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Shabbat Parashat Chayei Sarah 5772

P'ninat Mishpat: Rights in Shul to a Non-Contributor

condensed from Shurat Hadin, vol. I, pp. 295-296)

Case:   The plaintiff (=pl) complains that the gabbai (=def) of the shul he attends does not give him aliyot on a regular basis like he gives other congregants. Over the course of a few years, he has received only two aliyot, one on Simchat Torah and one on a yahrtzeit, and even then only after pressure was exerted. Pl claims that def is out to get him, publicly denigrates him, and has told him that he will not get aliyot unless he gives serious donations to the shul. Def said that pl received an aliya soon after joining the shul but that he neglected to give a corresponding donation, even after being reminded, and this occurred two other times. Before the High Holy Days, when it is traditional for congregants to take parts in expenses, pl refused to do so. Def admits making the payment of some type of dues (200 shekels a year) a condition for pl to receive aliyot in the future but feels this is justified. He said that had pl given even a very modest donation as a sign of good faith he would have resumed receiving aliyot.

 

Ruling:   The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 150:1) rules that the members of a city can coerce each other to take part in the building of a shul. In 50:22 he extends the participation in financing to the salary of a chazan.

It is true that the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 150) says that if there is a shul in town, just that it is not spacious, it is not possible to force people to take part in building an additional shul. However, it is clear that if someone did not take part in the construction costs and he now wants to daven in the new shul, members can demand that he join in the expenses. This is because the people are not required to provide him with the use of the new shul when there is another one in town. Therefore, the gabbai’s demand of some sort of donation or dues is legitimate, and pl cannot force his free participation in all elements of the community. Although the custom in all communities has been to allow guests to take part in services without financial participation, that is as a guest, without rights to demand honors such as aliyot. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 376:4) and Shach (ad loc.) are specific about the differences between congregants and guests regarding Kaddish and yahrtzeit. A congregant is defined as one who takes part in the expenses of the congregation.

There is some question as to whether the rav suggested 200 or 300 shekels per annum for pl’s dues. Therefore, we instruct pl to pay 20 shekels monthly, after which def will be required to give pl the same rights to aliyot that others have.

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