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A Purim gragger, a kind of ratchet used in Judaism(cheap plastic type)
A Purim gragger, a kind of ratchet used in Judaism.

A ratchet, also called a noisemaker (or, when used in Judaism, a gragger (etymologically from Yiddish: גראַגער) or ra'ashan (Hebrew: רעשן‎)), is an orchestral musical instrument played by percussionists. Operating on the principle of the ratchet device, a gearwheel and a stiff board is mounted on a handle, which can be freely rotated. The handle is held and the whole mechanism is swung around, the momentum causing the board to click against the gearwheel, making a clicking and rattling noise. Alternatively, smaller ratchets are sometimes held still or mounted and the handle turned rapidly by the player.

In Judaism, the gragger (or noisemaker) is used for the holiday of Purim. The gragger is used every time Haman's name is mentioned during the reading of the Megillah.

One popular design consists of a thick wooden cog wheel attached to a handle and two wooden flanges which alternately hit the teeth of the cog when the handle is turned.

It is similar to a football rattle, which is sometimes used in its place when a particularly loud sound is needed. An example of its use is Richard Strauss's piece Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks and Arnold Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder. In the 18th and 19th centuries, British policemen used a similar device called a "policeman's rattle" to summon assistance.[1] They also used the device during the Second World War, to warn of the presence of poison gas.[2]

See also

  • Derkach, a Ukrainian version of the ratchet.


  1. ^ Taylor, J. "The Victorian Police Rattle Mystery" The Constabulary (2003)
  2. ^ Lincolnshire Special Constabulary Bulletin No. 27 - September, 1942.


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