High Holiday Synagogue Dues
Each year around the high holidays synagogues collect membership dues from constituents. How should synagogues asses the amount charged for dues? Are they permitted to refuse participation in Rosh Hashanah serves to those who do not pay dues? Can they prevent a non-member from listening to the shofar? Join Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman as he explores this important issue.
High Holiday Synagogue Dues: Lesson 1
Once upon a time, about 350 years ago, there was small town in Germany. The Jews of this town needed to hire someone to blow the shofar for them on Rosh Hashanah. They contacted their usual “ba’al tokeiah” but they were shocked to hear that this year the ba’al tokeiah wanted more than three times his usual fee due to the perils of the journey (this was during the time of the Thirty-Years War). The Jews of the town had a meeting to decide on what to do. The townspeople put the question to a vote: 7 poor householders said they simply could not afford to pay while six wealthy householders said they are willing to pay. So the wealthy people paid the ba’al tokeiah and he showed up. However the wealthy people who resented having to bear the entire expense instructed the ba’al tokeiah that he should intend specifically not to perform the mitzvah on behalf of the poor people in the synagogue. After the holiday, the townspeople turned to the leading Rav in Germany, Rav Yair Bachrach, to ask if it was correct for the poor people to “opt out” of paying for the ba’al tokeiah, and if the wealthy people could actually prevent the poor people from fulfilling the mitzvah of shofar even though they heard the sounds made by the ba’al tokeiah. In this shiur we will examine the halachot regarding the management of a community’s expenses and how to deal with the inevitable conflicts that arise when money is a problem. If anyone has any suggestions or questions regarding this shiur please feel free to write to me at email@example.com I look forward to meeting with you next week, Shavua tov, Stuart Fischman
Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman graduated from Yeshiva University in 1980 and the dental school of Columbia University in 1985. In 1989 he began studying and teaching at Yeshivat Hamivtar and now studies and teaches at Yeshivat Machanaim in Efrat. He has rabbinic ordination from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg.