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The Hanukkah dreidel and America’s playing drawback

(RNS) — Hanukkah celebrates miracles of human heroism and divine Windfall. A small group of Jewish holdouts in opposition to the Greek empire managed a army victory, rededicating their temple with the assistance of a tiny portion of oil that lasted for eight days, for much longer than anticipated. The dreidel, a easy toy high, represents the sudden tumble Greeks took.

The dreidel additionally celebrates the component of pure luck in life’s recreation of probability. It teaches us that life is one never-ending recreation of dreidel. Wherever you land, it doesn’t matter what, you retain on spinning. Though this four-sided high has roots far removed from Judaism, the dreidel has turn into a invaluable technique of motivating new generations of Jews to remain within the recreation.

However with a tradition of playing overpowering America, sending our heads spinning sooner than any dreidel can, it might be time to money in our golden chocolate cash and take a look at the dreidel not as a software to counter assimilation however as a reminder to defend these most weak to playing dependancy.

However what might be so dangerous about an harmless recreation of dreidel? Somewhat playing can’t harm anybody, proper? For Jews within the shtetls of Europe, a roll of the cube was a main characteristic of this darkish and chilly time of 12 months, and never simply on Hanukkah. Video games of probability have been a part of the annual “Nittel Nacht” celebration on Christmas Eve lengthy earlier than Jews found the wonders of Chinese language eating places on what, for Jews, could be a lengthy and lonely evening.

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Jewish sources are primarily detrimental about playing. It was historically allowed, however moderation was always the key. Even with moderation, commemorated authorities like Rashi and Maimonides thought of it to be a type of theft, for the reason that dropping celebration provides up their cash in opposition to their will. Some sages even suggest that those who gamble should not be allowed to serve as witnesses.

Jews should not alone in being cautious of the risks. Many religious groups concur and so does regulation enforcement. Playing remains to be thought of formally a “vice,” proper alongside prostitution, unlawful medication and porn. However few authorities officers and non secular leaders have been inclined of late to talk out in opposition to playing’s unconstrained development.

That should change. 

It’s time for organized faith to take a way more energetic function in elevating public consciousness to the growing toxicity of the present playing craze. 

A current New York Times expose on sports gambling explains how, since the Supreme Court opened the door to widespread sports activities betting in 2018, an onslaught of wagering has turned America right into a continent-wide on line casino. What occurs in Vegas not stays in Vegas: It’s occurring on each sofa and simple chair and barstool in America. Each soccer recreation — no, each play — is making somebody, someplace, a lot richer, and another person, extra to the purpose, a lot poorer.

The Times’ reporting demonstrates how playing firms and sports activities leagues have had a subject day with state lawmakers and regulators. Clients, together with these underage, are being lured into bets they’ll’t afford. And, the article provides, “Instruments to make it simpler to stop — some run by playing firms, others by states — don’t all the time work.”

Within the class of “this will’t finish properly,” Caesars struck deals recently with Michigan State and Louisiana State University for sports activities betting partnerships. As if school college students weren’t younger sufficient marks, a recent Pew report signifies that dependancy is hitting arduous even amongst these nonetheless in highschool. Keith Whyte, govt director of the Council on Downside Playing, told Pew, “We imagine that the dangers for playing dependancy general have grown 30% from 2018 to 2021, with the chance concentrated amongst younger males 18 to 24 who’re sports activities bettors.”

The sports activities playing enterprise has been booming for the reason that pandemic. Forbes reports that for the primary half of 2022, income for sports activities betting totaled a bit greater than $3 billion in contrast with $4.3 billion for all of final 12 months. Morgan Stanley forecasts income to succeed in $7 billion by 2025. And in 2021 People wager $57.2 billion on sporting occasions, a year-over-year enhance of 165%.

Spiritual establishments weren’t ready for this. It instantly simply appeared. Earlier than we knew it, we have been being inundated with cute adverts with the Mannings and in-game prop bets on ESPN. Whereas these least in a position to withstand the temptations have been dropping their shirt, their native place of worship was dropping by the wayside. Some even proceed to embrace playing in programming and fundraising, surpassing easy bygone bingo nights of the previous century.

So, what can non secular teams do about this? For one factor, cease glorifying betting. Be a counterpoint. Be a ache within the neck. If we’re selling small-change playing at our occasions, let’s embrace disclaimers. Let’s put out information for recovery support services. It’d make us rather less “cool” however I’ll take that change if it’ll allow us to meet our obligation as an ethical voice espousing a religion custom that promotes good well being practices. Spiritual establishments ought to all the time be looking for probably the most weak in every little thing we do.

However we additionally have to roll up our sleeves and tackle among the large boys, within the press, in state legislatures and in Congress. We have to spotlight the dangers of the entire nation turning into Vegas.

We are able to handle the dangers with out overstating them. We perceive that Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t destroyed due to a poker recreation within the again, that maybe this disaster doesn’t equal in severity the approximately 100,000 who die from drug overdoses annually. However gambling disorder affects 1% of People. Three million victims should not nothing — these are of us who can’t cease with out our assist. We have to supply that assist, which suggests advocating that what occurs in Vegas stays in Vegas.

This Hanukkah, after I spin the dreidel I’ll be pondering of these 3 million folks, who’re quickly to be joined by many tens of millions extra if present developments are allowed to proceed unabated. We have to perceive the rising risks round us and deal ourselves right into a recreation with far increased stakes than a four-sided Hanukkah high.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman. Courtesy picture

(Rabbi Joshua Hammerman is the religious chief of Temple Beth El in Stamford, Connecticut, and the writer of “Mensch-Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi” and “Embracing Auschwitz: Forging a Vibrant, Life-Affirming Judaism that Takes the Holocaust Seriously.” The views expressed on this commentary don’t essentially replicate these of Faith Information Service.)

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