The Matzav Shmoooze: Not Paying for Aliyos


shul-bimahDear readers,

I am the gabbai of a shul and I sell aliyos there every Yom Tov. With Pesach having just concluded, I would like to bring up the issue of people buying aliyos and not paying for them.

You would not believe how many people buy aliyos every Yom Tov and never bother paying for them. I cannot understand how a person can have the nerve to bid on an aliyah when he still owes money for his last half-dozen aliyos.

I hesitate to ask people to pay up, since I feel uncomfortable pressuring people for money. Besides, it is hard for me to keep track of all the aliyos that are sold over Yom Tov, and I do not always remember who bought which aliyah and for how much.

Since I am the one who pays the shul‘s bills, I am the one who suffers when the money does not come in. I am a busy person, and I do not have time to chase people for the money they owe the shul, whether for aliyos, membership dues, or other pledges. I do not get paid to act as gabbai; why should I have to hound people to pay the money they owe the shul? I would appreciate hearing people’s feedback regarding this matter.


The Matzav Shmoooze is a regular feature on that allows all readers to share a thought or analysis, long or short, one sentence or several paragraphs long, on any topic, for readers to mull over and comment on. Email submissions to

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  1. I’ve been a Gabbai, and I sympathize with you.

    However, you should not feel hesitant to ask people to satisfy their obligations – on their part they are violating a mitzvas asey d’Oraiso (“Motzei sefasecha tishmor v’asisa”) – think of it as saving them from an aveirah.

    How about making a rule that a person cannot bid on an aliyah unless they have paid up their previous debts to the Shul?

    And just keep repeating to yourself: v’chol ha’oskim betzarchei tzibbur b’emunah, Hakodosh Baruch Hu yeshaleim secharam.

  2. get the special yom tov pledge cards with the classical paper clip systome which is used in shuls worldwide. Invest in postage get a nice Nussach for a Mechubadika letter thanking for support of the shul. leave some blank spaces and personalize it by filling in the blank with the apprpiate name and his dues. have it printed on the shul staitionary. and file a copy for the shul records eternaly. You are the gizbar. Its momone hekdesh.

  3. You are very right. The Gemara says bad things about people who pledge and don’t deliver.

    However there is also a chiyuv of judging lecaf zchus. Who knows? Maybe they had the money to give at one point, and now they don’t. But that still doesn’t free them of their obligation.

    I suggest to approach them and allow them to pay it in increments if possible.

  4. How about not selling aliyos, and raising funds for the shul some other way, donations or dues. That mitzvos are sold to the highest bidder is disturbing. Being rich should not be a factor, though we known it certainly is in most shuls

  5. I saw a sign in a shul in my neighborhood before Yom Tov asking people who owe more than $500 to the shul to not bid on Aliyos. The sign said they would rather get $300 right after Yom Tov than wait years to get $1,000. It seems this is a very common problem. You need to find a way to discourage certain people from bidding.

  6. Also a gabai and have the same issue , if you buy an aliya nothing to discuss , not only is the pledge not fullfilled but it also prevented someone else who would have paid for it from purchasing it. shul is not a free service funded by “somebody else” . If you make use of a shul you have an obligation to take part in the costs .and not just “chai dollar” but realy help bear the burden , besides for the zechus , we are using it we should pay for it .

  7. There are two issues 1) hard to keep track – has been dealt with, use the paper clip system and after shabbos/yomim tovim, enter the info on a spreadsheet. 2) people who don’t pay – I have been told that many shuls have a 3 and you’re out rule. You get 3 months to pay your aliyos bill. If you are in arrears greater than 3 months, the Gabbai will not accept your bid (clear this with your rov).
    The only exception is is someone is a chiyuv for an aliyah on a given day.

  8. To number 7 , If you look up the Rema in Shulchan aruch on Simchas Torah , you will find that this is an old minhag to sell mitzvos to the highest bidder

  9. This practice is absolute pure gavah. It angers G-d and man. It is the exact opposite of the way that our sages found to be the straight way that a man should choose for himself.

  10. Why is there so much talking during synagogue services? Often I witness casual
    chatting during the Torah readings.

