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Are there any halachot governing who can and who can not get a kibbud (i.e. opening the Aron , not an aliyah) on Shabbat, Yom Tov, Rosh Hashannah or Yom Kippur? I ask because in our shul we have two men who I was not allowed to have open the Aron in the past. If we were talkng about an Aliyah, I would understand, but isn't a kibbud, just an honor with no relighous significance?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

My understanding is that a community has the right to determine that someone's behavior could be so completely out of line that the person is not to be given any honors in the synagogue, as doing so could be seen as tolerating or endorsing their actions.

Excerpt from a Rabbinical Council of America statement:

Therefore, be it resolved that we must vigorously educate and demonstrate to our laity ... that the Torah mandate for ethical behavior and social responsibility is paramount.

We call upon synagogues to review longstanding policies and publicly reaffirm among their membership that ritual kibbudim, ... should be conferred only upon those whose reputations for honesty and ethical conduct comport with these values.

Ritual kibbudim include leading services, opening and closing the Aron Kodesh, ascending to the Torah, and raising the Torah and rolling it closed.

What it takes to cross this line will vary from community to community. Here the RCA is saying that if someone has been indicted for millions of dollars of fraud and hasn't shown remorse, they're over the line. I believe in New York's Syrian community, marrying out of the faith would be over the line. For decades and decades, the Johannesburg rabbinate has ruled that kingklip is kosher and it has become a staple of the community's diet; a lone rabbi there who continues to publicly protest this has been refused ritual honors. He can walk into synagogue and say his own prayers, but he's ceded his opportunity to participate in a helpful way.

Obviously, it takes a lot of wisdom to draw the line at the right place. There's even a documented case in the early 1700s of the well-established Spanish-Portuguese community of London prohibiting ritual honors from a fellow who went off and married a new-immigrant Ashkenazic lass!

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