The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

The end does not justify the means (2) – Charity gambling

with 5 comments

  1. The son of the rabbi of my shul was hawking raffle tickets this morning to collect money for his school (a separatist institution – of which more another posting).
  2. In Jewish thought there are two kinds of objection to gambling. First, it is close to theft, because the fool who gambles does not really intend to part with his money – at the moment of placing the stake his imagination suspends his reason; if he knew for certain that he was going to lose the stake, he would not put it down. Secondly, money won by gambling is not money earned by contributing to the well-being of the world, but by preying parasitically on the dreams of the weak-minded.
  3. A 50p charity raffle ticket is not serious gambling, by either of these tests. The person giving the money is happy to see it go to a good cause, and is giving it out of charitable intent (or, possibly, embarassment – but we hope for the best).
  4. A £100 ticket for a chance to win a car, with the number of tickets advertised as inducement to rely on maximum chances of winning, is gambling pure and simple. Whether the money is being collected by a businessman or a charity, the process is contrary to Jewish law and the only difference is that the charity ought certainly to know better.
  5. Between the two extremes lies a vast grey area where it will be difficult or impossible for a charity to know for certain whether a fund-raising activity is contrary to Jewish law or not. But the charity can be sure of this: appeal to people’s worse instincts and you may gain more money, but it will be tainted money and will bring no simen brochoh (blessing); appeal to people’s best instincts and whatever you collect is a source of true blessing for the charity and for its donors.

Written by Daniel Greenberg

December 11, 2007 at 8:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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5 Responses

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  1. I have to disagree with the two premises that (1) the ticket purchaser is a fool and (2) the ticket seller is appealing to the purchasers worse instincts in this specific case where the proceeds are for charity, and therefore the conclusion that the money is “tainted” and will bring no “simen brochoh”.

    Seeing as tzedoko is a commandment and ma’aser is at least a well adopted minhag, ones contribution in general is an obligation. Nevertheless the choice of to whom to contribute, and the benefit of any resulting pleasure or satisfaction, is the domain of the donor. If a person chooses to donate to a cause and at the same maximise their opportunity for disproportionate satisfaction I see no reason to brand them a fool or to denegrate the act of tzedoko.

    Nevertheless I do concede that the potential for monetary or other tangible reward may not be the most noble basis for prioritising one’s donations.

    Daniel Ehreich

    December 14, 2007 at 11:55 am

  2. Daniel

    I agree that where a person is using ma’aser money (and my own opinion is that it should not be used where the prize is anything of significance) the sha’aloh for the charity is less in mesacheik b’kuvyoh (only one objection applies) and more in geneivoh from other charities, diverting ma’aser money away from charities who cannot afford to offer prizes or whose ethical standards lead them not to offer them!



    Daniel Greenberg

    December 14, 2007 at 12:11 pm

  3. Thanks for the reply. I’m not convinced that other charities’ best interests need to be at the heart of every charity administrator’s fundraising decisions. It woudln’t be geneivoh if it were a business, why should a different standard apply to a charity?


    Daniel Ehreich

    December 14, 2007 at 12:35 pm

  4. Because if you choose to muck around with mitzvos you have to get them right – mitzvoh habo’oh b’aveiro eino mitzvoh.

    See you in shul.

    Daniel Greenberg

    December 14, 2007 at 1:28 pm

  5. I would rasie two points. Firstly that buying a raffle ticket for, say 50p or £1 is not an act of gambling but as a donation to the cause. Which person only bought a ticket because they liked the prizes on offer? This is the case for a raffle of this type. When we come to the raffle of a car for a donation of, say, £180, with discounts for the more tickets purchased, it is very difficult to justify that this is a donation to charity. Without even the smallest chance of winning the car, there is unlikely to be any donation. I have, howener, not any Rabbinical Teshuvos on the subject! Strange, don’t you think? My second point is that there are some charity auctions where each bidder pays the difference between his bid and the previous bid (e.g. he bids £100 and the previous bid was £90, he pays £10 irrespective if he wins the raffle or not) Can we justify that this is not gambling – or is gambling for Chairty not really gambling?!

    The Secretary

    December 16, 2007 at 1:45 pm

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