3 Shvat 5781 / Saturday, January 16, 2021 | Torah Reading: Va'era
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The Big Winner    

The Big Winner

Rabbi C. grabbed his wallet from the night table. Sure enough, there it was – the yellow ticket with the number 26441725 on it, worth 12 million Shekels…


Several years ago, the first of Rabbi C.'s thirteen children reached marriageable age. With all his hard work as a sofer stam[1], Rabbi C. was barely making ends meet. Where would he get the money to marry off his oldest daughter, let alone make a wedding a year for each of the upcoming years? Rabbi C. decided to buy one lottery ticket a week as part of his effort, believing with full and complete emuna that He Who blessed him with the children will also bless him with the wherewithal to marry them off.


One Friday morning, Rabbi C. was in the kitchen helping his faithful woman of valor prepare for the Sabbath. In the middle of transferring the heavy military-sized pot of cholent[2] from the stovetop to the Sabbath hotplate where it would simmer all night long, the phone rang.


"Hello, have I reached the residence of the C. family in Netanya?" the voice on the other line asked.


"Yes," Rabbi C. answered, "what can I do for you?"


"This is the office of the National Lottery in Tel Aviv. Do you have in your possession ticket number 26441725?"


"One moment – I'll check…" Rabbi C. ran into his bedroom and grabbed his wallet from the drawer of his night table. Sure enough, there it was – the yellow ticket with the number 26441725 on it! "Y-yes, here it is – I h-have it," Rabbi C. stammered in excited anticipation, while his heart skipped a beat.


"Mazal Tov – congratulations," the lottery representative said. "Our prize office in Tel Aviv is open to the public on Monday afternoons from 4 to 7 PM. We have a check for 12 million shekels (approx. $3.4 million) for you. We look forward to seeing you this coming Monday afternoon."


Rabbi C. sang out Psalm 100 at the top of his lungs. He then started reciting the Nishmat prayer, "If our mouths were as full of song as the sea, and our tongues exultation as its many waves, and our lips praise as the breadth of the horizon, we can’t sufficiently thank You Hashem our G-d for even one of the thousands of thousands and tens of thousands of favors, miracles, and wonders that You did for our fathers and for us…"


Hearing the commotion from the bedroom, Rebbetzen C. wiped her hands on the cheesecloth and scurried to the bedroom. "What's come over you, my husband? You sound like some Breslever in the woods…"


"Mazal Tov, my wife – we just won the National Lottery!"


"It's not yet Purim, but Shabbat is in a few hours. Come back to the kitchen and prepare the hot-water urn."


"I'm serious – Hashem has taken away our financial worries – we just won 12 million Shekels!"


The rebbetzen knew that her husband was no jokester. She paused, closed her eyes and said a few words of prayer and gratitude to He who sustains every living thing.


The family rejoiced all Sabbath long. After Havdalah on Saturday evening when Sabbath was over, they made a special "Thank-You" meal to express their gratitude to Hashem. News travels fast, and soon the whole community knew of the C. family's good fortune.


On Monday morning, Rabbi C. received another phone call from the National Lottery office. The representative apologized profusely, telling Rabbi C. that they had made a mistake. His ticket was not the winning ticket. As a consolation, they would be giving Rabbi C. a free lottery ticket for the next fifty weeks…


Rabbi C. thanked the voice on the other end of the line. He turned his phone off and just like he did on Friday, recited Psalm 100 and the Nishmat prayer. Tears of gratitude – not disappointment – streamed down his cheeks. That night, he made another "Thank-You" meal and invited ten Torah scholars from the neighborhood to participate.


Chassidic grapevines work just as fast as the electronic media. Soon, the whole neighborhood learned that the tables of good fortune in the C. household turned upside down. "But wait," the neighbors asked, "has Rabbi C. lost his mind? Not only is he not sick with grief and disappointment, he's saying thank-You? Poor guy…"


That evening, after he recited the last paragraph of a Gemara tractate that he finished learning recently, Rabbi C. explained his continued joy: "Today, when we lack our Holy Temple and are unable to make the ritual sacrifices that atone for us, our money atones for us. In fact, the Hebrew word for money and for the blood of a sacrifice is the same word, damim. Obviously, there must have been a very severe decree against me in the Heavenly Court, where I had incurred some terrible punishment like a massive stroke or heart attack, Heaven forbid. Hashem is a loving Father in Heaven who obviously wanted to outmaneuver the Heavenly Court. So, in lieu of the sickness, He gave me 12 million Shekels – that was no mistake, contrary to what the National Lottery office said – that money really was mine. Now that I had something to atone for me, Hashem took it away in lieu of the Heavenly Court's decree. I have my health – of course I'm happy! I have my wife, my children – I'm dancing! Thank You, Hashem!"


Rabbi C. doesn't know how, but since then, he's been marrying off his children, one every year or so, and he doesn't owe a cent.


When a person is truly grateful to the Almighty, he or she will find that they don't owe a cent either. What's more, grateful people are always happy. So what are we waiting for? Let's start thanking Hashem!




[1] Ceremonial scribe, qualified to write Torah scrolls, mezuzah and tefillin parchments

[2] A stew made of meat, potatoes, beans and other additives eaten on Sabbath morning. All Sabbath food must be precooked before the Sabbath, since cooking is forbidden on the Sabbath. Cholent, a traditional  Sabbath food, is known as khamin by Oriental Jews.


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