In a Young Israel shul I've attended, the rabbi would not allow the gabbaim to give Jewish men an aliyah if there is reason to believe that the person is openly gay (and acts on his inclination), because the shul does not want to appear to approve of his open violation of the Torah.

Is there a halachic basis for this policy?

If so, does the same basis apply to Jews who openly eat non-kosher food or violate Shabbos, or are some halachic violations treated differently from others?

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    Assuming the reason is as suggested in your question ("the shul does not want to appear to approve..."), the following argument could apply to being more accommodating of Shabbos desecrators: Everyone recognizes that Orthodox Judaism opposes Shabbos violation, but, given recent social upheaval, giving an openly gay man an aliya could be perceived as a sign of change in Orthodox Judaism's attitude. Halachically speaking, though, someone who regularly, publicly, and flagrantly violates Shabbos (e.g. by parking right in front of the synagogue entrance) probably may not be given an aliyah.
    – Fred
    Apr 23, 2013 at 5:31
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    @Fred, there have been relatively recent upheavals in communal attitudes toward Shabbat, too, from the famous Conservative responsum permitting driving to shul to the even more recent coinage of "half-Shabbat."
    – Isaac Moses
    Apr 24, 2013 at 15:07

1 Answer 1


As the comments have indicated, this is a judgment call.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein allows a synagogue to give an aliyah to someone who does not personally practice all the mitzvahs (though he writes it is not preferable). (He feels that the card-carrying Reform rabbis of several decades ago, however, did not believe in the sanctity of the Torah being read and thus can't receive an aliyah.) He has another responsum about the prohibition of flattering sinners, where he concludes that giving synagogue honors to a sinner is not an automatic declaration of "the fact that you do Action X is totally fine by us."

Nonetheless I think it's within a synagogue's rights to make a statement that certain actions so beyond the pale that they preclude honors. (I suspect many synagogues would, for instance, give an aliyah to someone who doesn't observe shabbos, but not to someone intermarried. It's not a halachic thing per se, it's a public-policy thing.)

In your particular example, I suspect there are several reasons why a synagogue may choose to make a statement: the sin is universal for Noahides; its acceptance in both general and traditional-but-not-Orthodox society is relatively new; and it's perceived that sometimes the sinner (or a movement with whom he is perceived as affiliating) may have more of an attitude of "your religion is wrong so go jump in a lake", compared to "eh I don't live up to all the laws."

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    "It's perceived...": you see this more in gay people than in Sabbath desecrators? I would definitely have said the opposite
    – Double AA
    Apr 22, 2013 at 16:16
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    See edits to the question. Your answer seems to still apply, but you may wish to tweak it a bit.
    – msh210
    Apr 22, 2013 at 18:53
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    @Avi afraid you just missed the point. Halacha is focused on actions, not interests. A person makes a choice to sleep with someone the same way they make a choice to drive a car.
    – Shalom
    Apr 24, 2013 at 11:18
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    @Shalom: a gay person chooses to sleep with people of his or her gender like a left-handed person chooses to write with his left hand.
    – Publius
    Apr 24, 2013 at 17:43
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    @Avi Exactly. Consciously. They could choose not to write at all or to write poorly.
    – Double AA
    Nov 10, 2013 at 2:16

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