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Friday, October 09, 2009

Simchas Torah (and Shabbos) sales

Many shuls have a Simchas Torah auction. In this auction the honors of the day, the aliyos, hakafos, Mussaf and so on are sold to the highest bidder. Many synagogues take this a step further and sell the honors for the whole year such as the ‘honor’ of being allowed to pay the electric bill. I believe this honor is still available at my Shul, drop me a line if you’re interested.

What is the permissibility of such an auction? After all, we know that one is not allowed to talk about money or engage in buying or selling on Yom Tov and Shabbos!

The Halacha is that one may say they are giving a specific amount of money to Tzedaka on Shabbos. The Rema (306:6) uses this to explain how we may give a specific amount to the Shul upon receiving a Mi Sheberech, the prayer for one who has been called up to the Torah. Perhaps a natural extension of this law would be to allow an auction for mitzvos as well.

The Maharshal however, quoted by the Magen Avrohom, is hesitant to embrace this extension. In an effort to resolve the minhag he says that perhaps there is no ‘Mekach Umemkar’ or business dealings which are prohibited on Shabbos with Mitzvos. In any case, selling seats or other tangibles would definitely be prohibited according to the Mahrshal.  He recommends that in all auctions the bidders should resolve to pay their bid whether or not they win the auction. That way it’ll be less business-like and more Mi Shebeirech like. I hear there was a Shul in California that actually did this.  I’m sure most Rabbis and Shul presidents could easily adapt to this minhag.

The Aruch Hashulchan, in an effort to justify the practice explains: The bidders aren’t bidding as in a conventional auction. Rather they are saying that if I am privileged to receive the Aliyah, (or other honor) then I will give such and such to Tzedaka. He concludes that one should not question this practice and it is unequivocally permitted. He mentions the concept of all the bidders, even the losers, giving their bid to Tzedakah and he calls this a pious act but not obligatory. [The Aruch Hashulchan does stress that this is only in reference to intangibles, seats and such would definitely be prohibited].

The Mishna Berura in a more tempered approach writes that there are those who allow the bidding practice and those who disallow it, and in a place where it is done one should not protest it.

I have seen of late several shuls who offer an online auction before yomtov. This approach would prevent any potential problems, (and enable one to pay with Paypal).


Posted on 10/09 at 07:45 AM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaberRabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber spent his childhood globetrotting with his family. His pioneering spirit first surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, where he was excited to be a member of the opening class of Mesivta Bnei Torah. From Australia the Haber family settled down in Monsey, NY. Ever the maverick, Tzvi promptly left home to study in Yeshiva Ohr Hameir in Peekskill, where he became a mainstay of the Yeshiva, and inspired his younger brothers as well as several friends from the Mesivta in Melbourne to follow him. He then joined his chaburah in Jerusalem, first at the Mir Yeshiva and then at the Bais Medrash of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, a senior scion of the famed Brisk dynasty. As his globetrotting family returned to Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to the US, to freeze in the famed, yet comparatively chilled Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

 In 2004 he met his wife, Suzanne Schor, a native of the warmer Los Angeles climate, and the couple settled in Lakewood, where he focused his pioneering and independent strengths on the study of Halacha, or Jewish law. His innovative spirit and innate ability to help others seeking to clarify the finer points of Judaism and integrate them into their daily lives inspired his decision to commute daily from Lakewood to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to bask in the day to day exposure to the world renowned Posek, HaRav David Feinstein. The daily commute was more than compensated for when he received Semicha from Rav Feinstien and the Kollel L’Torah U’lhorah (a division of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem) in Tamuz 5768, June 2008.

In August 2009, the Habers moved west, heading toward Los Angeles where Rabbi Haber joined the LINK-LA Kollel. After being an active member of the Kollel for several years, he joined the business world, however he is still actively involved in teaching and learning in LA.

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