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My Best Fundraising Week Ever!

1280x720_81023C00-QLMRC1.jpgOdds of winning the 1.6 billion dollar lottery were 1 in 302.6 million, yet staggering numbers of people lined up to try. In California alone, 5.7 million tickets were bought in just the first half of the day. And according to one newspaper, tickets were selling at a rate of 400 per minute on Friday.

As the anticipation grew, I noticed an interesting trend. Many of my friends tried to increase their odds of winning by pledging some of their earnings to the Chabad center that I run.

One person even pledged the entire 1.6 billion dollars to us if he won! Without a doubt, that is the largest pledge I received to date. Though I must wonder if he would have actually followed through…  

Another pledged 400 million dollars to be used for charity work, several pledged 1 million, another 50 million… Even my family hopped on the pledge train. Friends and relatives from overseas asked me to buy them tickets and promised to split the earnings.

This meant that my chances of winning changed from 1 in 302.6 million to more like 1 in 75 million. Much better, but still not good enough. We won nothing.

But it did feel good to receive so many 7, 8, 9, and even 10 figure pledges. Surely it must have been my best fundraising week of all time!

The sentiment, however, is not uncommon. It happens often that people call me, “Rabbi, if the deal I’m working on goes through I will give 1 million dollars to your building campaigns” Or, “Rabbi, if my stock goes up remember you are getting half!” It’s like if they make the pledge G-d will make them win.

The chassid Reb Yekusiel Lepler, an extremely poor man, once won the lottery. The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, called him over and said, “I want to bless you with great wealth.” Surely that is akin to winning the lottery! You would think he’d be the happiest person alive, and yet, he refused the Rebbe’s offer. Why? “It will distract me from my service of G-d and my mission on this earth,” he explained.

Avraham Avinu, the first Jew, who we read about in this week’s Torah portion, bequeathed us the essence of Judaism. He gave us a love of G-d and a love for kindness. We have 4000 years of spiritual riches and moral achievement to look back on. We are inspired by the teachings of our Torah and it serves as our moral compass. Our mandate and mission is to make this world a better place. Our Torah is worth more than all the money in the world. Our mitzvot are priceless: every time we put on tefillin, that’s a billion dollars in value. Invite a guest for a meal and you made two billion! Think of the all the countless mitzvot you do daily – each one adds to your wealth.

Yes, it’s fun to get distracted by the lottery once in a while and dream about how it might change our lives, but let’s focus on our real purpose and go back to winning the real lottery by accumulating spiritual wealth with vigor!

Unsolicited Parenting Advice

23156_20150922031516_fn0_real.jpgWhenever I walk through the streets of Manhattan with my kids, I receive droves of unsolicited advice. It’s the strangest thing, but for some reason New Yorkers seem to feel the need to help me with my parenting.

Just the other day we were heading to Central Park, my kids racing ahead on scooters, and a woman stopped to tell me, “Your son’s helmet is not on correctly. You should really secure it more tightly.” I thanked her and assured her that all the helmets were properly secured.

Now, this would not be so strange if it only happened once in a while, but it happens all the time.  

 My two-year-old will be having a tantrum in the park and a stranger will undoubtedly come over to tell me how to deal with it. And I’m left thinking to myself, “Do you realize that before 6:00am today I changed seven diapers and fed breakfast to five babies?”

Or we’ll be biking in Central Park and somebody will stop to tell me that the kids are too far ahead and it’s dangerous and irresponsible, and all I can think is, “I’m not exactly an inexperienced dad! I have eight kids!”

And then there’s the weather brigade. It’s hot, it’s cold, it’s raining, it’s windy, there’s snow in the forecast (perhaps for three months from now…) and people are sure my kids are not suitably dressed, “Your child should be wearing a raincoat!” “Where’s his sunhat?” “She’ll be cold, she needs a scarf!” And while I appreciate their concern, inwardly I roll my eyes and wonder, “Do you think I don’t know how to keep my kids comfortable and safe?”

Ironically, I probably have a lot more hands-on childcare experience than most of the people who approach me! I know how to dress them, feed them, keep them safe, maintain boundaries and still give them a good time. Imagine that! Their concern is genuine, but I doubt any of them are raising eight kids, including triplets.

When I think about it, however, I realize that we treat G-d the same way.

He tells us to put on tefillin every day, and we tell him we know better.

He says Torah is your life–learn it every single day, and we say, “I already have a life, I don’t have time for that.”

He says keep Shabbat, a day of rest, and we say, “Nah, we have other ways to rest.”  

But G-d is the expert. He is the one who created the world, created us, and knows what we need. And still we think we know better! How ironic.

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