A Joke for those who need jokes: “There was this very pious Jew who wanted to win the lottery…

Thomas Friedman has a good joke (OK, a joke that I enjoyed) in his NYT column today –he told this one to Barack Obama, who will be speaking to more than a billion Muslims worldwide on Thursday, from Cairo. The President laughed.
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The Joke:
“There is this very pious Jew named Goldberg who always dreamed of winning the lottery. Every Sabbath, he’d go to synagogue and pray: “God, I have been such a pious Jew all my life. What would be so bad if I won the lottery?”
But the lottery would come and Goldberg wouldn’t win. Week after week, Goldberg would pray to win the lottery, but the lottery would come and Goldberg wouldn’t win.
Finally, one Sabbath, Goldberg wails to the heavens and says: “God, I have been so pious for so long, what do I have to do to win the lottery?”
“And the heavens parted and the voice of God came down: “Goldberg, give me a chance! Buy a ticket!”
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Friedman makes use of the joke to make a deft “buy a ticket” point to that vast sea of moderate Arabs and/or Muslims, who are opposed to Al Qaeda extremeness, but –ongoingly have failed to speak up and make their potentially overwhelming point.
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In other words, they haven’t bought a ticket.
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Yet.
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It’s one of Friedman’s better columns.
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And he makes the same point –to a degree– that I made myself in the introduction to my post-9.11 book, “A Collection of Arabic Proverbs”, as follows:
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“The world was changed on that day. We have to see to it that the change is for the better. It seems to me that the great question for the Arabic/Islamic world is: how ill it change?
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I posed the question (earlier): can it save itself from its own extremist fundamentalism? Can Islam devise and then enter its own Reformation. Can the Arab world offer political, economic, and religious freedom and equality to an exploding population? Can it ever achieve a separation of Mosque and State?
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If it does, the world may again be enriched by a brilliant Arabic contribution. But if it refuses to undertake the changes there will be tragic and enduring failure. (In time, new energy will replace oil; exhausted Israelis and Arabs will finally make their peace; the world will move on.)
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Irony of all ironies –and we know it would have to be an unbearable irony for Islam– it is not hard to see that the best expression of Islam –as a freely and fully practiced religion by fulfilled, productive, and insistantly-moderate Muslims, is likely to be in the West, and especially in the USA.
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It is a process already quite advanced among some ten million Arab-Americans, a large number of whom –judging by my Arab/Muslim friends– have already come to regard the USA, for all its faults and imperfections, as their home; already feel relatively welcome here; and have no desire to go back to the age-old constraints.”
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That’s what I wrote in my Introduction to “A Collection of Arabic Proverbs” in 2001, which was my contribution to healing the awful wounds of 9.11. (Maybe I would alter some emphases –but not, I think, too much.)
I wrote it for many reasons, but the chief reason was for Understanding.
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Understanding!
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That –I predict– will be the core and motivation of President Barack Obama in his speech to 1.4 Billion Muslims from Cairo on Thursday.

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[Ordering information: The book is "A Collection of Arabic Proverbs"; the author is Malachi McCormick; the publisher The Stone Street Press.
It is available here and there, but mainly from the SSP, from this very website. The cost is twenty-four dollars. You can order it from anywhere in the world, through PayPal.]


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