Only in America can one become a billionaire overnight, with no effort. It happened this week when someone purchased the winning ticket for the $1.08 billion Powerball. If you think that's a good deal, last November a lucky fellow walked away with a staggering $2.04 billion!
It is often said that lottery winners squander their prize money soon after getting the lucky ticket. Within a short time they could be back to zero. How sad. Maybe they were not fully prepared for the moment, or maybe they suddenly discovered they had far more “friends and family” than they ever imagined?
Some assume that because the winner invested no effort, no good can come out of it. No pain no gain.
But there are also those who do utilize their newly gained wealth appropriately. They spend wisely, they tithe, give charity generously, make educated and well advised investments, and help others in need. So a big win could make the winner a better person, or allow them to express their goodness in more ways than before.
Neither you or I won the Powerball this time around, but we did hear about it. So there must be a practical lesson it can teach us for our daily life and behavior. Personally, it made me think of a beautiful passage in our daily prayers where we say “How fortunate are we! How good is our portion, how pleasant our lot, and how beautiful our heritage!”
What does this prayer mean?
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains in Tanya that just as a person would rejoice and be glad when they suddenly receive a huge treasure— through no toil of their own— similarly, and infinitely more so, we ought to rejoice over the treasure we as Jews have been gifted; our faith, the Torah and it’s 613 mitzvahs.
Like the lottery winner, we can’t really point to something we have done to make us worthy of this. But with our power of free choice and access to the teachings of the Torah, we can either utilize the immense potential that lies within or let it remain unused and dormant. If we use our inner strength and joyfully apply the beautiful teachings of our faith and sacred tradition in our lives, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.