New York, Nu York: If you win Powerball...

If you win the Powerball lottery, what will you do with all that money?
A huge portion of Americans has been discussing the huge Powerball lottery prize which, at this point, is $1.4 billion up for grabs. A tiny handful of gamblers (ahem, players) did win $1 million each. But the big prize has not yet been claimed because no one has selected the required numbers. People have been gabbing about this for the past week. Social media has been full of posts about it, as well those mocking the players. (A former student of mine has been taking several pot-shots at Powerball devotees, with glee.) The odds of winning are just absurd. I have a better chance of curing the common cold than winning Powerball's top prize, right?
Yet so many people throughout the United States have been buying the Powerball tickets. They have their dreams and schemes, their hopes and desires. For some people this merely a fun cultural phenomena that they are willing to feed into. Other people are regular players (ahem, gamblers) who keep the lottery going and going and going.
No doubt there are Jews who are playing the Powerball and pinning some hopes on winning. But gambling is not a particularly proud topic in Jewish ethics. Let alone that Jews did have a hand (or two) in making Las Vegas the most famous gambling destination in the United States, gambling and lotto playing is frowned upon.
But what's really to stop a Jewish man or woman from buying a Powerball ticket and declaring, "If I win, I will donate a portion to tzedakah!" And what if a Jewish person does win Powerball? And does donate some of the winnings to Jewish charities and causes? On the other hand, what if a Jewish person is in the throes of a gambling addiction? Doesn't all this Powerball hoopla make him or her ever more anxious?
In case you were wondering, I have not bought a Powerball ticket. In fact, I have probably bought lottery tickets only about two dozen times throughout my life. A few times I threw in a dollar in a workplace pool, and we never won. I do know a few people who have won small monetary prizes by playing these games. And it certainly would be amazing, awesome and atypical to win a princely (or kingly) sum of money. But not only do I know the odds are against me, I am also kind of embarrassed to play.
But in case you want some numbers, 11 and 14 just might be good... let me know.