Who Gets the Maftir?
Question: The synagogue I regularly attend serves hundreds of families and has found it necessary to make a rule that anyone who wishes to reserve the maftir call-up to the Torah reading for his son’s Bar Mitzvah must notify the officer in charge of such matters a year in advance so as to avoid conflicts with other candidates for this honor. While I dutifully made such notification, a fellow congregant with a Bar Mitzvah that very Shabbat who assumed there would be no problem did not bother to notify until a couple of weeks before the date in question. Since both of us want our sons to have maftir what is the right thing to do?
Answer: A case exactly like yours was once brought before the foremost halachic authority, Hagaon Rav Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv, shlita. It was assumed by the fellow in your position that he had priority because he acted according to the rules while the other fellow had not.
He was surprised to hear otherwise from the great rav. The privilege of being called up to maftir, he pointed out, was one that belonged to every boy in the congregation coming of age. The father’s negligence in reserving the maftir for his son in accordance with the rules should therefore not compromise his son’s rights since he as a minor could not be held responsible for the oversight.
With the rights to maftir thus being equal, the ruling was to draw lots to determine who gets the maftir that Shabbat.
- As reported by Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rabbi of the Ramat Elchanan community in Bnei Brak