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May 28, 2022 | ื›ืดื– ื‘ืื™ื™ืจ ืชืฉืคืดื‘ | TODAY'S DAF: Yevamot 82 - Shabbat May 28

Gefet 22 – The Prohibition of Work on Chol Hamoed

In our first Gefet ย for Tractate Moed Katan, we will discuss the topic that concerns most of the first section of the tractate: the definition of the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed, the intermediate days of a festival. Through an examination of this prohibition, we will investigate a broader disagreement on the nature of laws derived from the Torah in general.

Within the world of halacha, there are well-known halachot, and there are those that appear to have been pushed aside by the public. One of these latter halachot is the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed. The sugya below will help us come to a deeper understanding of the prohibition and why it might have been thus ignored by the public. At the heart of our inquiry will be the question of whether this is a Torah prohibition or a rabbinic prohibition.

The first mishna in our new tractate of Gemara enumerates the forms of labor permitted during the festival:

ืžืฉืงื™ืŸ ื‘ื™ืช ื”ืฉืœื—ื™ืŸ ื‘ืžื•ืขื“ ื•ื‘ืฉื‘ื™ืขื™ืช, ื‘ื™ืŸ ืžืžืขื™ื™ืŸ ืฉื™ืฆื ื‘ืชื—ื™ืœื”, ื‘ื™ืŸ ืžืžืขื™ื™ืŸ ืฉืœื ื™ืฆื ื‘ืชื—ื™ืœื”. ืื‘ืœ ืื™ืŸ ืžืฉืงื™ืŸ ืœื ืžืžื™ ื”ื’ืฉืžื™ื, ื•ืœื ืžืžื™ ื”ืงื™ืœื•ืŸ. ื•ืื™ืŸ ืขื•ืฉื™ืŸ ืขื•ื’ื™ื•ืช ืœื’ืคื ื™ื…..

MISHNA: One may irrigate a field that requires irrigation on a festival and during the Sabbatical Year, both from a newly emerged spring and from a spring that did not just emerge. However, one may not irrigate with rainwater, or with water drawn with a kilon [a lever used to raise water with a bucket from deep down in a well]. And one may not construct circular ditches around the bases of grapevinesโ€ฆ

Rashiโ€™s explanation introduces a boundary that will prove crucial for our learning:

ืฉื“ื” ืฉื”ื™ื ืขื•ืžื“ืช ื‘ื”ืจ, ื•ืฆืจื™ืš ืœื”ืฉืงื•ืชื” ืชืžื™ื“ – ืžืฉืงื™ืŸ ืื•ืชื”, ืืคื™ืœื• ื‘ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“, ืœืคื™ ืฉื”ื•ื ืœื• ื”ืคืกื“ ื’ื“ื•ืœ ืื ืื™ื ื• ืžืฉืงื” ืื•ืชื”, ื•ื“ื‘ืจ ืฉืœ ื”ืคืกื“ ื”ืชื™ืจื• ื—ื›ืžื™ื ืœื˜ืจื•ื— ื‘ื• ื‘ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“, ื›ืžื• ืฉืื ื• ืžื•ืฆืื™ืŸ ื‘ืžืกื›ืช ื—ื’ื™ื’ื” (ื™ื—, ื), ื“ื›ืชื™ื‘ (ื“ื‘ืจื™ื ื˜ื–): ืฉืฉืช ื™ืžื™ื ืชืื›ืœ ืžืฆื•ืช ื•ื‘ื™ื•ื ื”ืฉื‘ื™ืขื™ ืขืฆืจืช ืœื”’ ืืœื”ื™ืš ืžื” ืฉื‘ื™ืขื™ ืขืฆื•ืจ ื‘ืขืฉื™ื™ืช ืžืœืื›ื” – ืืฃ ืฉืฉื” ืขืฆื•ืจื™ื ื‘ืขืฉื™ื™ืช ืžืœืื›ื”, ืื™ ืžื” ืฉื‘ื™ืขื™ ืขืฆื•ืจ ื‘ื›ืœ ืžืœืื›ื” – ืืฃ ืฉืฉื” ืขืฆื•ืจื™ืŸ ื‘ื›ืœ ืžืœืื›ื”, ืชืœืžื•ื“ ืœื•ืžืจ: ื”ืฉื‘ื™ืขื™ – ืฉื‘ื™ืขื™ ืขืฆื•ืจ ื‘ื›ืœ ืžืœืื›ื”, ื•ืื™ืŸ ืฉืฉื” ืขืฆื•ืจื™ืŸ ื‘ื›ืœ ืžืœืื›ื”, ื”ื ืœื ืžืกืจืŸ ื”ื›ืชื•ื‘ ืืœื ืœื—ื›ืžื™ื, ืœื•ืžืจ ืœืš ืื™ื–ื• ืžืœืื›ื” ืืกื•ืจื” ื‘ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“ ื•ืื™ ื–ื• ืžื•ืชืจืช, ื•ืžืœืื›ื” ืฉื™ืฉ ื‘ื” ื”ืคืกื“ ืื ืื™ื ื• ืขื•ืฉื” ืื•ืชื”, ื›ื’ื•ืŸ ืœื”ืฉืงื•ืช ื‘ื™ืช ื”ืฉืœื—ื™ืŸ – ื”ืชื™ืจื• ื—ื›ืžื™ื.

