There was once a Jew named Itzik. He was a devout Jew who observed the 613 commandments. He attended shul devotedly and served on the committee that ran it. Itzik performed acts of lovingkindness to help the poor and the sick. He donated to create dowries for poor brides. He was a mensch in every respect.
Jewish free loan society of Dolne, Poland
(credit: Eilat Gordin Levitan – Dolne Page)
But Itzik was a relatively poor man and his capacity to do good was severely limited by his lack of wealth. So he began to think: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I would win the lottery! Just think of all the good deeds I could perform! I could replace the shul’s leaking roof, feed the sick and hungry, provide wedding feasts for poor newlyweds.”
So Itzik began perusing the newspaper each week to discover his name among the lucky winners. He didn’t win the first week. So he said to himself: “God didn’t want me to win this week. But for sure he understands the great good I can do with my winnings and he’ll make me a winner next week.” When next week’s winners were announced, he again was not among them. This time he addressed God directly: “Lord, please remember how my entire life is devoted to You and to doing good for my fellow man. Please heed my call and make me a winner.” When next week’s winners were announced again he wasn’t among them. This time Itzik was bereft and addressed God again: “Lord, I don’t understand why you haven’t answered my prayer. Don’t you understand how much good I can if you make me a winner? What on earth can I have done wrong to again be a loser?”
A booming voice from heaven replied: “Itzik, BUY A TICKET!!”
Besides being humorous and entertaining, this story reveals a deep truth about Judaism and social justice. You can talk a good game when it comes to doing good. You can have the purest motives and the deepest convictions, but if you don’t “play” in the sense of doing actual good deeds then you’re doing a disservice. You must engage with the world to do real good.