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January 18, 2022 | ט״ז בשבט תשפ״ב | TODAY'S DAF: Moed Katan 6

Introduction to Moed Katan

 

לזכות לרפואה שלמה לרחל בת גולדא מרים שתחי’ בתוך שאר חולי ישראל

While the first and last days[1] of Sukkot and Pesach are “Yom Tov,” when most melacha is forbidden, the intermediate days, known as Chol HaMoed, have a different status. Chol HaMoed literally means “the ordinary part (chol) of the holiday (moed).”  On these days, there are certain forms of melacha which are permitted. Our masechta, literally, “minor festival,” deals with the definition and delineation of these melachot.

 

Melacha on Chol HaMoed

In general, the melachot forbidden on Shabbat and Yom Tov are also prohibited on Chol HaMoed. Tosafot[2] adds that any work involving excessive exertion is forbidden, even if it is not categorized as a melacha.  The Rosh[3] forbids business transactions because they can lead to excessive effort.  However, there are certain leniencies with regard to Chol HaMoed.

 

Rashi says that the Torah prohibits work on Chol HaMoed but does not specify which types of work are forbidden. It was left up to the sages to specify the types of work that are forbidden. The Ran notes that we do not find any Rishonim that included the prohibition of work on Chol HaMoed as one of the Taryag Mitzvot. The Ran therefore concludes that the prohibition is Rabbinic in nature. The Ramban takes a compromise position. According to him, work on Chol HaMoed is prohibited from the Torah. However any work done for the needs of the holiday or to avoid a monetary loss is permitted. The Rabbis, however, prohibited certain types of work even though they may be included in one of those categories.

 

The following categories of melacha are permitted on Chol HaMoed:

דבר האבד Something that will be lost
אוכל נפש Food for human consumption
פועל שאין לו מה לאוכל A laborer who has nothing to eat
צרכי המועד Yom Tov needs
צרכי רבים Communal needs[4]

 

In general, these factors prohibit work on Chol HaMoed:

מכוון מלאכתו למועד Intentionally scheduling work that can be done before or after the chag for Chol HaMoed instead
טירחא יתירא Excessive exertion
דרך שכירות Working for hire (except for someone who needs the money for food)
פרהסיא In a public setting, where the person may be suspected of violating the laws of Chol HaMoed even though he is permitted to do that work

 

 

 

 

Avot 3:11

רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר הַמּוֹדָעִי אוֹמֵר, הַמְחַלֵּל אֶת הַקָּדָשִׁים, וְהַמְבַזֶּה אֶת הַמּוֹעֲדוֹת, וְהַמַּלְבִּין פְּנֵי חֲבֵרוֹ בָרַבִּים, וְהַמֵּפֵר בְּרִיתוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם, וְהַמְגַלֶּה פָנִים בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁלֹּא כַהֲלָכָה, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּיָדוֹ תוֹרָה וּמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים, אֵין לוֹ חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא:

Rabbi Elazar of Modiin said: one who profanes sacred things, and one who despises the festivals, and one who causes his fellow’s face to blush in public, and one who annuls the covenant of our father Abraham, may he rest in peace, and he who is contemptuous towards the Torah, even though he has to his credit [knowledge of the] Torah and good deeds, he has not a share in the world to come.
Rav Ovadya Bartenura:
וְהַמְבַזֶּה אֶת הַמּוֹעֲדוֹת. יָמִים שֶׁל חֹל הַמּוֹעֵד, עוֹשֶׂה בָּהֶן מְלָאכָה אוֹ נוֹהֵג בָּהֶן מִנְהַג חֹל בַּאֲכִילָה וּשְׁתִיָּה:
“one who desecrates the holidays”: the intermediate days of the festival. He does work on them or treats them according to what is customary to eat and drink on a common day.

 

The discussion of the nature of the holidays leads to a seemingly contradictory concept: The laws of mourning (aveilut) and of excommunication (nidui or cherem). An examination of these laws, however, leads us to realize that there are common bonds:

  • A practical connection: The melachot that are forbidden on Chol HaMoed are also forbidden to a mourner and to someone who is cherem, since he must act like a mourner
  • An intrinsic connection: The laws of Chol HaMoed and of mourning are derived in a parallel manner.

