Current Reform Responsa ( Cincinnati, 1969), ♯167
Solomon B. Freehof
QUESTION: At the regular Sabbath service, it is the custom of the congregation to call up two men to recite the blessings over the Torah reading. One Sabbath morning after the service, an officer of the congregation protested the fact that a certain man had been called up to the Torah that day. He said that the man (who was a lawyer) did not have a good reputation in his professional career. Is it justified to debar a man from being called up to the Torah because his character is open to question? Or is his reputation or character irrelevant to his being called to perform this religious function? (Prom C.G.B., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
ANSWER: The question asked is of considerable importance because the answer given to it might well be applied to various other religious functions for which people are called up to the bima. The subject has been discussed sporadically in the literature. Simon ben Zemach Duran ( fourteenth-fifteenth century, Tashbetz II:261) was asked whether unmarried youths may be prohibited from reading the Torah, either because the honor of the Torah requires only mature married adults to be called or because an unmarried youth could not remain clean-minded. He answered that according to the law, a young man is permitted to be called up to the Torah, and adds that even sinners are not forbidden to be called to the Torah; but, nevertheless, if the congregation, in order to make "a fence against evil," desires to forbid certain groups to come up, the congregation is always permitted to do.
Duran is cited in a recent volume of responsa, Mispar HaSofer, by Isaac Zvi Sofer ( Jerusalem, 1961, Responsum 5) not with regard to the calling up of young unmarried men, but with regard to the more characteristically modern question as to whether a public violator of the Sabbath may be called up to the Torah. Sofer follows the decision of Duran, namely, that whatever be the actual rights of the individual in this matter, the congre-