A field that stands on a mountain, and must be watered constantly โ€“ we water it, even on Chol haMoed, because it will cause the owner significant financial loss if he does not water it, and the sages permitted exertion on Chol haMoed in matters of financial loss, as we see in Tractate Hagiga 18a:

The verse states: โ€œSix days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly for the Lord your God; on it, you shall do no workโ€ (Deuteronomy 16:8). If so, just as the seventh day of the Festival is precluded from the performance of labor, so are the six intermediate Festival days precluded, since the word โ€œandโ€ in the phrase โ€œand on the seventh dayโ€ connects it to the previous days.If so, perhaps: Just as the seventh day is precluded from the performance of all labor, so too the six intermediate days are precluded from the performance of all labor, even those whose performance prevents irretrievable loss.The verse therefore states: โ€œAnd on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly,โ€ literally, pause. This indicates that the seventh day alone is precluded from the performance of all labor, but the other six days are not precluded from the performance of all labor but only from certain forms of work. Since the Bible does not specify which types of work are prohibited, the verse has therefore entrusted the matter to the Sages exclusively, to tell you on which day work is prohibited and on which day it is permitted, and similarly which labor is prohibited and which labor is permitted.

And labor that will lead to financial loss if it is not performed, such as watering a field that requires irrigation, is permitted by the Sages.

Rashi directs us to Hagiga 18, which reminds us that a Torah law prohibits labor on Chol haMoed, but the Torah โ€œentrusted the matter to the Sages.โ€ This is a special situation: a Torah law whose boundaries are defined by the Sages. Perhaps at first glance Rashiโ€™s statement here seems unremarkable, as, in a certain sense, all Torah laws were given over to the interpretation of the Sages. However, let us put it more sharply: Here, the Gemara maintains that the Torah itself gave the Sages the power to define the boundaries of the law. This is a Torah law that is nonetheless humane and flexible.

The phrase โ€œentrusted the matter to the sagesโ€ leads to significant disagreement between the early commentators, the rishonim. This disagreement takes place on both a halachic and a theoretical level:

  1. Halachic: Is the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed a Torah prohibition or a rabbinic prohibition? This question will have numerous practical ramifications (e.g., in matters of sfekot, cases where the status of something is in doubt).
  2. Theoretical: Can the Torah really give the Sages the power to construct a Torah law?

An articulation of this disagreement can be found in Ritvaโ€™s commentary on our sugya:

ื•ืื™ื›ื ืคืœื•ื’ืชื ื‘ื™ื ื™ ืจื‘ื•ื•ืชื ื–”ืœ ืื™ ืื™ื›ื ืื™ืกื•ืจื ื“ืื•ืจื™ื™ืชื ื‘ืžืœืื›ื” ื‘ืžื•ืขื“ ื›ืœืœ, ื•ืื™ื›ื ืž”ื“ ืฉื™ืฉ ืื™ืกื•ืจ ืชื•ืจื” ื‘ื›ืœ ืฉืื™ื ื• ื“ื‘ืจ ื”ืื‘ื“ ื•ืฉืœื ืœืฆื•ืจืš ื”ืžื•ืขื“ ื›ืœืœ ….ื•ื–ื• ืฉื™ื˜ืช ืจื‘ื™ื ื• ื”ืจืžื‘”ืŸ ื–”ืœ.

ืื‘ืœ ื‘ืขืœ ื”ืœื›ื•ืช ื’ื“ื•ืœื•ืช ื–”ืœ ื›ืชื‘ ืฉืื™ืŸ ืื™ืกื•ืจ ืžืœืื›ื” ื‘ืžื•ืขื“ ืืœื ืžื“ืจื‘ื ืŸ ื‘ืขืœืžื… ื•ืจื‘ื™ื ื• ืžืฉื” ื–”ืœ ื›ืš ื›ืชื‘ ื›ื“ื‘ืจื™ ื‘ืขืœ ื”ืœื›ื•ืช ื–”ืœ ื•ื›ืŸ ืจ”ืช ื–”ืœ ื•ื‘ืขืœื™ ื”ืชื•ืกืคื•ืช ื–”ืœ..

ื•ืืขืค”ื› ื›ื“ื‘ืจื™ ืจืฉ”ื™ ื–”ืœ ื•ืจื‘ื™ื ื• ื”ืจืžื‘”ืŸ ื–”ืœ ื ืจืื” ืขื™ืงืจ

There is a disagreement between our Sages zโ€l: Is there a Torah prohibition of labor for the whole of the festival? There are those who say that there is a Torah prohibition against all forms of labor except those that will lead to loss and those connected to the needs of the festivalโ€ฆ This is the position of Ramban. But the Bahag wrote that the prohibition of labor on the festival is exclusively a rabbinic prohibitionโ€ฆ and Rambam wrote in accordance with the Bahag, as did Rabbenu Tam and the Tosafotโ€ฆ

 

Nonetheless, according to Rashi and our Sages, Ramban appears to be correct.

Ritva provides us with an overview of the disagreement between the rishonim:

Ramban and perhaps Rashi adopt the view that the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed is a Torah prohibition; thus, labor that is not required to avoid loss or necessary for the festival is forbidden by the Torah. By contrast, the Bahag, Rabbenu Tam, and Rambam maintain that this is a rabbinic prohibition.

