Financial Infidelity II: Gambling
The letter that follow is from this week's Yated Letter to the Editor. This letter fits well into the "Our Finances" series (I and II) and adds to the previous topic "Financial Infidelity" and well as the "Get-Rich-Quick" mentality discussed recently. It isn't the more positive post I was looking to post, but that will have to wait. My comments in orange.
THE GAMBLING CRISIS [Gambling in frum circles deserves a "crisis" label imo].
I would like to begin by thanking Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz and the Yated for the wonderful job done on a weekly basis. The divrei Torah and up-to-date news that the Yated provides to Klal Yisroel is a tremendous kiddush Hashem. Of course, like so many others, I especially look forward to the interesting letters in the Readers Write section. I have decided to write this letter to make the public aware of a problem that is affecting us in the frum community, and I hope you publish it. I have been reading the letters about the shidduchim crisis and money issues, which I wholeheartedly agree are matters that should be discussed in public. This issue that I am writing about is not mentioned in our circles at all and I think it is a growing problem in our community. Parents, wives and mechanchim should know about this issue, which can rip apart families and destroy lives. The issue I am writing about is gambling.
The Gemara says in Maseches Sanhedrin (24a) that a person who is a mesacheik b’kuvya - who bets on pigeons (one who gambles) - is posul for eidus. There is a machlokes as to the reason that this is so. The Gemara discusses whether it is because if you gamble, you are not really letting the other person take the money, and if you win, it’s like stealing, or because since you don’t have a real job, you might take a bribe to say false testimony. Whatever the reason is, it is definitely something that the Torah does not allow (creates distasteful character traits too). What makes gambling such a problem (and anyone who has been involved with it can attest to this) is that like drugs and alcohol, it is very addictive. Whether it’s because of the thrill of winning or the dream of becoming instantly rich, it can make someone obsessed with playing “just one more hand.” There are many types of gambling. There is gambling on Chanukah, where a spin of a dreidel in a ninth-grade class can go for $10 (parents should be outraged if schools allow money, as opposed to candies, to be used in school for Chanukah. . . . I know I would be), or where a quick office game of kvitlach can lose your husband a week’s paycheck in a matter of minutes! (Not mentioned is Chinese Auctions, which I discuss here. My readers know I'm no fan of this popular fundraising method and I wonder if the "gateway" to other types of gambling can start innocently through giving).
Then you have lottery tickets, which can be purchased by a 16-year-old boy using his bar mitzvah money or weekly allowance. (I have yet to discuss "Their money" in much details on this blog, with the exception of this post, but I do think parents must hold their children to an agreement of what is and what isn't an appropriate expenditure with "their money," i.e. the money that have to spend while food, shelter, and education are being provided for them. Money for lotto tickets would not be one of those appropriate expenditures).
The greatest addiction for most men involved in gambling is the game of poker. It has become extremely popular since the turn of the century, with millions getting hooked. There are many places to play, some that are legal, some that are not. There are also online poker sites (they are illegal in the United States, but the owners are very smart and base them out of other countries), where one can play and lose lots of cash from the comfort of one’s own home and with the click of a mouse! The options are endless. It’s an addiction that has caused many people their friendships, their jobs, and, chas v’shalom, their marriages.
I know of cases where wives think their husbands are at work or elsewhere, when they are really wasting their precious time and money playing poker (I have read cases of female "financial infidelity" involving gambling also. But, I think that in general, gambling, would top the list of expenditures a husband does not want his wife to find about, just as designer clothing a wife didn't need would top the list of expenditures a wife doesn't want her husband to find out about).
I know of a few instances where boys have gone into their marriages with thousands of dollars of debt because of gambling and credit card bills. It is hard enough financially for most young couples; starting off in debt and having a gambling problem surely doesn’t help. (Next topic on my list: Should singles ask for a credit report in addition to the Dor Yesharim number?)
I am writing this letter to help publicize this growing issue in the frum world. If you know of someone with this terrible addiction or suspect someone of having it, help them. Rabbeim, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, family members and friends, please help out those who need it.
We have to keep an eye on this growing problem.
May Hashem help us in overcoming any problems or addictions that might be prevalent.
Dice K.Flatbush, Brooklyn