When people ask me why I don’t have money, I usually say it’s because I’m a writer and a teacher, and zero times two is still zero.  I’ve always figured that this was Hashem’s way of keeping my material relatable to people of all income levels.  But it’s never occurred to me that the reason I have no money might be because I’ve never bought a lottery ticket. 

I’m not even sure how to buy a lottery ticket, and I’ve never bothered learning how, because Schmutters never win anything.  My son keeps saying that’s not true, because when his rebbi raffles off prizes, my son sometimes wins.  He’s like, “What do you mean, “Schmutters don’t win”?  I got a whole bottle of soda that one time!”

And the way I see it, the lottery is completely up to Hashem anyway.  If Hashem wants you to win the lottery, do you think he’s limited by whether or not you buy a ticket?  Sure, He sometimes decides what to give you based on hishtadlus, but I don’t know that Hashem necessarily says, “He spent $2.  That’s the hishtadlus I was waiting for.  Not the 100+ hours of work he does every week.” 

And yes, I can daven – that’s hishtadlus too – but I don’t know that my tefillah for the winner to be me is stronger than the combined tefillos of everyone else that it not be me.  Even though I doubt they mention me by name. 

Cut it out!

On the other hand, when you read some of these news stories, it sounds like it’s like it’s actually harder not to win the lottery.

Our first story today is about an 87-year-old man in New Jersey who was walking to the store to buy a ticket for the recent Mega Millions jackpot, when he fell and broke his hip.  So the man is lying there in the hospital, and he hears the nurses putting together a pool to buy tickets, and they offer to let him join, so he decides, “I might as well, at this point.  What’s the worst that can happen?”  Then the heartbeat monitor fell on his head.

Okay, so it didn’t.  But one of the tickets won $1 million, which, divided among the 141 people in the pool, worked out to about $7,000 a person, before taxes! 

See?  If he wouldn’t have gone to buy a lottery ticket, he never would have been able to pay for the hip replacement he had to get from falling while walking to buy a lottery ticket.  Which is more than $7,000, but that’s still a nice discount.

And that’s not the only case of a person who didn’t let so called “signs” stop him.  In August, a man in California resolved not to leave a liquor store b’li neder until he got a winning scratcher ticket.  Now this story could have easily ended up in one of my “dumb criminals” articles, featuring a stand-off with the cops.  Instead, it ended with him getting tired after only four tickets, and deciding, “Okay, one more.” And that fifth one was a winner. 

Is that all we have to do – say, “This is the last one”?  I’m looking for tips, in case I ever buy a ticket.  Can I just say, “I’m only buying one, and this is that one?”

Maybe giving up is the key.  In November, a woman in Maryland actually found a winning lottery ticket after it had gone through the laundry.  It probably belonged to one of her kids.  “Well, it’s mine now.”  Those are the rules of the laundry.

Also in November, a woman in Louisiana found a $1.8 million lottery ticket while cleaning her house for Thanksgiving.

I can relate.  I find things all the time while cleaning for Pesach.  Never a lottery ticket, though, for some reason.  And then I say, “Oh! I’ve been looking for this!” and I put it away so I can say the same thing next year.  I’d probably also do this if I found a lottery ticket. 

Sure, some people know ahead of time that they’re going to win.  Take Mary Wilson – a woman in New York who played some numbers that had come to her in a dream and ended up winning a million dollars. 

That seems unfair.  When I have a dream, it’s not lottery numbers.  It’s my wife doing something that makes me mad.  Is a dream a prophecy of the future?  Or is it a reflection of what you were thinking about during the day?

And it’s not just your own dream that can lead you to win.  Also in August, a man in Washington won $125,000 by following the advice of a fortune cookie.  He’d actually found three fortunes in a single cookie, and two of them said to buy a lottery ticket.  The article I read doesn’t mention what the third ticket said.  It could be that it said, “Don’t.”  But it was clearly outvoted.

And in October, a man in New Jersey won by playing the numbers that he’d found in a fortune cookie.  Sounds impressive, right?  It turns out, though, that the guy had found the numbers in a cookie years earlier, and had been playing those numbers ever since. 

See, the rest of us would maybe play the numbers once, say, “That didn’t work.  What was I thinking?” and then move on to playing gematrios or something.  But he kept playing those same numbers for years, because apparently he doesn’t get Chinese food that often.  There are numbers in all the cookies.

And then there are stories of people winning lotteries they didn’t even want to play.  In August, a 64-year-old woman in Michigan was trying to buy lottery tickets on her computer, and she bought the wrong kind.  She was trying to buy a multi-draw ticket, but she ended up buying six single-draw tickets. 

Anyway, one of her tickets won, obviously.  If it didn’t, this is a pretty pointless story. 

I’ve bought things by mistake, but never lottery tickets.  I once came home from the grocery with a container of pistachios that I hadn’t put in my cart or paid for.  And you know how they say that if you return these things to the store, the clerk calls over the manager and everyone gets impressed and they give you free stuff?  Even that didn’t happen to me.

Also in August, a man was driving up to North Carolina to visit his mother, when his wife had a craving for some watermelon.  So instead of saying, “Not in my car,” the guy pulled into a random supermarket, and while he was there, he decided to buy a lottery ticket.  He won. 

Anyway, it turns out that the store didn’t even have watermelon. 

But the lesson here is: 1. Visit your mother and 2. Always bring something nice.

So you look at these stories, and it looks like you have to actively be trying hard not to win.  And even that doesn’t always help. 

A couple of years ago, a woman in North Carolina was tired of her husband always wasting money on lottery tickets, so she specifically bought the most expensive one in the store, just to show him they’d never win. 

She was wrong.

Isn’t that always the way?  When you try to show someone that something doesn’t work, it works.  That’s about 90% of how handymen make their money.

The wife still wouldn’t admit that she was wrong, though. 

“I’m right in general,” she said.  “This proves nothing.”

And then finally, there’s the New York Post article titled, “Unemployed Bronx Man Wants to Keep $5 Million Lottery Win a Secret.” 

Thanks a lot, New York Post.

The man, who lives in a poor neighborhood, is afraid that everyone he knows will come after him, and is scared to collect his winnings.  Because when you win the lottery, everyone comes out of the woodwork. (“Hey, remember in kindergarten you said, “I’ll bet you a million dollars,” and you lost and I didn’t say anything because I knew you didn’t have a million dollars?  Well…”)

The issue is that according to the rules on the back of the ticket, which no one reads, if this guy wants to claim the prize, he has to come and pose with a big check.  This isn’t something people do because it’s fun; apparently, it’s a rule.  But no one reads the back.  They think, “I’ll worry about that stuff after I win.”

My point is that if he would have known this, he wouldn’t even have wanted to win, yet he still won.

On the other hand, you’re going to say, there are a ton of stories exactly like these where the person didn’t win the lottery, only we don’t know about them because no one bothers interviewing all the losers. 

“Well, I was feeling lucky, so I bought a lottery ticket and I didn’t win!” 

“Me neither!  I ended up in the hospital and joined a pool, and we lost too!” 

“Oh, I might have had a winning ticket, but I threw it away!”

But what do you think?  Should I buy a ticket?  Why or why not?  Should I break my chain of not winning because I haven’t bought a ticket and instead not win even though I have bought a ticket?  And what kind should I buy?  And when?  Make sure to write in with your opinions.  These are questions I can’t figure out on my own, apparently, so I’m going to do great with millions of dollars.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist, and has written six books, all published by Israel Book Shop.  He also does freelance writing for hire.  You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.