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    Gambling – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Is there any religious problem with Jews gambling?

    A. An occasional lottery ticket or card game is no problem, but the professional or compulsive gambler is severely frowned on in Jewish law.

    The Mishnah (Sanhedrin 3:3) disqualifies the dice-player – m’sachek b’kuvya – from being a witness in a Jewish court of law if ein lo ummanut ella hu – he has no other occupation. Such a person, it is said, makes no constructive contribution to society; he places his family’s stability in jeopardy and risks becoming a charge on the community; and if he habitually takes a gamble, he will take a gamble with the truth too and cannot be trusted.

    In his “Jewish Life in the Middle Ages”, Israel Abrahams describes the problems caused by gambling in the medieval period, and there is also an object lesson in the case of Leon de Modena, the 17th-century rabbi with a passion for card-playing and gambling who repeatedly tried to give up his addiction which left him penniless.

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