Intro - Question: What is so special about the title of this siman? Have we not already established (see previous lesson) that melacha/work is generally prohibited on Ch”H unless it falls into one of the categories of permit – e.g. ‘tzorech ha-moed’ (festival needs), DHA (‘davar ha-aveid’ – avoiding a loss of money) and a few others? Answer: There is something new here: “Conducting business” means making monetary negotiations and transactions without doing actual melacha (e.g. writing etc.) Even on Shabbos and Yom Tov, these activities are prohibited only mid-rabanan (rabbinically)! One might have thought that they are treated more leniently than melacha on Ch”H. While that is true somewhat, this siman teaches that even conducting business is generally forbidden and requires special heterim (permits) just like melacha does, as we will learn.
In general, the prohibition of conducting business (schora) applies to buying or selling but not to the collection of debts. Sometimes the distinction between the two is blurred. For example, collecting a cash loan is permissible. Collecting payment for a sale made on credit (i.e. money for goods), is included in conducting business, and so is collecting goods as payback for a loan (i.e. goods for money). (Note: In those cases, if the transaction was formally converted into a monetary debt, it is treated as a cash loan and may be collected.)
In general, the heterim/permits which make ‘schora’ permissible are primarily ‘tzorech ha-moed’ (festival needs) and DHA (avoiding a loss), as mentioned in the introduction to this lesson. While regarding melacha, the criteria for DHA is strictly limited to loss of ‘keren’/principal, with schora, there may be allowance for ‘revach’/profit as well, depending on the circumstances. Criteria for DHA to permit schora are expanded to include deals that will not be available after the festival and the rare opportunity for significant profit. It is in this regard that schora may be treated more leniently than melacha. Moreover, sometimes the halacha ordains that a portion of the profits be used for festival needs, in order to add to the legitimacy of the heter! (See below for more details.)
Another scenario related to schora is a ‘metzia’ – a find. At first glance, it would seem that a person is not permitted to trouble himself to pick up and care for a found object - i.e. one that halacha permits the finder to keep – since this does not qualify as a DHA. The Sages, however, came up with a “suggestion”: Use the object ‘l’tzorech hamoed’ and this will lend grounds for a heter!
Review and application
To summarize the main halachos that emerge from this lengthy siman, we will once again turn to our Ch”H authors -- Hilchos Chol Hamoed Zichron Shlomo, by Rabbis Zucker and Francis, p. 95-108. (Ed. Please note that these authors use the term “commerce” for schora instead of “conducting business”.)
The prohibition against ‘schora’ – what is/is not included - “The Sages prohibited commerce on Ch”H even when it entails only buying and selling and no actual melacha… since it often involves physical exertion or mental stress which detracts from the festive atmosphere of the day.”
- “The collection of debts and the borrowing or lending of money (interest free) are not included in the prohibition of commerce and are permitted on Ch”H….”
Permits for schora: DHA and ‘tzorech ha-moed’ - “In addition to these general exemptions - DHA, tzorech ha-moed etc. - commerce, since it entails only exertion but no melacha, is permitted in other instances as well.” (See below.)
- “Although selling is permitted to prevent a loss, business should be conducted discreetly…”
- “Although buying or selling is permitted to prevent a loss, our Sages have taught that one who trusts in G-d and refrains from commerce on Ch”H will be reimbursed two-fold in this world, in addition to the reward he will receive in the World to Come!
Expansion of the heter of DHA for schora
- “Although, generally speaking, commerce is permitted in order to prevent a DHA and not to gain new profits, the following is an exception to the rule: A man of limited means (i.e. not affluent) may sell merchandise if he will use a portion of the profit to buy items for Simchas Yom Tov (celebration of the festival) which he otherwise could not afford.”
- “… a businessman today may buy or sell if a rare opportunity for profit present itself, one not likely to recur soon after the festival… this situation is the equivalent of a DHA.”
- “Although commerce is permitted in cases of rare opportunity, some authorities prohibit the buying and selling of houses even in these instances. Since real estate transactions usually arouse much public interest and discussion, they tend to detract from the festival atmosphere.”
‘Tzorech ha-moed’ (and beyond)
“One may buy on Ch”H whatever is needed for the festival, but one should not deliberately delay these purchases until the festival. The purchase of food items, however, may even be deliberately delayed until the festival. If someone wants to wear a nicer garment than the ones he has available, he may purchase it even though he has other suitable garments to wear. (If alterations are needed they may be made only in an unskilled fashion.” Ed. …as we learned in MBY 533:1-5 Melachos permitted on Ch”H.)
“One may buy an item on Ch”H not needed during the festival if it might not be available after the festival… One may also buy merchandise not needed on the festival if a big sale is held where substantial reductions are being offered…” (Ed. This heter extends DHA into the realm of regular household purchases. In this area, opinions and situations vary. One should consult a Rav with questions of this nature.)
Sorry I haven’t written in awhile. There’s no business like “conducting business”!