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Everybody would like to be rich, and winning the lottery is the easiest (albeit most unlikely) path to sudden wealth.

In terms of Jewish hashkafa (philosophy), I agree that buying more than one lottery ticket shows a lack of faith. It implies that pure randomness dictates which ticket will win, therefore the more tickets you buy the better your chances of winning. A person with proper emunah (faith) understands that G-d is in control of everything, even what seems apparently random, and while you can't win the lottery without a ticket you only need to have one for Him to make you the winner.

But how does hashkafa view the act of buying the lottery ticket? There are any number of normal, non-miraculous ways for a person to become rich. If G-d wants to bestow riches on you He is not constrained in how to do it. Is it presumptuous to buy a lottery ticket, implying He couldn't make you rich some other way?

Please give sources for your answers, read or taught, from Jewish hashkafa.

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The question, as written, seems to be asking for opinions rather than objective answers. –  Isaac Moses Mar 1 '12 at 10:07
    
@IsaacMoses Please suggest how it might be rewritten to elicit sourced, objective answers from the treasury of Jewish hashkafa rather than opinions –  Michael Sandler Mar 1 '12 at 10:11
    
Say that in the question. –  Isaac Moses Mar 1 '12 at 10:13
    
@MichaelSandler Can you explain why you think winning money from the lottery is "miraculous"? –  avi Mar 1 '12 at 11:00
    
Sorry @avi! Rereading my question I see where you inferred I was calling lottery winning miraculous. I meant only to exclude miracles from consideration of how Hashem might make you rich. I will try to find a better wording. –  Michael Sandler Mar 1 '12 at 11:14

2 Answers 2

Your question asks if buying a lottery ticket is some form of questioning Gd's ability to help you through "normal" means. This would imply that you believe that buying a lottery ticket is NOT a normal means of acquiring money.

I would like to question that assumption. It is true, that most people do not win money from the lottery. And that would make this an "abnormal" way of acquiring money from the perspective of the average population. However, from the perspective of faith in Gd, a lottery is really no different than praying to find lots of money from some other means.

You can pray to Gd all day that he allows you to find a hidden treasure. However, if you don't leave your house and search for that treasure you will never find it. This is true for all forms of gaining money. If you pray to Gd to give you a good business prospect, you must then go out and conduct business, else you will not receive that reward.

In other words, your question here could easily be, "Is searching for gifts or treasures, a a lack of faith?", or somebody else might ask, "Is working for a living, a lack of faith?" Any one of the numerous ways to gain money could be singled out, as different from the other ways of making money, and thus would be open to the question if the activity is a lack of faith. In the end, all action which normally produces money is a question of lack of faith.

There are two resolutions to this problem:

  1. You argue that since the other actions are not a lack of faith, then buying a lottery ticket is also no a lack of faith.
  2. Every action appears to be a lack of faith, and we ask what is the proper action.

Jewish tradition takes route 2 and asks in many different ways, what is needed from a person to act and what will be the method of receiving a reward.

In general, we follow the dictum that if we make the opening of a needle, then Gd will create an opening for us large enough to drive a camel through it. This phrase originally appears within the context of Teshuvah, but has been used throughout the generations as a general way of understanding Gd's working in this world.

If you want a blessing of money, you need to open up needle eyes. Buying a lottery ticket is one of many ways of doing that. However, on the other side of the spectrum, we are told that the greater the effort, the greater the reward. And in that vein, since buying a lottery ticket requires little effort, one can expect little reward, unless the need is truly great.

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Do you have a source for 'the greater the effort, the greater the reward' with regard to parnassah in Jewish hashkafa? This would address the core of my question. –  Michael Sandler Mar 1 '12 at 11:58
    
    
I have skimmed through your sources and did not find support for or allusion to reward proportional to effort. On the contrary: "However, the effort is not what helps, but is only an abstract necessity (independent of the Providence that brings us sustenance)". Please clarify. –  Michael Sandler Mar 1 '12 at 12:26
    
@MichaelSandler Through self-analysis, he tries to understand how much effort (hishtadlus) is appropriate for his unique situation. He realizes that overly intensive involvement in this-worldly pursuits can badly distract him from his Torah life (and cloud his sense of dependence on G-d). On the other hand, he also knows that if he minimizes his effort, relying wholeheartedly on G-d to meet his needs, he might not yet be spiritually ready to face the disappointment of unmet expectations (even if he's intellectually aware that whatever he's been given is no less than G-d intended for him). ... –  avi Mar 1 '12 at 12:27
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You have correctly identified the essence of my question as relating to hishtadlus in parnassah, and I thank you for clarifying my own thinking. :-) Your answer and comments address profound matters of emunah, but I maintain that you have not answered the question fully. I will contemplate an answer of my own. –  Michael Sandler Mar 1 '12 at 12:38

I have heard in the name of Rav Moshe Feinstein that it is good for someone with a fixed salary to buy an occasional lottery ticket - but only one - in order to recognize that his livelihood is not actually dependent on his employer and that divine providence guides his income.

This is kind of quoted here without a direct source:

Rav Moshe Feinstein Zatzal ruled that to buy a lottery ticket is Hishtadlus; to buy more than one is a lack of Bitachon, as if you were meant to win, your odds won’t improve by purchasing more.

It then goes on to say that purchasers of lotteries that benefit charity can purchase more than one.

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