There is no doubt that the publicโ€™s observance of the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed is far from the position advocated by Rashi and the Ramban. Certainly, the public does not seem to relate to this as a Torah prohibition. However, at the end of his remarks, Ritva takes the side of Rashi and Ramban, and lends additional weight to their approach. Ritvaโ€™s commentary goes on to provide additional proofs for each side. We will summarize his commentary on the sugya; in doing so, we will see that, at its core, this is a disagreement between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi Talmuds. Nonetheless, the various rishonim managed to achieve consistency within their stances, each one explaining all the available sources in accordance with his position.

  1. Rashi and Ramban โ€“ The prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed is a Torah prohibition

The approach espoused by Rashi, Ramban, and Ritva is based not only on the Gemara on Hagiga 18a cited by Rashi above, but also on the Gemara on Moed Katan 11b:

ืžืฉื ื”: ืžื™ ืฉื”ืคืš ืืช ื–ื™ืชื™ื•, ื•ืื™ืจืขื• ืื‘ืœ ืื• ืื•ื ืก, ืื• ืฉื”ื˜ืขื•ื”ื• ืคื•ืขืœื™ื – ื˜ื•ืขืŸ ืงื•ืจื” ืจืืฉื•ื ื”, ื•ืžื ื™ื—ื” ืœืื—ืจ ื”ืžื•ืขื“, ื“ื‘ืจื™ ืจื‘ื™ ื™ื”ื•ื“ื”. ืจื‘ื™ ื™ื•ืกื™ ืื•ืžืจ: ื–ื•ืœืฃ ื•ื’ื•ืžืจ ื•ื’ืฃ ื›ื“ืจื›ื•.

MISHNA: One who had already turned over his olives as part of the process of preparing them for pressing, and mourning for a close relative befell him and as a result he was prohibited from engaging in work, or some other unavoidable accident occurred, or his workers misled him, promising to come but failing to do so, so that he could not press his olives before the Festival. Under these circumstances, during the intermediate days of the Festival, he may place the olives in the press and load the beam with weights for the initial pressing of the olives and leave it this way until after the Festival; this is the statement of Rabbi Yehuda.

Rabbi Yosei says: He may press the olives and complete the process and then plug each barrel of oil in its usual manner.

ื’ืžืจื: ืคืชื— ื‘ืื‘ืœ ื•ืกื™ื™ื ื‘ืžื•ืขื“! ืืžืจ ืจื‘ ืฉื™ืฉื ื‘ืจื™ื” ื“ืจื‘ ืื™ื“ื™: ื–ืืช ืื•ืžืจืช ื“ื‘ืจื™ื ื”ืžื•ืชืจื™ืŸ ื‘ืžื•ืขื“ – ืืกื•ืจื™ื ื‘ื™ืžื™ ืื‘ืœื•. ืจื‘ ืืฉื™ ืืžืจ: ืœื ืžื™ื‘ืขื™ื ืงืืžืจ: ืœื ืžื™ื‘ืขื™ื ื‘ื™ืžื™ ืื‘ืœื• ื“ืžื“ืจื‘ื ืŸ ื”ื•ื, ื•ืฉืจื™, ืืœื ืืคื™ืœื• ื‘ืžื•ืขื“, ื“ืื™ืกื•ืจ ืžืœืื›ื” ืžื“ืื•ืจื™ื™ืชื, ื‘ืžืงื•ื ืคืกื™ื“ื – ืฉืจื• ืจื‘ื ืŸ.

GEMARA: The mishna opens with mourning and ends with the Festival, leaving the connection between them unclear. Rav Sheisha, son of Rav Idi, said: That is to say: Actions that are permitted on the intermediate days of a Festival are prohibited during the days of oneโ€™s mourning.

Rav Ashi said that the mishna is speaking utilizing the didactic style of: It is not necessary, and he is teaching two separate halakhot, one about mourning and the other about the Festival: It is not necessary to state that during the days of his mourning, when the prohibition against labor is rabbinic, it is permitted to perform labor that, if delayed, could cause serious loss; but even on the intermediate days of the Festival, when the prohibition against performing labor is by Torah law, performing such labor is permitted because in a case of a loss the Sages permitted it.

The Mishna on 11b discusses two situations in which there is a prohibition of labor: the prohibition of labor during mourning, and the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed. The Gemara questions the connection between these two prohibitions, seemingly distant from one another. Rav Ashi explains that the goal of the Mishna is to emphasize that the Sages permitted labor in cases of serious loss, both for labor prohibited by rabbinic decree and labor prohibited by the Torah. The example provided for labor prohibited by the Torah is labor prohibited on Chol haMoed. Indeed, Rashi presents this reading as the simple reading of the sugya:

ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“ ื“ืืกื™ืจื ื‘ื™ื” ืžืœืื›ื” ืžื“ืื•ืจื™ื™ืชื, ื“ื›ืชื™ื‘ (ืฉืžื•ืช ื›ื’) ืืช ื—ื’ ื”ืžืฆื•ืช ืชืฉืžื•ืจ ืฉื‘ืขืช ื™ืžื™ื – ืœื™ืžื“ ืขืœ ื›ืœ ื”ื—ื’ ืฉื”ื•ื ืืกื•ืจ.

