Acquiring Rights to a Mitzvah

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In many circumstances the Halacha recognizes a person's right to a mitzvah or honor in shul based on the fact that he did so previously. In practice these halachot are subject to local practice and as such one should consult with the local rabbi.

A Right to a Honor

  1. If someone always used to have an honor in the shul he is entitled to continue to have that honor and no one is allowed to take it away from him. [1]
  2. For example, someone who was a shaliach tzibur for some years he is entitled to continue and may not be deposed from his position without good cause. [2]
  3. If a community left the box of matzah’s for the eruv chatzerot in someone’s house they should leave it in that house and not change it to someone else’s house.[3]
  4. If a person had a shul in his house for many years it is forbidden for the community to change that because the person has the right to the honor of having the shul in his house.[4]

When it is Legitimate to Depose Someone of an Honor

  1. If someone always used to have a certain honor in the shul for free and now the shul decides that they want to auction it off for a donation, according to many poskim, they are entitled to do so and the original person who had the honor loses his right to the honor.[5] However, some poskim argue that they may not do so.[6]

Regaining Your Right to an Honor

  1. If someone used to pay for an honor in the shul, such as to do gelilah, and then he became poor and couldn't continue to pay for that honor, once the person becomes rich again he is entitled to that honor and no one else can take it away from him. That only applies if immediately when he was able to buy the honor again he did so. But if one year when he was able to do so and he decided not to then he lost that right to the honor.[7]

Inheritance on an Honor

  1. If a parent used to have the honor to do a certain mitzvah in the shul the children don’t inherit that honor since there’s no inheritance of mitzvot.[8] Others disagree and say that it depends on the practice of the community. [9]
  2. Some say that the position of rabbi does go in inheritance to a child if he is fitting to replace his father and follows his ways of yirat shamayim.[10] Others disagree.[11]

Sources

  1. Mordechai (Bava Batra 533) quotes the Maharam who says that if someone used to pay for an honor in the shul such as to do gelilah and then he became poor and couldn't continue to pay for that honor once the person becomes rich again he is entitled to that honor and no one else can take it away from him. That only applies if immediately when he was able to buy the honor he did so but if one year when he was able to do so and he decided not to then he lost that right to the honor. His proof is the Tosfot (Yoma 13a s.v. halacha) and Gemara Macot 13a. This is codified by Shulchan Aruch OC 153:22 and Rama CM 149:31.
  2. Rashba 1:300 writes that a person who was previously serving as a shliach tzibur may not be disposed of his position without good cause. In his case he is discussing the details of a particular agreement a shaliach tzibur had with a congregation. Shulchan Aruch OC 53:25 codifies the Rashba.
  3. Mishna Gittin 59a establishes that once a community put a eruv chatzerot in a certain house they have to leave it there as a means of establishing peace because changing it might cause fights. Shulchan Aruch OC 366:3 codifies this halacha.
  4. Maharik 113 infers from the idea of the Mishna Gittin 59a that it is forbidden to switch the house in which the eruv stayed so too if a person had a shul in his house the community may not switch it to another house without his permission because doing so might cause fights. He learns from the gemara that it is logical that person has a right to a honor because he did it previously and no one else can change that unless he has a good reason. And even if he has a good reason he can’t switch it because it’ll cause people to suspect that there was something wrong with the original doer of the honor. Shulchan Aruch OC 153:17 codifies this as the halacha.
  5. Sefer Chasidim (no. 764-5), Mahari Halevi (brother of the Taz, responsa 21), Pitchei Teshuva CM 149:3, Shaar Mishpat CM 149:6
  6. Radvaz 4:11. Biur Halacha 153:23 s.v. aval writes that it is unresolved if we follow the the Sefer Chasidim or Radvaz.
  7. Shulchan Aruch OC 153:22
  8. Mordechai (Bava Batra 834) cited by Bet Yosef 153:22. Gittin 60b states that the honor of the position of being gabbay tzedaka was transferred from Rosh Yeshiva to the next Rosh Yeshiva and not as an inheritance within the family.
  9. Biur Halacha 153:22 s.v. chozer citing the Knesset Hagedola and Chida
  10. Rama YD 245:22 from Rivash 271
  11. Magen Avraham 53:33 from Rashdam 85, Chatom Sofer OC 1:12 writes that there is no such thing as inheritance on spiritual roles such as a shaliach tzibur. He even concludes that a position of a rabbi doesn’t go in inheritance if the community doesn’t want the son to be the rabbi.