A Simple Jew asks:
Is it appropriate during Yom Kippur services for a rabbi to auction off honors (i.e. taking out the Torah during Kol Nidre, reading Maftir Yonah, and opening the Aron Kodesh during Neilah)? To your knowledge was this done by our ancestors in Europe?Rabbi Lazer Brody answers:
Your question is an important one, and relevant to Yom Tovim and Shabbos, in addition to Yom Kippur. In Tractate Shabbos, page 150a, the holy Amoraim Rav Chisda and Rav Himnuna are uncontested when they say that one is allowed to make calculations for mitvas on Shabbos. Rebbe Elazar is even more specific when he states (ibid.) that one may promise to give charity to a poor person on Shabbos. In other words, even though we're not allowed to mention commercial, monetary, and day-to-day matters on Shabbos (Shulchan Oruch Or Hachaim 107:1), we are allowed to discuss matters of tzedakka on Shabbos, Yom tov, and even Yom Kippur, such as pledging money for the poor or for the upkeep of the shul (ibid., 106:6, see also Rama there).
The Chofetz Chaim adds (ibid., Mishna Brura 27, 33) that one is permitted to earmark/pledge money for charity, and although some poskim object to the sale of aliyas on Shabbos because it resembles bartering and auctioning, while those poskim who permit selling aliyas say that this is totally different from auctioning off "goods", since the money is for the upkeep of the shul, a very big mitzva that's allowed on Shabbos, and concludes that wherever the custom is to auction off the aliyas, it is permissible.
Here in Eretz Yisroel, we auction off aliyas in one of two situations: One, when people don't pay dues to the shul, and the money is critical for the upkeep of the shul; two, to avoid having people fight over the aliyas. This practice was widespread both in Poland and the Ukraine. In Uman on Rosh Hashonna, the aliyas are also auctioned off.
May Hashem grant you, your readers, and all of Clal Yisroel a happy and sweet New Year 5766. Yours with warmest friendship, Lazer Brody
--Visit Rabbi Lazer Brody's website here.