Labor is prohibited on Chol haMoed by the Torah, as it is written (Exodus 23): โ€œYou shall observe the festival of Passover seven daysโ€ โ€“ teaching us that it is prohibited for the entirety of the festival.

Here, Rashi quotes a verse from within the sugya referenced above โ€“ Hagiga 18a. The Gemara there seeks a source for the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed:

ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“ ืืกื•ืจ ื‘ืขืฉื™ื™ืช ืžืœืื›ื”, ืžื ื”ื ื™ ืžื™ืœื™?

From where are these matters derived; what is the biblical source for this prohibition?

ื. ย ย ย ย  ย ื“ืชื ื• ืจื‘ื ืŸ: ืืช ื—ื’ ื”ืžืฆื•ืช ืชืฉืžืจ ืฉื‘ืขืช ื™ืžื™ื, ืœื™ืžื“ ืขืœ ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“ ืฉืืกื•ืจ ื‘ืขืฉื™ื™ืช ืžืœืื›ื”, ื“ื‘ืจื™ ืจื‘ื™ ื™ืืฉื™ื”. ืจื‘ื™ ื™ื•ื ืชืŸ ืื•ืžืจ: ืื™ื ื• ืฆืจื™ืš, ืงืœ ื•ื—ื•ืžืจโ€ฆ

  1. As the Sages taught: โ€œYou shall observe the festival of Passover seven daysโ€ (Exodus 23:15). This teaches that the performance of labor is prohibited during the intermediate Festival days; this is the statement of Rabbi Yoshiyya. Rabbi Yonatan says: This proof is not necessary. Rather, it is learned from an a fortiori inference, as followsโ€ฆ

ื‘. ย ย ย ย  ืชื ื™ื ืื™ื“ืš: ื›ืœ ืžืœืื›ืช ืขื‘ื“ื” ืœื ืชืขืฉื• ืœื™ืžื“ ืขืœ ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“ ืฉืืกื•ืจ ื‘ืขืฉื™ื™ืช ืžืœืื›ื”, ื“ื‘ืจื™ ืจื‘ื™ ื™ื•ืกื™ ื”ื’ืœื™ืœื™. ืจื‘ื™ ืขืงื™ื‘ื ืื•ืžืจ: ืื™ื ื• ืฆืจื™ืš, ื”ืจื™ ื”ื•ื ืื•ืžืจ ืืœื” ืžื•ืขื“ื™ ื”’ ื•ื’ื•’; ื‘ืžื” ื”ื›ืชื•ื‘ ืžื“ื‘ืจ? ืื ื‘ืจืืฉื•ืŸ – ื”ืจื™ ื›ื‘ืจ ื ืืžืจ ืฉื‘ืชื•ืŸ, ืื ื‘ืฉื‘ื™ืขื™ – ื”ืจื™ ื›ื‘ืจ ื ืืžืจ ืฉื‘ืชื•ืŸ. ื”ื ืื™ืŸ ื”ื›ืชื•ื‘ ืžื“ื‘ืจ ืืœื ื‘ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“, ืœืœืžื“ืš ืฉืืกื•ืจ ื‘ืขืฉื™ื™ืช ืžืœืื›ื”.

  1. It is taught in another baraita concerning the same topic: With regard to the first day of Passover and Sukkot, the verse states: โ€œYou shall do no kind of laborious workโ€ (Leviticus 23:35), followed by โ€œseven days, you shall bring an offering made by fire to the Lord,โ€ which teaches that the performance of labor is prohibited during the intermediate Festival days; this is the statement of Rabbi Yosei the Galilean. Rabbi Akiva says: This is not necessary, since it is stated earlier in that chapter: โ€œThese are the appointed Festivals of the Lord, holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their appointed seasonโ€ (Leviticus 23:4). With regard to what is the verse speaking? If it is referring to the first day of the Festival, it has already explicitly stated โ€œa solemn restโ€ (Leviticus 23:39) with regard to that day; if it is referring to the seventh, it has already stated โ€œa solemn restโ€ (Leviticus 23:39) with regard to that day as well. Therefore, the verse can be speaking only of the intermediate Festival days, teaching you that the performance of labor is prohibited on them.

ื’.ย  ย ย ย ย  ืชื ื™ื ืื™ื“ืš: ืฉืฉืช ื™ืžื™ื ืชืื›ืœ ืžืฆื•ืช ื•ื‘ื™ื•ื ื”ืฉื‘ื™ืขื™ ืขืฆืจืช ืœื”’ ืžื” ืฉื‘ื™ืขื™ ืขืฆื•ืจ – ืืฃ ืฉืฉืช ื™ืžื™ื ืขืฆื•ืจื™ืŸ, ืื™ ืžื” ืฉื‘ื™ืขื™ ืขืฆื•ืจ ื‘ื›ืœ ืžืœืื›ื” – ืืฃ ืฉืฉืช ื™ืžื™ื ืขืฆื•ืจื™ืŸ ื‘ื›ืœ ืžืœืื›ื”? ืชืœืžื•ื“ ืœื•ืžืจ: ื•ื‘ื™ื•ื ื”ืฉื‘ื™ืขื™ ืขืฆืจืช – ื”ืฉื‘ื™ืขื™ ืขืฆื•ืจ ื‘ื›ืœ ืžืœืื›ื”, ื•ืื™ืŸ ืฉืฉื” ื™ืžื™ื ืขืฆื•ืจื™ืŸ ื‘ื›ืœ ืžืœืื›ื”.

