Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

A Jewish Hero in California

Shlomo Rechnitz is one of those pious Orthodox Jews who always walk around with a white shirt, black pants, and a velvet kippah. He is also blessed with affluence, and is the proud owner of dozens of nursing homes throughout California. During the lottery-mania of the last couple of weeks, Reb Shlomo may well have been the only person in our country who, rather than becoming obsessed with delusional and self-absorbed narcissistic fantasies of becoming an non-self-made billionaire overnight, dreamed of making others, disadvantaged others, wealthy and affluent.

Reb Shlomo purchased fifteen thousand lottery tickets! Yes, you read it correctly – fifteen thousand. And it cost him thirty thousand dollars. He bought the tickets to give to underpaid workers, to devoted nurses, to impoverished immigrants, and to senior citizens who struggle monthly to survive by living on their slim social security benefits.

Lamentably, several hours after the lottery numbers came in, someone spread a false rumor that one of the nurses for whom Reb Shlomo purchased a ticket won $180 million after tax. People were elated by this incredible, uplifting and inspirational saga.

But then it turned out that this was a nasty hoax, and that none of the people who received a ticket from Reb Shlomo won the big prize. Like others, I felt cheated and robbed of a wonderful story and occurrence.

But then it occurred to me that this wonderful story is still very much alive and standing. The fact that none of the participants won the big prize in no way diminishes from the grandeur of generosity and the nobility of spirit which Reb Shlomo exemplifies. He still bought 15,000 tickets to people, most of whom he never met. People in need.

He still spent tens of thousands of dollars of his own money on it. And he still sanctified G-d’s name and brought great honor and awe-inspiring dignity to G-d’ people, to the people of Israel. May we walk in his light, and may we all strive emulate his noble deeds and spirit.

Shabbat Shalom, with love,

Rabbi Sessler

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