Why would you write a bum check to God? (model this)

by on December 24, 2012 at 4:08 am in Religion | Permalink

Maybe you are hoping that God will make the check a good one?  From the Western Wall in Jerusalem:

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who oversees Jerusalem’s Western Wall, said a worshipper found an envelope at the site Wednesday with 507 checks in the amount of about $1 million each. They were not addressed to anyone, and it’s doubtful they can be cashed.

Rabinovitch said most are Nigerian. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said some were from the United States, Europe and Asia.

The story is here and for the pointer I thank Mark Thorson.

1 Ray Lopez December 24, 2012 at 4:18 am

Well this is better than the old joke where the guy leaves a check and takes some cash back in the collection tray meant to be placed in the deceased’s coffin.

2 MikeComrie December 25, 2012 at 4:12 am

Love my job, since I’ve been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I’m making it online(Click on menu Home)

3 prior_approval December 24, 2012 at 4:51 am

Maybe this is just a bit of syncretism? Unburnt ghost checks instead of burnt ghost money?


4 Roy December 24, 2012 at 6:04 am

Legalistic thinking coupled with divine bargaining.

You beg the god for something and promise to give him a million dollars, then you get it and you don’t want to pay. This has happened for ages, in archaeological sites fakes are often found in temple deposits, and ancient texrs sometimes mention priestly attempts to make sure the god isn’t being bilked.

Often in the ancient world animal sacrafices required the animal to be cooked and then shared between the god, priests, and the person providing the sacrifice. Often the god’s portion was the inedible bits. There is a legendary basis for this in the legend of Prometheus. Prometheus was required to make a sacrifice of a portion of each animal killed to Zeus for mankind, he killed the animal and made two bundles. One was the the bones wrapped in fat and the other was the stomach filled with meat. Zeus was tricked and took the bones. This was given as the reason why the Greeks kept the best portion for themselves and offered fat and bones to the god. As an aside, the Greek olive oil industry made them not dependent on animals for cooking fat, so it was an economically bearable sacrifice. Homo necans was nothing if not Homo economicus. This story was also why Zeus took the sun away from man which led to Prometheus giving humans fire and then being punished for it by being bound on top of a rock in the wilderness while his continously regenerating liver was eaten every day by an eagle. Anyway the whole business clearly worked out great for us mortals, if not for our benefactor.

5 Lord December 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm

It was my impression the offering was the invocation and the aroma, things a god might appreciate.

6 AT December 24, 2012 at 6:32 am

The answer is: religion.

7 zbicyclist December 24, 2012 at 6:48 am

For some reason, I am inordinately amused by the thought of God falling for a Nigerian scam.

But Roy describes the same thing with the story of Prometheus, so I guess amusement at the god(s) being tricked is a classic(al) joke.

8 wolfgang December 24, 2012 at 9:01 am

>> Rabinovitch said most are Nigerian

So the Nigerian scams are not scams! They do send out millions of dollars, just to the wrong address…

9 Therapsid December 24, 2012 at 10:20 am

It’s Christmas Eve, and Tyler is writing about a rabbi in Israel.

Is Tyler Jewish, because you get the sense American secular intellectuals are more comfortable with Judaism and even sometimes Islam than they are with the West’s Christian roots.

10 Brian Donohue December 24, 2012 at 2:18 pm

C’mon, a little ‘peace on earth, good will toward men’ won’t kill you.

11 byomtov December 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm

But it will rob Therapsid of his/her grievance. That’s almost as bad.

12 zbicyclist December 24, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Do trolls not take Christmas off?

13 Mark December 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm

That would be elves.

14 Bill December 24, 2012 at 10:32 am

This is elementary game theory and agency theory.

You place 507 million dollar checks in the wall, and keep another one for yourself.

You then pray to God:

“You wanna $507 million, for lamb sacrifices or new churches,

All ya godda do is work a miracle to give me $508 million,

The Checks are in the Wall.”


15 Thor December 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Or a version of Pascal’s wager:

If there is no God, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve written the cheques or not. If there is a God and you have written no cheques, you’ll look like a cheapskate. If there is a God and you have written the cheques, your largesse will appear pretty impressive.

Your only worry is if God tries to cash the cheques, but you can reason: doesn’t he have better things to do with his time than cash cheques?

16 Lord December 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Certainly beats tithing real money, but a promise in advance is the best way of thinking of it. Fulfill my dreams and this is yours.

17 Thor December 24, 2012 at 7:22 pm

“Fulfill my dreams and this is yours”? Now you are encroaching on God’s territory.

18 Willitts December 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm

False piety and penitence are greater sins.

Don’t know if this is someone’s bad joke or some misplaced sentiment.

Oh well. Another tale of human silliness.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

19 Enrique December 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Perhaps there is an “optimal level” of human silliness and depravity …

20 Willitts December 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm

I don’t disagree.

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