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    Is gambling a sin? – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Is it really such a sin to be a gambler?

    A. At the age of 13, Leo de Modena (1571-1648) wrote a dialogue on gambling between Eldad who said it was a sin and Medad who said it was a sport. Unfortunately de Modena himself later became a noted gambler, though he did try to give it up.

    In his dialogue, Eldad argued that gamblers break all the Ten Commandments. They break the first three commandments by turning their addiction into a form of idolatry. They break the fourth commandment by not noticing the passing of time and are even unaware that Shabbat has begun. Despite the fifth commandment, they put the welfare of their parents and family at risk. Gambling takes such hold of them that they do extreme things like robbery and even murder and adultery. They break the ninth commandment by using words loosely and, despite the tenth commandment, they covet other people’s prosperity and success.

    As against Eldad, Medad argues that gambling is usually a harmless diversion and asks why, if it is really so bad, the rabbinic sages did not totally ban it. Eldad retorts that there is ample evidence of rabbinic opposition.

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