  11. The richest person isn’t necessarily willing to pay the most for an alliyah or even bid for an alliyah. A person bids on an aliyah for many different reasons, no because he is the most able to afford it. Aalliyos have to be given out using some method, and to give it to the biggest bal tzadakah is as good a way as any, plus it raises the most funds for the shul. A shul has to pay its bills. The person paying the bills doesn’t pick and choose which method to raise funds for the Shul. He will use all legal and ethical method to raise the most funds. Noone wants to pay for an aliyah, make a donation or pay their dues or obligations to the Shul. But they do expect the Shul to exist without charging anything and still pay its bills.

  12. How about giving the person up to the 15 and 30 of the month as that’s when he typically gets his paycheck… This way you know he has the money and he can’t say anything about it… My husband just bought an Aliyah and plans on IY”H giving his check this week, and no he didn’t read this article…he just is the type of person that doesn’t like to have a bad feeling about something…maybe we can all learn from my Ben Torah…have a wonderful Shobbos everyone 🙂

  13. the policy in our shule is that you can not be a member and buy seats unless you have paid up all pledges from the year obviously for certain circumstances a payment plan is arranged
    for someone to ignore the bills and pay zero
    its a chutzpah

  14. #7:

    You have a point. Approach the rov or gabbi of your shul and ask him what typically comes in from bidding and offer the shul that you will write out a check for that amount and they should skip the auction.

    People with little means can also share in the Aliyos. This past year, I offered the person who bought maftir yonah, that I will give an additional $180 to the shul (it sold for $1,000) if he allows me to share in the zchus, as I couldn’t afford to bid the going amount. He told me, no problem, and was so nice about it, he even let me read the haftorah (He did the brochos). It’s actually a prosperous year for me so far, Boruch Hashem!

    My father used to get permission from the rov in his shul to make a side minyan in order that he can get maftir Yonah, and though maftir Yonah went for a couple thousand $, the rov allowed him to give what he could afford to pay to make the second minyan. So he would pay $500 in stead of the $1500-$2500 average rate for what the bidding cost.

    Also, is it fine to pay with Credit Card on the shul’s websites (knowing the shul incurs a minimal transaction fee)?

  15. Maybe you should switch to another Shul, where people act properly, glatt yosher, with regard to monetary matters, instead of working for what sounds like a glatt kosher without glatt yosher place.

  16. i’m a gabbai too, and before last rosh hashanah i walked over to one of the mispalelim (after having reminded him about his overdue aliyos pledges) and told him: i reminded you a month before r”h, you didn’t pay, please do not bid tomorrow, as i will ignore your bids and you will cause embarrassment to yourself in public. guess what? he didn’t bid, not on r”h, not on y”k and not on sukkos!

  17. What about selling ticket books for aliyot in advance and those who bid for aliyot can “pay” with the tickets they already purchased? Don’t know if the idea would take, but it might be worth testing.

  18. In reply to question how disrespectful
    talking during Torah reading relates to
    “aliyah” deadbeats, the answer pertains
    to a bad attitude that causes the
    misbehavior under discussion.

    Why should such individuals take
    their obligation seriously? (Of course they
    should honor their obligation.) Since they
    do not pay attention to the “kriah”, those
    same individuals cannot be expected to
    value the “aliyah” granted to them.

    That is why it is not surprising to
    me that the problem described in the
    article exists. (I assume that nonpayment
    is not due to poverty. Were that the case,
    I am sure you would be lenient toward poor
    members of the congregation who cannot pay
    right away.)

  19. I hate being a gabbai because of mishigas like this, and they don’t even sell aliyot in my shuls!

    I’m no navi, but maybe there is an association between the bad things that have been happening to Am Yisrael and our collective laxity in financial halachot?

  20. 1) we have to be dan lakaf zechus
    if there are no invoices being sent, they forget.
    2) people in financially hard times, might by something as a zechus, but it didn’t help so they don’t have the money to pay.
    3) if someone owes for more than 6 months they should be told 2-3 weeks before yom tov not to bid as they will be ignored.
    4) question: should a non member be allowed to bid? if i pay $500.00 membership and you don’t you could naturally afford to bid more on things, is that fair?

  21. Rav Chaim Brisker, and others have spoken and written vociferously against “SELLING” aliyos and other Kibudim in Shul. It is absolutely Mekach Umemkar and should be outlawed. It is not within the “spirit” of the law either.

  22. # 29
    The Aruch Hashulchan disagrees and permits the selling of aliyos. It is a time honored tradition even if you don’t like it. I cannot stand it either, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a common practice in many shuls. But make ’em pay for them!


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