Haredi Rabbis Approve Lottery to Benefit Poor: Casting Lots on Purim

QueenEsther BeforeAhasuerus

“Queen Esther Before King Ahasuerus”
Image sourced from University of Virginia Museum of Art

How do you justify gambling in the Jewish state? Make it good for the people.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis have just approved a new lottery called Goralot, meaning “destinies.” The catch? All monies earned will go to help the poor.

The Lottery Mitzvah

The lottery’s premiere drawing will be on the the first day of the Hebrew month of Adar (February 7th, 2008). Tickets will go for the princely sum of 100 shekels apiece. Good news for ticket buyers, however: 10% of tickets will earn a cash reward.

With so many winners, who wouldn’t want to cast their lot? The temptation is hard to resist when you have a high chance of winning cash back and are guaranteed the mitzvah of helping the poor. It’s not often you can get that kind of a thrill from simple tzedakah.

Goralot’s first prize is 100,000 shekels, an absolute fortune for the average Israeli. Ten lucky souls will win 4,000 shekels; twenty will earn 200 shekels, and 769 fortunate entrants will win back the cost of their 100 shekel ticket (ensuring shalom bayit, peace in the home).

Over 3,500 tickets of the 10,000 available have already been sold.

In the Jewish Tradition: Drawing Lots on Purim

It’s no accident that the rabbis have chosen the lottery to take place in the month of Adar, the same month that Purim is celebrated (purim means “lots” in Persian).

Wine on Purim

Tradition tells us that Purim is the holiday in which we have two obligations: to give to the poor and to get so drunk that we cannot distinguish between the names of the righteous Mordechai, who saved the Jews from destruction in ancient Shushan, from the reviled Haman, whose hand signed the death warrant.

We can guarantee that Goralot will allow many lucky winners to celebrate in proper fashion.

Photo by Jeff Kubina

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2 Responses to Haredi Rabbis Approve Lottery to Benefit Poor: Casting Lots on Purim

  1. What a great idea. Can only Israelis buy a ticket? =)

  2. thenewjew says:

    I’m sure it is open to everyone, but I wonder who you’d have to talk to in order to get them. The Haredi community has a strong tendency toward insularity. They aren’t exactly online either.

    When I was writing this entry, I was wondering what would happen if they opened the lottery up to other Ultra-Orthodox communities, such as those in New York and London, as well. Ignore the issues of currency conversion, it would be an interesting experiment.

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