ื”ื ืœื ืžืกืจืŸ ื”ื›ืชื•ื‘ ืืœื ืœื—ื›ืžื™ื, ืœื•ืžืจ ืœืš ืื™ื–ื” ื™ื•ื ืืกื•ืจ ื•ืื™ื–ื” ื™ื•ื ืžื•ืชืจ, ืื™ื–ื• ืžืœืื›ื” ืืกื•ืจื” ื•ืื™ื–ื• ืžืœืื›ื” ืžื•ืชืจืช.

  1. It is taught in another baraita: The verse states: โ€œSix days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly for the Lord your God; on it, you shall do no workโ€ (Deuteronomy 16:8). If so, just as the seventh day of the Festival is precluded from the performance of labor, so are the six intermediate Festival days precluded, since the word โ€œandโ€ in the phrase โ€œand on the seventh dayโ€ connects it to the previous days.If so, perhaps: Just as the seventh day is precluded from the performance of all labor, so too the six intermediate days are precluded from the performance of all labor, even those whose performance prevents irretrievable loss. The verse therefore states: โ€œAnd on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly,โ€ literally, pause. This indicates that the seventh day alone is precluded from the performance of all labor, but the other six days are not precluded from the performance of all labor but only from certain forms of work.

Since the Bible does not specify which types of work are prohibited, the verse has therefore entrusted the matter to the Sages exclusively, to tell you on which day work is prohibited and on which day it is permitted, and similarly which labor is prohibited and which labor is permitted.

ื”ื’ืžืจื ื‘ื—ื’ื™ื’ื” ืื•ืžืจืช ืฉืžื•ืกื›ื ืขืœ ื›ื•ืœื ืฉื—ื•ืœ ื”ืžื•ืขื“ ืืกื•ืจ ื‘ืžืœืื›ื” ืื•ืœื ืฉื•ืืœืช “ืžื ื”ื ื™ ืžื™ืœื™” โ€“ ื”ืฉืืœื” ื”ื–ื• ื”ื™ื ืฉืืœื” ื”ืžืฆื‘ื™ืขื” ืขืœ ื›ืš ืฉื”ื’ืžืจื ืžื ื™ื—ื” ืฉืžื“ื•ื‘ืจ ื‘ื“ื™ืŸ ื“ืื•ืจื™ื™ืชื ื•ืฉืื•ืœืช ืžื” ื”ืžืงื•ืจ ื‘ืคืกื•ืงื™ื ืœืื™ืกื•ืจ. ื•ื‘ืืžืช ื‘ืชืฉื•ื‘ื”, ื”ื’ืžืจื ืžื‘ื™ืื” ืฉืœื•ืฉ ื‘ืจื™ื™ืชื•ืช ืฉื‘ื›ืœ ืื—ืช ืžื”ืŸ ื™ืฉ ื”ืฆืขื•ืช ืฉื•ื ื•ืช ืœืœื™ืžื•ื“ ื”ืžืงื•ืจ. ื”ืžืฉื•ืชืฃ ืœื›ืœ ื”ืœื™ืžื•ื“ื™ื ื”ื•ื ืฉื”ื ืžืชื‘ืกืกื™ื ืขืœ ืœืžื™ื“ื” ืžืคืกื•ืงื™ื ื•ืžืžื™ืœื ื ืจืื” ืฉืžื“ื•ื‘ืจ ืขืœ ื“ื™ืŸ ื“ืื•ืจื™ื™ืชื. ืจืฉ”ื™ ื‘ื“ืฃ ื™ื ืฆื™ื˜ื˜ ื‘ืจืืฉื•ื ื” ืืช ื“ืขืช ืจื‘ื™ ื™ืืฉื™ื” ื‘ื‘ืจื™ื™ืชื ืฉืœื•ืžื“ ืžื”ืคืกื•ืง โ€“ “ืืช ื—ื’ ื”ืžืฆื•ืช ืชืฉืžืจ ืฉื‘ืขืช ื™ืžื™ื” ืฉื™ืฉ ืื™ืกื•ืจ ืžืœืื›ื” ื›ืœ ืฉื‘ืขืช ื”ื™ืžื™ื ื›ืœื•ืžืจ ื’ื ื‘ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“.

According to the Gemara in Hagiga, there is a consensus that labor is prohibited on Chol haMoed. However, the Gemara seeks the source of this prohibition. The very question โ€“ โ€œfrom where are these matters derived?โ€ โ€“ indicates that the Gemara assumes that this is a Torah prohibition, as it attempts to locate the Torah verses that are the source for the prohibition. All of the explanations provided are derived from Torah verses; as such, it would appear that the law in question is a Torah law. Rashi on Moed Katan 11b quotes the opinion of Rabbi Yoshiyya, who comes to the conclusion that labor is prohibited on Chol haMoed from the verse โ€œYou shall observe the festival of Passover seven daysโ€; he understands from this verse that labor is prohibited for the full seven days of Passover โ€“ that is, including Chol haMoed.

