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MBY 495:1-4 A General Introduction to Melacha on Yom Tov
MBY 495:1-4 A General Introduction to Melacha on Yom Tov

Intro: Having just completed the bulk of the halachos of Shabbos (b’ezras Hashem!), we are pretty familiar with the complexity of the Thirty-Nine Melachos, right? Not to mention the Rabbinic extensions, right? Well, there is one area of halacha that is, arguably, even more complex than Shabbos…. Yom Tov!! Why? Because some Shabbos laws apply to Yom Tov (most, by the way) and some don’t, and knowing which do and which don’t is the complexity! So, here is our first lesson, where we will try to summarize some of the basic guidelines to Hilchos Yom Tov, as presented in the Shulchan Aruch and Mishnah Berura, with Hashem’s help!

We will sub-divide this siman into five categories: 1) M’leches ‘ochel nefesh’ (lit. “food for the soul”, i.e. the melachos that relate to food preparation)
2) Machshirei ochel nefesh (preparatory actions for food preparation)
3) Two other melachos: hotza’ah (carrying objects outside of the private domain) and hav’arah (kindling)
4) M’leches beheima (the work of one’s animal)
5) Muktzah (goods or objects that may not be eaten or used)

1) M’leches Ochel Nefesh (the melachos that relate to food preparation) The Torah states (Shmos 12:16), regarding the observance of Pesach (and equally applicable to other Yomim Tovim): “On the first day shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day shall be a holy convocation for you, no work may be done on them, except for what must be eaten for any person – only that may be done for you.” (Artscroll Chumash translation) This pasuk forms the Scriptural basis for a major principle in hilchos Yom Tov, namely that certain melachos that are central to food preparation are the permissible exceptions to the general prohibition against melacha on Yom Tov.

Which melachos are permitted and which are not, is not a simple matter, but let us attempt to explain:

Universal: The Mechaber (R’ Yosef Karo, “author” of the Shulchan Aruch) writes that the only melachos associated with ‘ochel nefesh’ that are permitted on Yom Tov are those that are typically done at home in close proximity to the consumption of the food - not those that are done in the field, threshing floor, granary etc. The latter is typically done much in advance and in large quantities, and the food is then generally stored away for future use. This second category includes melachos such as harvesting (‘kotzair’), grinding (‘tochein’), squeezing (‘sochait’) and trapping (‘tzod’). These melachos are not permitted on Yom Tov according to all opinions!

Disputed: Then there are other melacha-actions that one would typically do close to consumption, but they can also be done a day or two in advance and the food will not suffer in freshness or in taste; in fact, it may taste even better after sitting a day or two. While the Mechaber permits these melacha-actions, the Rama prohibits them. In practice, we follow the Rama’s opinion, and consequently, the only melachos which are permitted are those which must be done on the day of Yom Tov itself, or else the taste or freshness of the food will be compromised. That still leaves quite a few melachos that are permitted, notwithstanding the modern methods of refrigeration and storage that we have today. Thus, slaughtering (‘shochait’), cooking (‘bishul’), kneading (‘losh’) and baking (‘ofeh’) fresh breads and cakes are all permitted on Yom Tov! Note: This stringency of the Rama is a Rabbinic fence, intended to get people to work less and relax more on Yom Tov! If a person did not do those melachos that he could/should have before Yom Tov (i.e. the ones which Mechaber permits and Rama prohibits, e.g. stewing fruit, baking hard noodles etc.), he may do them on Yom Tov with a ‘shinui’ (i.e. in an unusual manner) and, under extenuating circumstances, even in the normal manner.

2) Machshirei ochel nefesh (preparatory actions for food preparation) There is a category of melachos that a person does as a preliminary step to food preparation, such as sharpening a spit for roasting. The halacha does not permit any such melachos unless they could not have been done before YomTov, e.g. the spit became dulled on Yom Tov. More on this category is discussed in simanim 508 and 509.

3) Two other melachos: hotza’ah (carrying objects outside of the private domain) and hav’arah (kindling) In addition to m’leches ochel nefesh, such as the ones mentioned above, two additional melachos are permitted in many cases, even if they are performed for non-food purposes. The concept is that since they are permissible for food purposes, they are permitted for other purposes as well, as long as they serve some Yom Tov need. (This is known as the ‘mitoch’ principle – lit. “since”.) More on hotza’ah is discussed in siman 518 and more on hav’ara is discussed in siman 511.

4) Meleches beheima (the work of one’s animal) One may not have his animal carry a heavy load for him on Yom Tov, just as on Shabbos. It may be disputed whether this prohibition is Biblical or Rabbinic; however, all maintain that prohibited it is!

