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Lotto & Rational Irrational People
By Eliezer Medwed
When Israel introduced the Lotto (Israeli lottery), a religious man approached the Steipler Rav, a famous rabbi living in B'nai Brak, asking him if he should purchase a ticket. "If you're worried that lightning may strike you when it rains, then buy a ticket. If you're not scared of being struck by lightning, then don't waste your money."
"Why? What's the corollary to a lightning storm?"
"Mathematically, the odds are greater you'll be struck by lightning than win the Lotto."
Like most people temporarily occupying the planet, I too am a rational human being – except when I'm not. Once, caving in to an irrational lapse I purchased a Lotto ticket. That same week, Israel held elections for the Knesset. Kadima won the election with 29 seats to Likud's 28. Likud's disappointing showing notwithstanding, in the enigma of Israeli politics, Benjamin Netanyahu, due to the fact that he was able to build a coalition government, he became prime minister and not Kadima's Tzippi Livni.
Imagine, 28 seats out of the Knesset's 120; that comes out to 23% of the seats and with that he became Prime Minister!
Meanwhile, back at the Lotto station one day removed from Netanyahu's victory, I picked 4 of 6 numbers. Not bad by any measure. Bibi did much worse than expected; plain and simply, I whupped him. Like a lion about to pounce on its prey, I waited anxiously for my lucrative payout.
Reality check! For his 23%, Bibi runs the country. For my unprecedented 67%, I won 18 bucks and change. I'd say chump change but the chump was me. But the chump did change. On the spot, I decided never to waste my money buying another Lotto ticket.
By the numbers, it's harder to win the Lotto than get elected Prime Minister. A little voice in my head whispered maybe I should run for public office. Just ask Ehud Olmert; winning in politics is like winning Super Lotto – as often as you like. The possibilities are as endless as the spoils.
It didn't take long to shoot down that evil impulse. A career in politics? No thanks, I'm not that irrational. Come to think of it, I never really worried about lightning.
from the May 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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