Ritva brings an additional proof for the approach of Rashi and Ramban from Avodah Zarah 21, which debates the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed, and states that the prohibition against โ€œplacing a stumbling block before the blindโ€ applies to it. Ritva claims that the injunction against โ€œplacing a stumbling blockโ€ is relevant only to Torah laws and not to rabbinic decrees; therefore, in our sugya as well, the mention of this injunction constitutes proof that the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed is a Torah prohibition.

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  1. Rabbenu Tam โ€“ The prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed is a rabbinic decree

Tosafot presents the opinion of Rabbenu Tam on the sugya in Hagiga. We will examine the beginning of his remarks:

ืœื›ืื•ืจื” ืžืฉืžืข ื“ืžืœืื›ื” ื“ืžื™ืชืกืจื ื‘ื™ื” ืžื“ืื•ืจื™ื™ืชื ื“ืžืคื™ืง ืœื™ื” ืžืคืกื•ืง ื•ื›ืŸ ื‘ืคืจืง ื‘’ ื“ืžื•”ืง (ื“ืฃ ื™ื: ื•ืฉื) ืœื ืžื™ื‘ืขื™ื ืื‘ืœ ื“ืžื“ืจื‘ื ืŸ ืืœื ืืคื™ืœื• ื—ื•ืฉ”ืž ื“ืื•ืจื™ื™ืชื ื•ื›ืŸ ืคื™’ ื”ืชื ื‘ืงื•ื ื˜ืจืก ื•ืงืฉื” ืœืจ”ืช ื“ื”ื› ื“ื‘ืจ ื”ืื‘ื“ ื•ื›ืžื” ืžืœืื›ื•ืช ื“ืฉืจื™ื ืŸ ื”ืชื ื”ื™ื›ื™ ืžืฉืชืจื• ื•ื›ื™ ื”ื™ื›ืŸ ืžืฆื™ื ื• ืื™ืกื•ืจ ื“ืื•ืจื™ื™ืชื ืžืงืฆืชื• ืืกื•ืจ ื•ืžืงืฆืชื• ืžื•ืชืจ …..

Ostensibly, it seems that the prohibition of labor is a Torah prohibition, as it is learned from a Torah verse; thus in the second chapter of Moed Katan (11) [mourning, which is a rabbinic prohibition, is differentiated from Chol haMoed, which is a Torah prohibitionย ]. Rashi interprets the sugya thus.

And Rabbenu Tam objects, for if this is so, how did the Sages permit labor in cases of serious loss, and in the various other instances of labor that they permitted? How can there be a Torah prohibition that is somewhat forbidden and somewhat permitted??

Rabbenu Tam objects to Rashiโ€™s position, because according to his claim, there cannot be a Torah prohibition that is somewhat forbidden and somewhat permitted โ€“ and the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed is a prohibition of this kind. Rabbenu Tam goes on to prove his approach; he reinterprets all the passages brought as evidence by Rashi, then brings additional proof for his claim from the Yerushalmi Talmud. (See Ritva on the sugya, which explains Rabbenu Tamโ€™s position in simple terms.) Here are the basic principles of Rabbenu Tamโ€™s stance:

  1. The verses presented by Hagiga 18a are not sources for the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed, but only support for the prohibition.
  2. The injunction against โ€œplacing a stumbling block before the blindโ€ can also apply to certain rabbinic decrees. What distinguishes these rabbinic decrees from the rest? To examine this question, we will turn to the Tosafot on Hagiga 18a:

ื•ื”ื ื“ืืžืจื™ื ืŸ ื’ื‘ื™ ื›ื•ืชื™ื ื•ืชื™ืคื•ืง ืœื™ื” ืžืฉื•ื ืœืคื ื™ ืขื•ืจ ืœื ืชืชืŸ ืžื›ืฉื•ืœ ื‘ืžืœืื›ื” ื“ื—ื•ืฉ”ืž ืžืฉื•ื ื“ืกืžืš ืคืฉื˜ื ื“ืงืจื ื”ื•ื™ ื•ื”ื•ื™ ืœื™ื” ืฆื“ื•ืงื™ืŸ ืžื•ื“ื™ืŸ ื‘ื”.

And this is what we said with regard to Gentiles [in Avodah Zarah 21a] โ€“ we learned there that โ€œdo not place a stumbling block before the blindโ€ applied to labor on Chol haMoed, because [this prohibition] relies on the simple meaning of the Torah verses, and therefore the Sadducees also acknowledge it.

Chol haMoed may be a rabbinic decree, but it is a rabbinic decree to which even the Sadducees assent, because it relies on numerous verses of Torah. Therefore, it has the status of a โ€œstrong rabbinic decreeโ€ โ€“ a rabbinic decree that resembles a Torah law.

  1. As proof, Rabbenu Tam brings the words of Rabbi Abba bar Mamal from the second chapter of Moed Katan in the Yerushalmi:

ื”ืจ ื‘ื ื‘ืจ ืžืžืœ ืื™ืœื• ื”ื™ื” ืœื™ ืžื™ ืฉื™ื•ืžื ื” ืขืžื™ ื”ื™ืชืจืชื™ ืฉื™ื”ื• ืขื•ืฉื™ืŸ ืžืœืื›ื” ื‘ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“. …ื›ืœื•ื ืืกืจื• ืœืขืฉื•ืช ืžืœืื›ื” ื‘ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“ ืืœื ื›ื“ื™ ืฉื™ื”ื• ืื•ื›ืœื™ืŸ ื•ืฉื•ืชื™ืŸ ื•ื™ื’ื™ืขื™ืŸ ื‘ืชื•ืจื” ื•ืื™ื ื•ืŸ ืื•ื›ืœื™ืŸ ื•ืฉืชื™ืŸ ื•ืคื—ื–ื™ืŸ.

