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Selling Aliyos and Zechuyos

On Yom Kippur the Aliyos were auctioned off in the Yeshiva I daven. The starting price was 950 USD and some went up to 4000 USD (Maftir Yona).
At the end the Gabbay said that everbody that bought should please not forget to pay because the last few years a lot of people did not pay.
Then he said they will auction off the zechusim of all the Aliyos of the last few years that have not been paid. And for one dollar more the Rosh Yeshiva will even open up the books. It was auctioned off and for 701 USD somebody bought this.
– how does auctioning aliyos in general work according to halacha? What are you buying? What kind of a kinjan?
– Is it possible to resell the Zechus of the Mizve or the zechus to the debt if you have not been paid?
– Is it possible to resell this bad debt to somebody else?
– what happens if the other person comes to pay back, who would get the money?
– is it allowed to sell bad debts and name the persons to the buyer from lashon hara?


The basic idea of selling aliyos is simply that a person buys the right to be called up for the aliyah.

Receiving an aliyah in during the Tishrei period is considered a special merit, and this is coupled with the merit of paying for it and contributing to the shul or other cause.

A zecus itself, by contrast with a concrete aliyah, is something altogether intangible, and in a formal sense it cannot be sold.

Many discuss in this context how Esau could sell the birthright to Yaakov, however, this involves something concrete – the right to larger portion of the inheritance – and the question focuses on how a “future” inheritance can be sold.

In the case of your shul I’m not sure as to the source or precedent for what they did. Presumably the bidder has actually “paid the debt” of the “bad debtors,” and the shul has foregone the remainder of the debt, so that the original buyers can’t now come back to pay the debts.

Naming the bad debtors will involve a problem of lashon hara.

Best wishes.

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