In this lesson, we will take a look at some of the guiding principles concerning the ‘heter’/permit #1 to do melacha l’tzorech hamoed/work for the sake of festival needs (See MBY 530 Melacha on Chol Hamoed). Some of these principles expand the basic heter and some of them limit it. Many of the varied scenarios mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch are not common in our non-agricultural society. Our goal will be to refer to those scenarios only when needed to illustrate a principle. The application of these principles to more contemporary examples are amply provided by our companion sefer on this subject - Hilchos Chol Hamoed ‘Zichron Shlomo’, by Rabbis Zucker and Francis. (Note: Rabbis Zucker and Francis shlit”a were pioneers in the community Kollel movement, taking up residence in Chicago nearly forty years ago! Their joint-venture – the publishing of this sefer originally in 1981 - was one of the first of its kind: a practical halachic guide in the English language. The sefer was revised and updated in 2005 and re-published by Artscroll/Mesorah.)
Melacha l’tzorech hamoed (work for the sake of festival needs)
Expansions of the heter:
1) If one needs food or fuel – e.g. harvesting wheat or chopping wood – he need not “skimp”. He may be generous and prepare more than he needs, even though there will be leftovers which he will probably use after the moed as well. (However, see limitations #2, which caution not to use subterfuge.)
2) If there is leftover food which could spoil, work may be done to preserve them in order to avoid loss. This is based upon heter #4: Work necessary to avoid loss or damage (‘davar ha-aveid’)
3) One may perform melacha even to obtain the use of an item (on the moed) that is not its primary use. Examples: Harvesting flax to use to cover produce or as an abrasive for cleansing, rather than for its usual use, i.e. making it into linen.
4) Although one may not harvest produce merely to preserve them for after the moed, he is permitted to purchase them and preserve them, if afterwards they will not be available for purchase. This is also based upon heter #4: Work necessary to avoid loss or damage (‘davar ha-aveid’).
(Ed. Before reading this next expansion, it is wise to first read limitations #2 below.) 5) Although we will learn (limitations #2 below) that ‘ha’arama’ /subterfuge is not permitted, there are times when doing more than necessary is permitted. 1st kind - Making more than he needs: If the products vary in their quality, one may make extra and pick out the best ones. Example: Fishing - Different fish taste differently; therefore, one may trap/catch more fish than he needs and choose the best ones. (Note: The fact that he will thereby create the need to preserve the leftovers is not problematic, because the same preserving process, which involves salting, is the process that prepares them for eating!) 2nd kind - Making a new batch when an old batch would suffice: If the new batch is more desirable – even though the old is acceptable – a new batch may be made. Example: Baking fresh bread when he has day-old or frozen bread available. (Note: We are sometimes more strict about this point when it comes to cooking on Yom Tov!) 6) One is permitted to perform melacha to produce goods, even if they are available for purchase without melacha. 7) One need not avoid doing melacha if that is the most effective way of meeting his needs. Example: One may trap/kill annoying insects, although he could simply shoo them away, since shooing is not as effective, as they will keep coming back!
8) Remember: Melacha is permissible if it is a ‘davar ha-aveid’ – e.g. milking a cow, even if one doesn’t need the milk. (More on that in a future lesson.)
Limitations of the heter:
1) In general, one is not permitted to purposely schedule a melacha project for the moed (e.g. He thinks he will have more time to do it then), when it is reasonable to have done it beforehand. This is known as ‘mechavein melachto l’moed’. This limitation generally does not apply to food preparation.
2) One may not do ‘ha’arama’ / subterfuge. There are two kinds of ‘ha’arama’: 1st kind - making more than he needs, with the intention of having leftovers for after the moed; 2nd kind - making a new batch, when he already has an old batch available. (Note: Some poskim are more lenient with the 2nd kind, if he indeed uses the new batch. See also expansions #5.)
3) ‘Ma’aseh Uman’ / the work of a skilled worker: When the person performing the melacha is an expert / professional, he must perform it in private. The reason is that observers may suspect that he is not doing it ‘l’tzorech hamoed’, but rather as he performs it for his livelihood all year-round. However, when it is obvious from the context that the melacha is being done l’tzoreach hamoed, it may be done in public as well. (IMPORTANT: See more on the restrictions of ‘ma’aseh uman’ below, as quoted from Rabbis Zucker and Francis.)
Are you keeping score? The expansions beat the limitations 8-3! Go Chazal!
Before concluding our lesson on this siman, let us quote several ideas from Hilchos Chol Hamoed ‘Zichron Shlomo’, by Rabbis Zucker and Francis, pp. 29-36, which may not have been presented yet in the Shulchan Aruch, but are closely related to our topic. Pay special attention to the topic of ‘ma’aseh uman’ concept which we mentioned in limitations #3 above.
1. “Work is permitted on Ch”H if it is needed for the festival. The only type of work allowed, however, is that which involves a ‘ma’aseh hedyot’ (the act of an unskilled person.) A ‘ma’aseh uman’ (work of an expert), on the other hand, is prohibited even if necessary for the festival… Example: …One may not have worn heels or soles replaced by a shoemaker (Jew or non-Jew) on Ch”H, even though the shoes are needed for festival wear… At times a particular melacha may be classified as either a ‘ma’aseh hedyot’ or a ‘ma’aseh uman’, depending on the skill of the person doing the work. A prime example is sewing… A tailor may sew, however, for festival purposes if he employs a shinui – a change from the usual manner of sewing (i.e. where there is a noticeable difference in the finished product itself, not just in the way he holds the needle)… Use of this deviation transforms the skilled work of a craftsman into the inferior work of an amateur. (Note: An ‘uman’ need not modify the way he works with a shinui, if by doing so, ‘simchas hamoed’ - the joy of the festival - is undermined.” Example: Using small traps instead of the usual larger ones to catch fish, which will result in a smaller quantity.)
(Ed. I consider this explanation to be an expansion of the ‘ma’aseh uman’ concept in that it takes it beyond the typical professional to the skilled layman as well. Also, it does not seem that all the uman has to do is work in private and then it’s acceptable. He needs to do a shinui as well!)
2. “To determine when melacha is permitted for a festival need, one must consider not only the nature of the melacha (i.e. ‘maaseh uman’ or ‘ma’aseh hedyot’), but also the importance of the particular need. Certain household tasks are considered festival needs and are permissible on Ch”H. Washing the floor or vacuuming the carpet, for example, may be done in areas of the house which need frequent cleaning – once a week or more… Certain household improvements, though not requiring skill (e.g. nailing a picture onto the wall), are prohibited by some authorities, since they are of minor importance. (Others permit it.) … Painting a home, even in a non-skilled manner, is prohibited because it is considered a ‘zilzul ha-moed’ - a degradation of the festival.”