Rabbi Abba bar Mamal said, If there were somebody who would vote with meโ€ฆ I would permit work on the intermediate days of the holidayโ€ฆ Work was forbidden on the intermediate days of the holiday so that they should eat, and drink, and exert themselves in Torah; but they eat, and drink, and behave wantonly.

Rabbi Abba bar Mamal seeks out sages who will join forces with him to cancel the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed, because the entire reason for the prohibition is so that they will eat and drink and learn Torah โ€“ but because the people rather eat and drink and behave wantonly, it would be preferable for them to go to work. The Yerushalmi explains that this is a rabbinic prohibition with a defined aim, not a Torah prohibition; rabbinic prohibitions can be canceled by the vote of a beit din, while Torah prohibitions cannot be undone in this manner.

How does the Ritva handle Rabbenu Tamโ€™s proof from the Yerushalmi? He explains thus:

ื•ื”ื™ืจื•ืฉืœืžื™ ืฉืืžืจื ื• ืืคื™’ ืœืคืฉื•ื˜ื• ืื™ืŸ ืœื ื• ืœื“ื—ื•ืช ื“ื‘ืจื™ ืชืœืžื•ื“ ื‘ื‘ืœื™ ืฉืœื ื• ืžืคื ื™ ื“ื‘ืจื™ ื”ื™ืจื•ืฉืœืžื™ ื•ืœื ื“ื‘ืจื™ ืจ’ ื™ื•ื—ื ืŸ ื•ืจ”ืœ ืžืคื ื™ ื“ื‘ืจื™ ืจ’ ืื‘ื ื‘ืจ ืžืžืœ, ื•ื›”ืฉ ืฉื™ืฉ ืœื ื• ืœื•ืžืจ ื›ื™ ืžืคื ื™ ืฉืจื•ื‘ ืžืœืื›ื•ืช ื“ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“ ื”ื•ื ืžื“ื‘ืจื™ื”ื ืืžืจ ื›ืŸ, ืฉื”ืจื™ ื›ืœ ืฉื”ื•ื ื“ื‘ืจ ื”ืื‘ื“ ืžื•ืชืจ ืžืŸ ื”ืชื•ืจื” ืืคื™’ ื‘ื˜ื•ืจื— ื’ื“ื•ืœ ื•ื›ืœ ืฆืจื›ื™ ื”ืžื•ืขื“ ื’”ื› ื‘ื™ืŸ ื‘ืฆื™ื ืขื ื‘ื™ืŸ ื‘ืคืจื”ืกื™ื ื•ื‘ืžืœืื›ืช ืื•ืžืŸ ื•ืฉืœื ื‘ืฉื™ื ื•ื™ ื•ื—ื›ืžื™ื ืืกืจื• ืžืฉื•ื ื’ื“ืจ ื•ืกื™ื™ื’ ื›ืžื” ื“ื‘ืจื™ื ื‘ื–ื”, ืœืคื™ื›ืš ื”ื™ื” ืื•ืžืจ ืจื‘ื™ ืื‘ื ื›ื™ ืื™ืœื• ื”ื™ื” ืžื™ ืฉื™ืžื ื” ืขืžื• ื”ื™ื” ืžืชื™ืจ ื›ืœ ืžืœืื›ื•ืช ืฉืœ ื“ื‘ืจื™ื”ื ื›ื“ื™ ืฉืœื ื™ื”ื• ื‘ื˜ืœื™ืŸ ื›ื™ ื”ื‘ื˜ืœื” ืžื‘ื™ืื” ืื•ืชื ืœื™ื“ื™ ืคื—ื™ื–ื•ืช, ื”ื ืขื™ืงืจ ืžืœืื›ื” ื‘ื—ื•ืœื• ืฉืœ ืžื•ืขื“ ื“ืื•ืจื™ื™ืชื ื”ื™ื ื‘ื“ื‘ืจ ืฉืื™ื ื• ืื‘ื“ ืฉืœื ืœืฆื•ืจืš ื”ืžื•ืขื“ ื•ืžืกืจื• ื”ื›ืชื•ื‘ ืœื—ื›ืžื™ื ื•ืœื”ื•ื“ื™ืขื ื• ืฉื–ื” ืืกื•ืจ ื•ื”ืฉืืจ ืžื•ืชืจ ื•ื”ื ื”ืคืจื™ื–ื• ื•ืืกืจื• ื“ื‘ืจื™ื ืืคื™ืœื• ื‘ืžื” ืฉื”ืชื™ืจื” ืœื”ื ืชื•ืจื” ืžืฉื•ื ืžืฉืžืจืช ืœืžืฉืžืจืชื™ ื›ืžื• ืฉืขืฉื• ื‘ืฉืืจ ื’ื•ืคื™ ืชื•ืจื”, ื•ื–ื” ื ืจืื” ื‘ืจื•ืจ ื•ื›ืŸ ื“ืขืช ืจื‘ื•ืชื™ ืฉื™ื—ื™ื•.

