Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I have been buying lottery tickets – scratch offs, and state and city sponsored lottery tickets – for the better part of fifty years and never won more than a few dollars. Believing in the motto, “You have to be in it to win it,” and never thinking I would beat the odds on winning large, every week I set aside eight to ten dollars to play. So I was never disappointed when none of my number matched the winning ones. It sort of became a habit, buying the quick pick tickets and leaving it up to G-d.
I could have really used a win when my kids started college, got married and started families of their own. Money was always tight during those years and I literally had to rip away the eight dollars, with much guilt I might add, to buy those weekly tickets. In fact, I gave up smoking as a trade off for doing so.
I really could have used a small windfall when my wife died in a sudden car accident. But G-d saw things differently.
I really could have used the money from a conservative win when I lost my job and barely made it on my social security checks that seemed to cover less each year.
No one knew my sad state of finance, not even my children who by this time were experiencing their own financial woes. Still, I managed to cut corners farther and farther to be able to give them some small assistance. And I still bought my lottery tickets hoping that this would be the week I’d win big.
Finally, a year ago, I hit the jackpot! I checked my ticket against the winning numbers a dozen times, not trusting my eyes, but it was a true win. I kept it to myself, not trusting my luck, until I went down to the claim office and they verified it, congratulating me on becoming the newest millionaire. I took my lump sum check to the bank and asked the bank manager of my branch and the tellers who knew me to please respect my privacy and keep this quiet. What a fool I was to think that would happen.
As soon as I returned home, my phone began ringing – neighbors who had seen me in the bank with all the commotion and fan-fair that surrounded me had inquired about the goings on and were told about my new-found fortune. People I didn’t even know came knocking on my door asking for donations. Lawyers and accountants and estate planners crawled out of the woodwork to harangue me about safe-guarding my “nest-egg” and neighbors and people who never bothered with me before all this, suddenly fell over themselves to invite me to their grandchildren’s brisim, Bar/Bat Mitzvos and weddings. Rabbis admonished me for not writing a Sefer Torah to donate to their shuls and, I couldn’t walk out of my house without being accosted and attacked for not up large portions of my winnings. It got to a point where I could see how a brocha could actually turn into a klalah! Even my children began fighting amongst themselves as to who got what and how much! They insisted that I divide the wealth and come and live with each of them.
Had I known this would happen as a result of winning, I would have never played the cursed lottery. It has turned my whole life upside down. I don’t have a moment’s peace and I have become a prisoner in my own home for fear of being bombarded by opportunists and scavengers. I am sick and tired and miserable. This money has brought me nothing but problems. Please give me an eitzah for getting my old life back.
How incredible! Not so much that you won the lottery, but rather, how human beings respond to wealth. When you were just an everyday guy struggling to get by, no one rushed to see you or to invite you to everything from a simcha to a bottle opening. However, now that you are a “man of means,” everyone is falling over himself or herself to get a piece of you. I find that very sad and a sign that wealth is not always a blessing. I am truly sorry that this sudden blessing of good fortune has made you a fugitive from society and has caused discord amongst your children. You do need to make plans to safeguard your newfound wealth and protect your wishes for how it should be used. Therefore, employ the services of an honest law firm to draw up an estate planning program that will afford you piece of mind and the assurance that the distributions you choose to make will be enforced.
As you said, Hashem clearly picked this moment in time to bless you with such considerable wealth for a very specific reason. If you can look past the inconveniences you have encountered, you will understand how great the mitzvah of tzedakah is. Recall, if you will, your own days of struggle and sacrifice, when you said you could have used a helping hand. Remember how you would have welcomed a little extra money. Well, now Hashem has made you the dispenser of His “gifts department,” and gave you the ability to help others who are truly needy and destitute. There is so much joy in the act of giving; it benefits both the giver and the receiver. You don’t have to write and donate a Sefer Torah, although this is a special blessed undertaking, but you can sustain the learning of Torah by supporting Torah learning institutions and organizations that help those in dire need. You don’t have to deplete you winnings but you do have to give maser, so choose wisely.
You must also learn to enjoy the brocha that Hashem has sent you. You have lived alone and isolated due to your own misfortunes. Now, however, you have the ability to do many of the things you could not have entertained doing in the lean years. Travel, visit places you never thought you would get to see, meet people and enjoy going to shiurim. Sit your quarreling children down and tell them that you have provided for them and their families and that you will not tolerate the infighting that has invaded your family. Most of all find, peace and generosity in your heart by enjoying this amazing gift and sharing with those less fortunate.
Pirkei Avos states “Eizeh hu asheer, hasomayach b’chelko who is the richest? He who is happy with his lot.”
What can be learned from this: both the poor man and the rich man can be happy through the act of sharing good fortune.