I know all the jokes there are about the lottery. I’ve made some of them up myself.
Yes, jackpots are an insidious tax on the stupid, chances of winning are the same if you buy or not, and you have a greater chance of getting the winner of this week’s Powerball to call you with an offer to give you half his winnings than of you winning those mils yourself. And those who don’t buy win the $2 lottery — the money they save.
Yet, many people in our community buy them: young people, skinny people, rich people, retired people, as well as some Rabbanim that I know. The price for the $590.5 million Powerball is only $2 for a reason.
I’m not going to talk about the dozens of stories of how Gedolim as disparate as the Chozeh of Lublin and Harav Shimshon Pincus couched their prayers for people to become wealthy by telling them to purchase a lottery ticket. It stands that Hashem can do the same — using the medium of the lottery to bestow wealth on a person. (I actually heard this “hishtadlus” theory from a respected rabbinic personality who regularly buys lottery tickets.)
But let me talk instead about my friend Shmulik Shindler, z”l.
Shmulik, who passed away last spring, was a most devout man who was ready to throw away his entire fortune in a second if it conflicted with halachah. He went above and beyond his ability to learn and daven in shul through his long illnesses. But throughout it all, he was a jovial man, always making jokes and making people happy.
One song that was frequently on his lips, which always made for a light moment, started with, “If I had a million dollars…” I don’t know the end of the song but allow me to take a stab at my own, upgraded, Jewish version.
If I won $590 million, I would give every member of my shul a million dollars to spend. I would buy every Shishi, Maftir Yonah and pesichah for Ne’ilah. I would become the candy man and give every kid who screams amen a supersized lollipop. I would redo the shul’s exterior and install a walking sidewalk for those who like to stride around during Pesukei d’Zimrah.
If I won $590 million, I would build ten chasunah halls spread around Boro Park, Williamsburg, Lakewood and Monsey. Chasunos would be free for perpetuity, including the music, flowers, catering and down to invitations, bentchers and singer (choice of Yisroel Werdyger, Boruch Levine or Yaakov Shwekey).
If I won $590 million, I would set up a fund to give $25,000 to anyone who sets up a shidduch for a girl a day over 20 or a bachur over 22 — even if it doesn’t progress into a first bashow. Just make a phone call and the check’s in the mail. The goal is to put NASI out of business.
If I won $590 million, I would buy an island in Eretz Yisrael, and two private jets (complete with a schnapps bar carrying the best of Old Williamsburg, and a permanent herring and chrein station) to fly there every second weekend.
If I won $590 million, I would give every fundraiser who comes to my door ten crisp $100 bills — double for causes that pull at the heartstrings. I would open a free hachnasas orchim with 250 beds, sponsor 10,000 meals at Masbia, and buy out the Met Council. I would send money to Israeli collectors before they come to the United States. I would open a gemach that lends $100,000 to any comer, interest free and without the need for a lien or co-signer.
If I won $590 million, I would sponsor 1,000 poor kallos, bring the Mayo Clinic to Brooklyn and open a supermarket with prices so low that food stamps would become obsolete.
If I won $590 million, I would travel around the United States — from Maine to Florida, Washington State to Arizona — giving a $2 bill and a dandelion to every cute kid I saw. And tuck a $10 bill in the pocket of every senior.
And then I didn’t win.
But these were my dreams, fantasies that I went around with for three days last week.
Delusional? Perhaps. But, hey! You never know.
Aren’t those three days of fuzz worth two bucks?