Ethics

For the week ending 28 February 2009 / 4 Adar I 5769

Paying the Synagogue for Service

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: It is generally understood that regular worshippers in a synagogue help support it by purchasing a seat or an aliya. What about someone who just comes to pray there once in a while? What is the right thing to do?

Answer: This question is very appropriate to this week's Torah portion that describes the participation of all Jews in the building of the Mishkan sanctuary.

The story is told of the time that Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul, zatzal, the famed head of Yeshivat Porat Yosef, entered a synagogue to join the congregation for the Ma’ariv service. Although it is not customary to give tzedaka before that service as it is before the morning and afternoon prayers, he was seen putting some coins into the synagogue charity box.

When asked why he did this he explained that it was not his intention to simply give tzedaka before praying, but rather to pay for the service he received.

"My intention", he pointed out, "was to participate in the upkeep of the synagogue. When I enter it to pray I want it to be clean and that the lighting should allow me to read from my siddur. Since I benefit from all of this, how can I do so without paying for what I receive?"

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