By Mordechai Schmutter


I won the lottery!

I’m sorry for repeating myself. I’m just trying to let it sink in.

OK, so a couple of months back, I wrote an article about all these people who won the lottery, and I thought, “Why hasn’t this ever happened to me?” And then I realized it was most likely — though I’m no expert here — because I had never in my life bought a lottery ticket.

But I was thinking about making a purchase because, you know, we hear good things. You hear in the news all the time about people who won the lottery, and most of them are people who didn’t even expect to win. They say that: “We didn’t even expect to win! We just wanted to throw away our money for the fun of scratching things with a coin!”

I’m not against buying lottery tickets, per se. I’m definitely not going to buy them all the time, so when should I buy them? Some people buy a ticket when the total is very high. Which is ridiculous, because: (1) If the total is high, more people buy it, and your chances are low; and (2) If all these people would buy a ticket every time, the total would always be high. The problem is that they don’t announce on the news when the total is low: “Now’s the time to buy!” They do it with stocks.

Every time the jackpot goes up, all my students ask me if I’ve bought a lottery ticket. At first, I thought they were just trying to live vicariously because they couldn’t buy tickets themselves, but now I think they’re trying to get me to quit, because every time someone wins the lottery, that person seems to quit his or her job.

So in my article, I ended off with the question of whether or not people think I should buy a ticket. Some people said not to bother. I decided to ignore them, because I figure they’re just trying to keep the numbers down so they have a better chance of winning.

What’s the worst that can happen? You keep hearing people say that they won the lottery, but no one ever says they lost the lottery. You can’t lose! Well, you can lose money buying tickets, but that’s upfront and you know how much you’re losing. You don’t scratch off the ticket and it says, “Negative $30,000,” and now you owe them.

So I bought a ticket. I went into the store and stood in line — an almost-40-year-old who had never bought a ticket — and resolved that I would have to pretend that I knew what I was doing:

“One lottery ticket, please,” I would say, like an adult.

“What kind?”

“Um … A winning kind?”

I realized that all the tickets in this store were in a vending machine, baruch Hashem. There were 54 lottery ticket options, with a number next to each ticket stating how much money you’re going to lose on it. We’re living in such a great age, where we don’t have to embarrass ourselves buying lottery tickets, unless they get stuck in the machine. What if the ticket gets stuck? I guess that’s a gamble you have to take with lottery tickets.

I decided I would buy a scratcher, for starters. I didn’t want to buy one that depended on a drawing, because then I’m competing with the z’chusim of millions of other people. That, and those tickets are complicated. I don’t have time to read all that. Some of us have to work for a living. On the other hand, the downside of scratch-offs is that, at least with a drawing, you can pick your numbers and then go home and daven that you should win. With a scratcher, once you buy your ticket, it’s already either a winner or a loser. You can’t go home and daven before you start scratching. It’s too late. You have to daven right there in the drugstore.

But I definitely wanted to buy a ticket with an interesting name. I’m not going to buy the one called “$500 Frenzy.” What exactly is a $500 frenzy? What does that mean?

So I decided to buy a ticket called “Big Money Spectacular,” if only to find out what “big money” means. Is the money itself big? Like those enormous checks that lottery winners sometimes get? I’m not even sure how you’re supposed to cash that giant check. It doesn’t fit under the glass at my bank. Does the bank have a thing like at the post office, where you pick up a glass door and slide the check in, and then the teller picks up a glass door on his end? Mine doesn’t. I think I need a fancier class of bank.

Anyway, I bought it, and I took it home, because I didn’t want to stand in the store scratching like an animal, and I won!

You might think I’m lying for the sake of an article, but I’m not. I honestly, seriously did win the lottery. I won three dollars. And the ticket only cost two dollars!

Don’t tell the yeshivos.

To be honest, I’m afraid to even tell you guys that I won, because people are going to start coming out of the woodwork and going, “Remember me?”

I’m trying not to let this whole thing go to my head, though. For the most part, I think I should go on as if nothing has happened. I don’t want anyone to feel like now they have to treat me differently.

What I’m worried about is that they always say that people who win the lottery don’t know how to handle the money, and they end up losing it pretty quickly. So I need a plan. I’m going to try to be responsible. I want to see if I can call a financial planner or something. I want to be good about this. I’m not going to go out and buy a nicer car or anything. No one’s going to know, to look at me, that I won the lottery.

I decided that I’m going to get the lump sum, instead of in installments over the course of like 20 years. First I’m going to get the cash and fan it out in front of me. Maybe put it in a bathtub and swim in it. When I’m done playing around, I’m thinking that I want to put a third of it away for the future, put a third of it in my kids’ education fund, and buy myself something nice with the other third. That’s what everyone seems to do.

Obviously, I’m going to give a tenth — maybe even a fifth — to tzedakah. I’ll cut them a nice check. Maybe they’ll honor me at a dinner, but I’ll tell them that I didn’t do it for the recognition.

To be honest, though, there are some naysayers out there. Like my wife keeps saying, “Yeah, you only won one dollar.” I don’t see it as that. I don’t need this kind of negativity in my life. The way I see it, I flushed two dollars down the toilet. Those two dollars were gone. Then I won three dollars. That’s 200% more than she’s saying I won. “Don’t let people put you down,” that’s what I say.

If my wife’s going to talk like that, she doesn’t get any of my winnings. There, I said it. She will not see a penny of it. Not one penny.

Oh my goodness, look what this money is turning me into.

Though now that I mentioned my winnings in this article, I probably have to report it on my taxes, huh? That was a mistake. Also, since I’m not sharing these winnings with my wife, I’m going to have to file this amount separately from all my other money, I think.

Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel like I should mention that I actually bought a second lottery ticket. I didn’t win that one, and it cost me three dollars.

I actually bought both tickets in the same trip. I figured that I should buy two, because in case one of them lost, the other one would pay for it. It didn’t quite.

For my other ticket, I decided to buy one called “Bingo,” because I know how to play Bingo, and it’s not a mentally taxing game, because they have to shout things like, “B9!” B? This isn’t Battleship. The only column 9 could possibly be in is B. It’s like the game is made for people who say, “I can’t find the 9!”

“Look under B.”

“Oh. I thought it would be under the N, for nine.”

Now that I won, am I going to buy another ticket? I don’t think so. I don’t want to push my luck over here. No one really wins the lottery twice. It looks suspicious, like I’m rigging the game. So I’m going to quit while I’m ahead-ish.

Point is, I won the lottery, and in the tradition of all lottery winners, I’m probably going to quit my job. So this is my last column. Unless it turns out that I blow through all my winnings faster than expected, in which case I’ll be back next week. I guess we’ll see what happens. Actually, I think I already blew through — Oh, wait. It was in my other pocket.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it was just regular-size money. That was the one disappointment.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to


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