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Monday, 11 May 2015

Gambling on Life

Daf Yomi Kesubos 98

The poor Chasid had come to the Apter Rebbe for a blessing.
“Rebbe, a year ago, I was a rich man.  My daughter got engaged and I offered a dowry of one thousand rubles.  But then my business went under and I’m afraid the shidduch will go off.  All I have left to my name is one ruble.”
“My son,” said the Rebbe, “take that ruble and head off home.  The first business deal that comes your way, invest in it.”  The Chasid dutifully listened to his Rebbe and on the way home stopped at an inn.  There were some irreligious Jews sitting around gambling and drinking, when one of them suddenly turns to him.
“Hey, frummie, how would you like to buy my share in the World to Come?”
“Certainly!” cried the Chasid, “but all I have is one ruble.”
“Sure, hand it over,” says the gambler, laughing to his friends that he’s just scored some free money for selling hot air. 

Just then, his wife walks in and hears what’s happened.
“I’m not prepared to live with a man who has no share in the World to Come,” she screams, “you’d better buy it back.”  Sheepishly, the man pulls out the ruble and offers it to the Chasid.
“Sorry,” says the Chasid, “a deal’s a deal.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” says the gambler, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you ten rubles.”
“Nope,” replies the Chasid.  The gambler starts raising his offer to twenty rubles, fifty, one hundred!
“I’ll tell you what,” says the Chasid, “you can have your share in the World to Come for one thousand rubles.”
“You’ve got to be out of your mind!” shouts the gambler.
“A grand or no deal,” comes the response and realizing he has no choice, he borrows money from his friends and pays the exorbitant sum.

At that point, the Chasid turns his eyes Heavenward and utters words of praise to the Almighty.  He tells the men about his Rebbe’s blessing and the gambler decides to visit the Rebbe and confront him for ripping him off a thousand rubles.
Arriving in Apt, the Rebbe smiles and says, “There was nothing untoward in this transaction.  When my Chasid first purchased your share in the World to Come, it was not even worth a ruble.  By the time you had begun to appreciate what you’d given up and were willing to pay any price to get it back, you then upped its value to way more than a thousand rubles!  Go in peace, my son, and may the Almighty shine His countenance upon you.”

Mishnah: If a widow whose ketubah contained a two hundred zuz entitlement sold property worth one hundred for two hundred or she sold property worth two hundred for one hundred, she has received her entire ketubah entitlement.
Gemara: What’s the difference between the case of her selling two hundred’s worth for a hundred, whereby we effectively say to her, ‘your loss,’ and the case of her selling one hundred’s worth for two hundred?  Let her similarly say, ‘I made the profit and I’m entitled to a further hundred from the estate!’  Rav Nachman answers quoting Rabbah bar Avuha: Here Rebbe is teaching that everything belongs to the owner of the money.
Rashi explains: If you send a messenger to the grocery store and he finds the product cheaper, he doesn’t get to keep the change!

While the simple meaning of the Gemara is that the heirs to the estate are the owners of the money and so any profit accrues to them, on an allegorical level, the Talmud reminds us that ‘everything belongs the Owner of the money.’  There’s only one true Owner of our wealth – the Holy One, blessed be He. 

When you say to yourself, ‘I made the profit,’ the Talmud declares ‘everything belongs to the Owner of the money.’  The L-rd giveth, the L-rd taketh away.  You must be ever grateful to the Almighty for all the bounty He has bestowed upon you.  Your job is to create a vessel for G-d’s blessing, but ultimately only He is the true Provider.  When you remember where your bread is buttered, the stress is suddenly lifted – it’s all in the Almighty’s hands; and whatever happens, you know He has a plan.

Our Father in Heaven cares for you.  Just like a parent wants to give the world to their children, He wants to shower you with His bounty.  May you never forget the true Provider and may He forever grant you nachas, health, and abundant prosperity in this world and the Next!