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Many shuls have the practice of selling kibbudim (i.e. aliyot, hafotrah, opening the aron, etc.) on major holidays, usually via auction. I've been to some shuls where this is done every shabbat.

A related practice is "pledge drives", where after the Rabbi's speech on a major holiday, the floor is open for people to pledge donations to the shul.

How is this allowed on shabbat and chag? Isn't this essentially masah umatan or at least too closely related to matters of money or business?

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Great question. I've wondered about this practice for years and never found an answer that feels right. We rule out other behaviors that might be technically ok but violate the spirit of Shabbat, so even with a legal work-around I have trouble understanding this one. – Monica Cellio Jul 6 '11 at 16:12
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The Gemara (Shabbos 150a) points out that we are restricted on Shabbos ממצוא חפצך, from looking after our personal business affairs - but that this implies that חפצי שמים מותרין, Divine business affairs are okay.

Based on this, it lists several categories of things that are permitted on Shabbos under this heading, one of which is פוסקין צדקה לעניים - making assessments of tzedakah for the needy. (Some of the other things listed there are familiar from the Shabbos zemer Mah Yedidus.)

This is codified in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 306:7. Rema there writes that "some say that in places where it is customary to recite a Mi Shebeirach for one who reads from the Torah, and he makes a pledge for tzedakah or for the chazzan, that it is prohibited on Shabbos to spell out how much he intends to give; but the custom is to be lenient, since it is permitted לפסוק צדקה."

Mishnah Berurah there (:27) explains that this can't be considered buying and selling (מקח וממכר), since nothing is actually changing hands. Further on (:33) he adds that there is a dispute whether it is permitted to "sell" mitzvos on Shabbos, with some authorities forbidding it and others saying it's fine because no actual object is being bought, "so in places where they are customarily lenient on this, one should not object against them."

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to see more info go to: baishavaad.com/library/vayikra/?p=18 – Shmuel Brin Jul 6 '11 at 18:54
Very interesting. Halacha's view of the non-saleability of intangibles would seem to have ramifications on the sale of intellectual property. But that's for another question. – Ariel Allon Jul 6 '11 at 20:50

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