Commentary Magazine


The Lottery Joke

Sy Moscowitz is the best, kindest, most self-sacrificing, and most truly pious Jew anyone has ever met. He helps out at the synagogue, he’s at every hospital bedside, at every shiva.

The day Moscowitz turns 60, he is alone in the shul, sweeping, when he looks up at the ceiling and addresses God. “Listen,” he says. “I don’t want to be presumptuous, but maybe you could see clear to letting me win the lottery? I don’t even need to be in first place. Just something. I could use the money to help my nephew go to podiatry school.”

Five years later, the same birthday night, Moscowitz is putting away the prayer books—and again looks up at the ceiling. “God,” he says. “I don’t want to pester. But I really could use winning the lottery. Not first prize, like I told you. But my niece wants to be a beautician, and the chemicals are expensive. Could you please help me win?”

Ten years pass. Moscowitz turns 75, and yes, there he is again in shul at night, cleaning up the bimah. He looks up at the ceiling. “Hey,” he says, and his tone is cold. “I haven’t opened a mouth in 10 years. I’m trying again. I would like please to win the lottery. Not first prize. My grand-niece needs braces. Otherwise I wouldn’t ask.”

Three weeks later is the Mega Millions drawing. When it’s over, the doors to the shul swing open. Moscowitz enters in a rage. He storms to the bimah, raises his arms, and shouts: “I spend my life giving and giving. Nothing for myself. All I ask is that you help me win the lottery, not even first prize, and even that isn’t for me. And what do you do? Nothing. Nothing. What do I have to do? What?”

A bolt of lightning cracks right at his feet. Then there is crash of thunder. The ceiling vanishes and a white cloud takes its place. Everywhere, all around him, Moscowitz experiences a great rumbling, out of which comes a powerful Voice speaking in a fashion he would never have expected. “For Christ’s sake, Sy,” the Voice says, “buy a ticket!”

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