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An Old Joke

Back in the old country, an old man limped into the Old Synagogue. Slowly, he lowered himself onto a bench and prayed to God. God, he said, you know I have led a very hard life. You know I was orphaned as a boy. You know I struggled all my life to make a living, and yet I did good works. I looked for love, but was never blessed with a family. Now, in my old age, I am racked with pain in my legs and back. Always, I have observed your commandments, your guidelines, everything. I came to minyan every morning, rain or shine, and though I prayed for peace and good will, I never asked for anything for myself. I have tried my best to lead a righteous life as one of your chosen. Now, as I near my final breath, I need something from you. I know it is wrong to ask, but I need some proof that there can be happiness, joy in this life. I ask you now, let me win the lottery. As you know all, you know there is a weekly lottery here in this old city, where a winner is chosen every Wednesday afternoon. Let me win, God, please. Let me experience that joy. I will not keep the money. I will make the entire prize a mitzvah to the poor and the hungry. But let me win the lottery, God, please.

And so a week passed, and Wednesday afternoon came, and the old man did not win the lottery. So Wednesday night, he returned to the Old Synagogue to lower his old body down on the old bench, and again he prayed. Please, God, he said, let me win the lottery. It is my only dream, my last dream, to feel that simple pleasure of a victory, of success. Not a single coin will I keep for myself, God. But please, oh, please, just this once, let me win the lottery.

And so a week passed, and Wednesday afternoon came, and the old man did not win the lottery. So that night, once again, he returned to pray. Please, God, he said, I am a desperate man. I cannot go to my end without this. Let me win the Lottery. And God spaketh onto the old man, and God said: "Listen, you old fart, meet me half way, buy a damn ticket!"

That's the story, as I've heard it, handed down over years and years.

But, of course, the story doesn't end there. For on the next Wednesday, first thing in the morning, the old man did indeed go to buy a ticket to the Lottery. And as he was shelling out his last coin for the price of the ticket, he heard the storekeeper chuckle and say, you old fools and your lottery tickets. Don't you know that you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than of winning the lottery. And as this seemed reasonable to the old man, he put his coin away.

That's the story.

But, of course, the story doesn't end there. That afternoon, the old man did not win the lottery. But he was struck by lightning.

That's the story.

But, of course, it doesn't end there.

The old man died and was sent to heaven, where he found God rather sheepishly apologizing for taking his life. God said, you just really frustrated the hell out of me. But at least you're here in heaven. To which the old man asked, Do you have a lottery?

And that, of course, is the end of the story.