Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nightmare 2

In Nightmare 1 I described my fear that in some hashgachot within Judaism the average person isn't expected to be a moral agent at all - all moral decisions are deferred to the gedolim, and a person's free will is exercised by choosing to follow their decisions.

I encountered that thinking again this week, in a discussion with a chassidic friend in Brooklyn. I was describing to him how my wife treats the lottery as a game. She buys one ticket per lottery if she buys one at all. "If Hashem wants me to win, then one is enough; if he doesn't want me to win then buying lots won't help." Then she spends hours plotting how to use her winnings, in great detail. Usually about 80% goes to some form of tzedakah - building a new women's mikveh at one end of time, buying out her financially strapped parents' mortgage, starting a trust fund for Mazon, etc.

My friend said that if he won the lottery he would put it all in a trust fund and sign it over to his rebbe, then go back to his normal life. He quoted some mussar that if Hashem makes you wealthy the reason is Hashem wants you to redistribute it properly.

I was appalled by this answer. If Hashem wanted his rebbe to have the burden of redistributing the wealth, Hashem would have his rebbe win the lottery! This attitude seemed gross ingratitude on my friend's part. An analogy would be if the young shepard David, having been offered the kingship, abdicated in favor of Shmuel.
After all, a navi would do a much better job ruling Israel as Hashem wished than David could hope to. So let Shmuel rule and David be a shepherd!

Thoughts? When Hashem sends us tests, is it our job to struggle with them, or to pass them along to people more likely to pass?


Joels W. said...

I guess that what Hitabtlut to a higher power (the rebbe) in Chassidut is all about. Yes, it does seem cult-like.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

i think in general we're meant to respond to God's challenges by using our God-given faculties — intelligence, emotions, moral sense... part of that is also knowing when to ask for advice or when to defer to someone else.

i wrote a post a while ago here about abdicating responsibility; it's more personal than philosophical, but it's related.

Orthonomics said...

Does Hashem even want us to gamble and waste our money in the lottery? Does Hashem want lottery playing to be seen as a normal activity?

I think the preoccupation with the lottery is unhealthy, although determining where you should put your tzedakah dollars is healthy.

Larry Lennhoff said...

Does Hashem even want us to gamble and waste our money in the lottery?

Our custom is to buy no more than one ticket for any given lottery. If Hashem wants to us to have the money, one ticket suffices, and if Hashem does not, it doesn't matter how many tickets we buy. I don't think we've ever bought two tickets to non-charitable lotteries at a time (i.e, we've never bought tickets to two different state run lotteries simultaneously).

My wife gets a lot of pleasure out of allocating her 'winnings'. I found this odd at first, but I think it is actually a better activity than reading a romance novel, watching a TV show, or other pleasures often enjoyed within the MO community.

Obviously gambling can be abused, but if we restricted ourselves only to activities that could not be abused, I'm not sure what we could do. Not eat or drink, for sure.

I agree that if you view lotteries as the best way to become rich and spend a significant portion of your time and resources on them you are engaging in unhealthy behavior.

Orthonomics said...

I recently heard a story of a frum man (maybe a Rabbi) who went in to buy one lotto ticket at a time and the person behind the counter said he had no idea how you could only buy one ticket.

Some people have much more addictive personalities. It is fortunate your wife can just enjoy.

I remember the excitement I had when I entered my first chinese auction. I really, really wanted to win the silver set and imagined it in my cabinet. Natrually, I did not win and was very disappointed. I entered one more auction after that and actually attended it (a friend convinced me to come with her). I was a bit taken a back by the way some people got so swept up in the affair. I haven't been back. I guess I am a bit afraid to be one of them. :)

Your post went up after I got a solicitation for a tzedakah fund that detailed a lotto story in it that really put me off. Guess it put me in a mood.

Great blogging.