And as for the Yerushalmiโ€ฆ we cannot uproot the words of the Bavli because of the words of the Yerushalmi, nor can we uproot the words of Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish because of the words of Rabbi Abba bar Mamal. And all the more so when we must state that most of the labors of Chol haMoed were from the words of the Sages, as labors involving serious financial loss were permitted by the Torah even in cases of great exertion, as were all the needs of the festival, whether in private or in public, and the work of artisans even without a shinui. It was the Sages who forbade a number of these things in order to build a protective fence around the Torah. Thus, Rabbi Abba said that if he had others who would vote with him, he would permit all the labors specified by the Sages, so that the people would not be idle, for idleness leads them to wanton behavior. The core prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed is from the Torah, and concerns labors that do not involve financial loss and are not necessary for the festival. In this case, the Torah entrusted the matter to the Sages, and alerted them that this is prohibited and the rest is permitted. And the Sages expanded the prohibition and forbade other things, even things that the Torah permitted, for the sake of โ€œyou shall keep my chargeโ€ (Leviticus 18:30), as they did in the rest of the Torah. This appears clear, and it is the opinion of my teachers, may they live long.

The Ritva claims that labor involving serious financial loss and labor necessary for the festival were never prohibited by the Torah at all. The Torah provided the Sages with the ability to influence the prohibition, and the Sages were stringent; they demanded a shinui, a way of performing the labor that is not the norm, in labors involving serious financial loss, and prohibited the labors of artisans. Rabbi Abba bar Mamal wished to permit labor in these two specific cases, not in all cases where labor is not necessary for the festival and/or does not involve serious financial loss.

We will now summarize the disagreement, emphasizing the new principles introduced by each reading of the sugyot, particularly in their definitions of โ€œโ€œentrusted the matter to the Sages,โ€ โ€œplacing a stumbling block before the blind,โ€ and what constitutes labor on Chol haMoed.

  1. Readings of the Sugyot:
  1. Rashi and Ramban read the sugyot in the Bavli (Moed Katan, Hagiga, and Avodah Zarah) according to their simple meaning. They tend to either disagree with the sugya in the Yerushalmi and claim that there is a disagreement between the two Talmuds, or reinterpret the Yerushalmi, as suggested by the Ritva.
  2. Rabbenu Tam relies heavily on the Yerushalmi; as such, the Bavli in Moed Katan presents a challenge for him. Rabbenu Tam explains the Gemara in Hagiga as an attempt to find verses that serve as support for the prohibition, not as an attempt to locate the source of the prohibition. In the sugya in Avodah Zarah, which touches on โ€œplacing a stumbling block before the blind,โ€ he provides a radical new explanation, which we will describe in detail below.
  1. Is the basic prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed (in cases that do not involve financial loss or the needs of the festival) a Torah prohibition or a rabbinic prohibition?
  1. According to Rashi and Ramban, this is a Torah prohibition, and therefore โ€œdo not place a stumbling block before the blindโ€ applies to it. A Torah prohibition can be a humane and flexible prohibition, and thus can permit labor necessary for the festival or the prevention of serious financial loss.
  2. According to Rabbenu Tam, this is a rabbinic decree; a Torah decree cannot be humane and flexible. However, this is a particularly stringent rabbinic decree, because it relies on multiple verses from the Torah, and therefore the Sadducees โ€“ who hold according to the simple text of the Torah โ€“ also acknowledge that labor is prohibited on Chol haMoed. From a halachic standpoint, this special status causes โ€œdo not place a stumbling block before the blindโ€ to apply to the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed, even though the prohibition is a rabbinic decree and not a Torah prohibition.
  1. How does each approach understand the expression โ€œentrusted the matter to the Sagesโ€ that appears in Hagiga?
  1. According to Rashi and the Ramban, it appears that there are specific instances in which the Sages are empowered to construct a Torah law.
  2. According to Rabbenu Tam, the expression can be understood according to its simple reading: that this is a rabbinic decree.

In all of the approaches, we must note that, whether it is considered a Torah law or a โ€œstrong rabbinic decree,โ€ the prohibition of labor on Chol haMoed is a particularly serious prohibition. Although there are major and expansive leniencies, we must nonetheless be careful to avoid labor that does not prevent financial loss and is not necessary for the festival. Despite the flexibility of this law, we must be careful to maintain its boundaries, and should not be misled by the illusion that it is insignificant.

Translated by Sarah Levin

Rabbanit Yael Shimoni

Rabbanit Shimoni has learned at Migdal Oz, Matan, and the Susi Bradfield Womenโ€™s Institute for Halakhic Leadership at Midreshet Lindenbaum. She holds a BFA from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and a BEd in Torah Shebeโ€™al Peh and Jewish Thought from Herzog College. She is currently studying towards an MA in Jewish Thought Education at Herzog College. Rabbanit Shimoni taught gemara and halakha at Pelech High School and served as a ramit for shana bet at Migdal Oz. She directs Meshivat Nefesh, the online responsa program of the rabbaniyot of Beit Hillel. She is also a plastic artist and member of โ€œA Studio of Her Own.
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