“Great Wealth” and Mega Millions – A Kavannah Before Buying A Lottery Ticket: Rabbi Barry Gelman

March 30, 2012
A Kavannah Before Buying A Lottery Ticket:

I will be using the traditional Shabbat Hagadol drasha to speak on the topic of: Jews and Money.

I decided to speak on this topic long before the Mega Millions frenzy started.

I have long been fascinated with the idea that part and parcel of the promise of redemption is great wealth.

Here are the verses from Bereishit

יג) וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם יָדֹעַ תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה

יד) וְגַם אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל

13 And He said unto Abram: ‘Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14 and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

I can’t help but think of the coincidental relationship between the lottery drawing this week and the “great wealth” that the Jews took with them from Egypt.

Maybe this shabbat is called Shabbat Hagdol the Great Shabbat in anticipation of the “Great Wealth” – “ִּ”רְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל”that the Jewish people would amass.

The promise of wealth even makes its way into the text of the Haggadah suggesting that in order to properly fulfill the MItzvah of Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim (retelling the Exodus story) one must discuss this aspect of the events.

בָּרוּךְ שׁוֹמֵר הַבְטָחָתוֹ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּרוּךְ הוּא. שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא חִשַּׁב אֶת הַקֵּץ, לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּמַה שֶּׁאָמַר לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ בִּבְרִית בֵּין הַבְּתָרִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם, יָדֹע תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם, וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה. וְגַם אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל.

Blessed is He who keeps His promise to Israel, blessed be He!For the Holy One, blessed be He, calculated the end [of the bondage], in order to do as He had said to our father Abraham at the “Covenant between the Portions,” as it is said: “And He said to Abraham, `You shall know that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and make them suffer, for four hundred years. But I shall also judge the nation whom they shall serve, and after that they will come out with great wealth.'”

This is an interesting point to discuss at your seder table – why must we talk about the great wealth gained by the Jewish people as part of retelling the story?

A related issue is the use and misuse of wealth.

That same wealth that the Jewish people took with them from Egypt was then used to build the Golden Calf. This represents the profanation of money. (more on this at the Drasha)

The Golden Calf represents the danger of wealth itself being worshipped and viewed as an end in itself. (It can actually get worse. For example, when wealth becomes the determining factor of value in a society – more on this in the Drasha (from Rav Nachman of Breslov) as well)
On the other hand Rabbi Soloveitchik talks about of “Redeeming The Economy”. (See Festivals of Freedom pg. 168 – 172)
In a similar vain, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks defines tzedek as social or distributive justice.

Here are some of his words: “The Judaic vision aims at a society in which there is equal access to dignity and hope. Unlike socialism it believes in the free market, private property and minimal government intervention. Unlike capitalism it believes that the free market, without periodic re-distributions, creates inequalities that are ultimately unsustainable because they deprive some individuals of independence and hope.”

Before buying that ticket ask yourself: How can I make sure that this wealth (hopefully you will win) will be redeemed?

BTW – It’s actually a good question to ask even if you do not buy a ticket.