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By Rabbi Aron Tendler | Series: | Level:


Are the results of lotteries and raffles Halachically binding? How should they be conducted so that all participants are bound to the results according to the Torah?


  1. A. Neither a buyer nor seller of a raffle ticket may back out of the raffle without agreement from the other party. Therefore, the sellers must award the prize to whoever won the raffle, in accordance with the terms of the raffle that they had announced.

    Only tickets that were actually sold may be included in the raffle, not tickets that were printed but not sold, unless it was publicized at the time of the ticket sale that all printed tickets would be included in the raffle. (1)

  2. B. The outcome of a lottery or raffle is binding according to Halacha only if no further conditions must be met after the drawing by the winner. The raffle must unconditionally and unequivocally award the prize to the winner.

    Therefore, if a group of people participate in a lottery for a specific item, or to determine which among them should be appointed their leader or an officer, the outcome of such a lottery is Halachically binding. However, if the prize is not clear, and the winner may choose from a number of prizes, such a lottery is not binding according to the Torah, and any one of the participants may subsequently withdraw their participation. See the Sources section for an explanation of this. (2)

  3. C. Any raffle or lottery that has been conducted improperly, even if this was done unintentionally, is not valid. For example, if not all of the tickets sold were entered into the drawing, or more tickets were sold than were advertised were being sold, the entire drawing is void, the winner has no right to the money “won”, and the other participants may demand their money back.

    It is therefore important to publicize, or to write on the raffle tickets, “Tickets that do not reach the organizers of the raffle by the time of the drawing will forfeit their chance to be included in the drawing!” (3)


(1) The Gemara in Bava Basra 106b discusses a situation where brothers wish to divide jointly owned estate into separately owned parcels by conducting a lottery. The Gemara concludes that the outcome of such a lottery is binding on all participants, since they each benefitted from entering this agreement by receiving the chance to acquire the better parcel of land. This is also stated by the Rambam in Hilchos Shechainim (2:11). However, the Teshuvos Harosh (Klal 98:2) states that such a lottery only serves to clarify to each participant which part of the estate has been his all along, not to take away from one person and give to another. The Rosh does agree, though, that the winner must make a Kinyan on the property awarded to him by the lottery, and this is stated in the Halacha in the Shulchan Oruch and the Rema (Choshen Mishpat 173:2).

It seems logical to say that the Rosh would agree that if a raffle ticket is being sold, and the buyer makes a Kinyan on the raffle ticket, he would be bound to the terms of the sale. Since there is a market value to the ticket before the drawing, and that market value is determined because no party can withdraw from the terms of the raffle as agreed upon at the time of the sale, these terms are part and parcel of the ticket. A Kinyan on the ticket thus binds it’s owner to the terms and conditions of the raffle.

(2) The above mentioned Gemara in Bava Basra states that for a lottery to be binding according to the Torah it must be similar to the lottery at the time when Yehoshua drew lots when dividing Eretz Yisrael among the Shevatim (tribes). The Teshuvos Shvus Yaakov (Vol. 3 Siman 162) states that just as that drawing immediately awarded a specific prize to the winner (the portion of land in that particular drawing), so too every drawing must do so. If the winner may choose his prize, this is not similar to the lottery found in the Torah, and participants may back out if the drawing is not to their liking. This Teshuva is quoted in the commentary of Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Choshen Mishpat 173), and in the Pischei Teshuva there (2).

It seems that the reason for this is because the reason people abide by the results of a lottery is since they think that the results are determined by Heaven, it was Hashgacha (divine providence) that this person win this item. Any time there is human intervention, i.e. the person picks what his prize will be, this is not a lottery run according to the rules of the Torah.

(3) The Teshuvos Chavos Ya’ir (Siman 61) writes the following:

“The underlying principle of a lottery is based on the Passuk in Mishlei (16:33) that states “The lottery is cast into the lap – but the outcome is from Hashem”. It follows, therefore, that only a properly conducted raffle qualifies to be sanctioned by divine Hashgacha. If something went wrong, even if unintentionally, we can not say that the person who won was destined to do so. Therefore, any one of the other participants can argue that if the drawing had been conducted properly, his Mazel would have been favorable to him, or his prayers would have been answered, since the results would have been determined by divine Hashgacha. He never agreed to be involved in a lottery that is affected by human interference.” This point is also made by the Mogen Avraham in Orach Chaim (132:2).

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This week’s class is based on a column by Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz, who is an Av Bais Din and Rosh Kollel in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. His Column originally appears in Hebrew in Toda’ah, a weekly publication in Jerusalem. It has been translated and reprinted here with his permission and approval.

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Please Note: The purpose of this column is to make people aware of Choshen Mishpat situations that can arise at any time, and the Halachic concepts that may be used to resolve them. Each individual situation must be resolved by an objective, competent Bais Din (or Rabbinic Arbitrator) in the presence of all parties involved!