Here are two MBY excerpts which reference the Shabbos law regarding animals (Oooh… I love MBY Archives!):
MBY 246:3 …A Jewish-owned animal may not work on Shabbos – PERIOD! The Torah states (Devarim 5:14), “…in order that your ox and your donkey will rest, just as you do…” From this pasuk, our Sages derive that we are Biblically commanded to ensure that our animals rest from doing melacha on Shabbos!
MBY 305:1-11 The Torah states (Shmos 23:12): “… so that your ox and your donkey may rest…” Rashi asks the question: Does the Torah mean to say that Jewish-owned animals must be made to refrain from melacha just as their owners do – e.g. they may not be allowed to tear up grass, which derives from the melacha of ‘kotzer’ – harvesting? No, it does not mean let it rest from melacha. It means “Allow it to relax, permitting it to tear up and eat your grass from the ground” (Rashi loc. cit.). What the Torah commands is that we not burden our animals with work or heavy loads. Let them be, and permit them to do only what they “want” to do!

5) Muktzah (i.e. goods that may or may not be eaten due to muktzah)
Intro: The challenge here is to determine whether muktzah law treats Shabbos and Yom Tov the same, Shabbos more stringently, or Yom Tov more stringently (!) The answer is: Y-E-S! Let’s begin: One of the categories of muktzah is food that has been set aside (i.e. excluded) from Shabbos or Yom Tov consumption. Thus, although it may technically be edible, it may (or may not) be muktzah.

There are sub-categories to this as well: Sub-category 1: ‘Grogaros u’tzimukim’ (lit. drying figs and grapes) – This category is muktzah on Shabbos according to all opinions. Since a person took these fruits and figuratively “pushed them away with his hands” (as opposed to merely excluding them in thought) by placing them into a secluded area to cure for an extended period of time, they are muktzah on Shabbos, and on Yom Tov as well.

Sub-category 2: In contrast to the previous category, this includes foods that were merely mentally designated for use other than for Shabbos or Yom Tov, e.g. to be sold as merchandise, to be put away in storage, something usable but somewhat undesirable etc. Halacha rules that this category of “muktzah” is permissible on Shabbos! Why were the Sages lenient here? One of the main reasons they prohibited handling (or consuming) muktzah in the first place was to keep people from violating other Shabbos laws. Since people were generally not lax with Shabbos law, the Sages saw fit to permit certain categories, and this is one of them.

Question: Were the Sages lenient with regard to this category of muktzah for Yom Tov as well? That is a dispute between the Mechaber (strict) and the Rama (lenient). The Mechaber’s rationale is as follows: On Yom Tov, when certain melachos are permissible, people are more likely to err in applying halachic guidelines. Were the muktzah laws to be as lenient as on Shabbos, they may err on the side of leniency in other areas as well, and thereby sometimes transgress beyond the scope of what is, in fact, permissible. In order to balance things out, the Sages actually made certain halachos of Yom Tov more strict than those of Shabbos, so that people will think twice before permitting actions on Yom Tov! For example: Suppose someone had a cow (Bessie) that was used for milking (i.e. a non-Yom Tov use) and he decided (on Yom Tov) to slaughter her on Yom Tov for the festive meal. According to the Mechaber, Bessie is muktzah! If her owner wants to slaughter her, the Sages required him to make a formal verbal declaration, before Yom Tov, that Bessie’s milking days are over, and she is hereby slated for Yom Tov slaughter. If he makes this declaration before Yom Tov, Bessie can be slaughtered on Yom Tov! The Rama does not rule in favor of this distinction, but rather, what is permissible for Shabbos is permissible for Yom Tov as well.

Sub-category 3: ‘Nolad’ (i.e. where an object undergoes some kind of physical transformation on Shabbos or Yom Tov.) There are various opinions as to whether this category is prohibited on Shabbos or not. All agree, however, that on Yom Tov, it is prohibited. [Ed. See Rav Cohen’s treatment of Nolad, in which he sub-divides this category even more – Ibid. pp. 221-223.]

Note: In the overall topic of muktzah, naturally, there are plenty of applications where mutzkah law is more lenient on Yom Tov than on Shabbos. This is an outgrowth of the fact that many melacha-actions are permissible on Yom Tov for food preparation, as we have discussed earlier in this lesson. “The most common articles in this category are utensils used for cooking and baking, such as pots and pans, kneading bowls, rolling pins, sieves, graters and grinders. Candlesticks are also included in this category. These and similar articles may be moved for any purpose on Yom Tov.” – quotation from The Laws of Yom Tov, by Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen. P. 220.)

As you can see, I have not been completely idle from MBY. This siman took a considerable amount of time to digest and present, as it is the beginning of a major halachic topic.

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