditional obligations at a later, point in time. What can be done instead is if all the players put the money in a pot and each takes acquisition of the pot, as of now, should they win. –  Shalom Dec 6 '10 at 4:24

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