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My shul sells tickets for High Holiday seating. These are paid specific seats for the person who reserved them.

Sometimes, outsiders attend the shul on Rosh Hashanna. Our shul doesn't refuse them entry, and, most likely, doesn't check where these people sit. Most of them haven't paid for tickets either b/c they don't know the rules or b/c they can't afford it. So they sit in any empty seat that they can find.

Is there anything halachically wrong with someone sitting in these paid seats before the payee arrives? Is the seat considered the payees "property" even if he never shows up, or does he own it only from the time that he attends the shul? Does it matter if the payee stipulates in advance that no one should sit in his seat at all? (I know that may sound strange, but in my shul, some people are overly sensitive about this. They really don't want anyone ever sitting there even if they don't show up!)

My question is most applicable to Rosh Hashanna / Yom Kippur, but could apply to any time of the year, as well, such as a (un)paid makom kavu'ah.

  • That's an interesting question. Does the creation of a designated seating chart basically mean that the shul is machzik the seat to the person who reserved it? – Isaac Kotlicky Jun 23 '15 at 21:42
  • @IsaacKotlicky I'm not sure what you mean by "machzik". At any rate, I don't believe that the seating chart is what does it. The receipt of payment for the seat(s) guarantees that that person owns the seat. The question is for what time period does he own it? – DanF Jun 23 '15 at 22:14
  • I heard regarding seats that we look on it as (bhezkas) hachnosas orhim (accepting guests) unless we know otherwise that he does not allow it (also a possibility of midos sdom, not for me and not for others) – hazoriz Jun 23 '15 at 23:22
  • @DanF the person hasn't necessarily engaged in a kinyan in the seat through payment. The principle of zachin shelo vifanav means the shul can claim the seat on behalf of the purchaser without his presence. – Isaac Kotlicky Jun 23 '15 at 23:24
  • @IsaacKotlicky That's an interesting principle. However, in this case it's "midrange". It's probable that when the member calls to reserve the seat, it is held for him even before payment. However, I think they will reserve it only for a maximum time period. The principle you mentioned may conflict if two people want the same seat - one reserves and a second pays. I think the one that pays gets the seat. I assume that there is no halachic problem doing this despite the principle you stated. The shul can decide on this overriding policy. – DanF Jun 24 '15 at 2:41
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+100

The answer to this question would depend on whether the person purchased the seat 24/7/365 or whether the person just purchased the right to this seat when he is there. After discussing this with my Rabbi, he said that no Shul is selling you the seat for 24/7/365, and he felt that if the Halacha is by Talis or Tefilin where there it is personally owned that one may use it without the owner's permission, for sure a seat may be used without the owner's permission. If and when the owner arrives the one using the seat has to give it up immediately to the owner.

  • What if the seat has been bought "for Rosh Hashana?" – Shokhet Jul 15 '15 at 15:42
  • @Shokhet- If it was bought for Rosh Hashana - means it was bought for the use on Rosh Hashana - and when he is there it is his. – C. Ben Yosef Jul 15 '15 at 15:55
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    I just wanted to point out that the question was about where "My shul sells tickets for High Holiday seating." If that means you need to change your answer, then perhaps you should do so. – Shokhet Jul 15 '15 at 15:58
  • Just to confirm understanding of my question. These seats are purchased for seating only Rosh Hashanna / Yom Kippur. – DanF Jul 15 '15 at 16:05
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    @DanF: I think this answers your question, in an even broader context. – Gershon Gold Jul 15 '15 at 16:33

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