 

The laws of Chol HaMoed and mourning, while based in Torah law, are seen as (in Rav Steinsaltz’ words) “delegated to the Sages.” Thus, these laws are (like many rabbinic laws) seen as circumstance and situation-dependent.  This finds its primary expression in the difference between the prohibition of melacha on the first/last days of the chag (and Shabbat) and on Chol HaMoed.

  • Shabbat/Yom Kippur: All creative labor (as defined in Masechet Shabbat) is forbidden
  • Yom Tov: Similar to Shabbat but some limited exceptions (primarily for food  preparation)
  • Chol HaMoed:[5] No objective prohibition of WORK is prohibited, based on:
    • effort
    • exertion
    • expertise

Since the prohibition of work is not absolute, but rather intended so that the time period will not be treated as an ordinary day, there are leniencies allowed, as noted above:

דבר האבד

Something that will be lost
אוכל נפש Food for human consumption
פועל שאין לו מה לאוכל A laborer who has nothing to eat
צרכי המועד Yom Tov needs
צרכי רבים Communal needs

 

Note that these categories depend on the relationship between the specific person and the labor that s/he needs to perform. The purpose of the prohibition is to allow the person to focus on the meaning of the time period- whether it is one of celebration or sadness. Rav Steinsaltz notes that, unlike the laws of Shabbat, it is difficult to place many of the specific laws under general rubrics, and cites page 12a, which refers to these laws as “sterile” עֲקוּרוֹת, since no general principles or categories can be derived. Instead, each activity must be examined separately to determine if it involves excessive work or makes the day seem “routine.” Then the indispensable needs of the person or community are addressed, as well as unrecoverable loss.

 

Similarly, the laws of aveilut, while mentioned throughout Tanach, are not formulated as absolute laws in those texts. The Rabbis compiled these traditions and customs (for example, tearing clothes, not shaving, etc.), and created general parameters.  This created a framework for the expression of sorrow while at the same time limiting some aspects so that life is not totally neglected.  The mourning process is a gradual one, beginning with aninut (acute mourning), before the burial, when the mourner is exempt from all positive commandments and forbidden to work so that s/he can focus on their grief and deal with the burial, to shiva, when work remains forbidden so that the mourner has the opportunity to think about the loss, express sorrow and be consoled.  As part of this process, there are public manifestations of grief such as sitting on the ground and tearing one’s clothes.  Additionally, the mourner is expected to eschew pleasure and expressions of grandeur, resulting in the prohibition against haircuts and laundry and not wearing tefillin on the first day of shiva.

 

The laws of cherem are related to the laws of mourning, and therefore follow.  The act of excommunication is not simple banishment.  It requires the person to act as if they are in mourning for their lack of affiliation with society. These laws are derived from the laws of the metzora (“leper”), who is also barred from societal contact and is in mourning.

 

The laws of Chol HaMoed and mourning intersect in a very practical way: what happens when aveilut overlaps Shabbat or a holiday? How does one fulfill the mitzva of rejoicing on that day while being obligated to feel sorrow? In general, outward manifestations of mourning are overridden by Shabbat and chagim, while there are some private mourning practices which remain in effect.

 

The structure of the masechta:

Perek 1:

משקין בית השלחין

2a-11a Activities forbidden during Chol HaMoed, whether because they are considered work or because they minimize the joy of the holiday
Perek 2:

מי שהפך

11b-13b Activities that are permitted during Chol HaMoed
Perek 3:

ואלו מגלחין

13b-29a Laws of shaving and writing on Chol HaMoed

Laws of aveilut

Laws of cherem

Laws of tzara’at (as relating to mourning)

 

[1] In Chutz La’Aretz, the first two and the last two…

[2] On 12b and 19a

[3] Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel (1250?-1327). His works focuses on the final practical halacha and omits the discussions of the Talmud.

[4] The Mishna Berura (530:1) adds מעשה הדיוט unskilled work

[5] and during aveilut

Gitta Jaroslawicz-Neufeld

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