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How can selling aliyahs be permitted on Shabbat & holidays if business transactions are prohibited?

by Rabbi Simcha Bart

  

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Question:

I understand that doing business transactions on holidays and Shabbat is prohibited. I am looking for an explanation that can justify Rabbis selling aliyahs and rallying for donations on Yom Kippur. It has always seemed like a contradiction to me.

Answer:

Good question!

There is a subtle but significant difference between a business transaction and selling aliyahs: the latter is essentially a pledge to donate Tzedakah and not a real bill of sale. Herein lies the reason why auctioning off synagogue privileges is permitted on a Shabbat or holiday.

Jewish Law discusses the concept of what is considered a business transaction, which is prohibited on Shabbat. There are many details concerning these rules; here are a few:

Promising to give Tzedakah is not considered true business because it is beneficial to the donor as well - for example the upkeep of the Synagogue (which he too will enjoy) - therefore it is considered as if the donation is not truly leaving his own possession.

Another consideration is that there is no actual transference of an object from one person's possession to another in exchange for the promise of money - rather the person is receiving an honor.

All of this only applies when no actual money is changing hands - for if it was, then that would be prohibited.

This is, as mentioned above, a complex area of Jewish Law. If you would like to study this further, you can find this topic discussed in Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Orach Chayim, chapter 306, par 16.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Holidays
Holidays » Yom Kippur
Shabbat
Shabbat » Forbidden Activities

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Tzedakah
"Tzedakah," commonly translated as charity, literally means righteousness, or the right thing to do. Giving to those in need is one of the most important of G-d's commandments.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.