Intro: For this lesson, we will work backwards. As many of the weaving processes that were common household activities back in the times of the Talmud and Shulchan Aruch are no longer so, instead we will go straight to Rabbis Zucker and Francis to guide us on halachos in the area of clothing repair in our times. After we read these excerpts, let us ask ourselves: What new principles have we learned in this siman about melacha on Ch”H in general or about sewing in particular? Three cheers to anyone who replies to this invitation!
Hilchos Chol Hamoed Zichron Shlomo, by Rabbis Zucker and Francis, pp. 30-32 “Since a ‘maaseh uman’ (work of a skilled craftsman) is prohibited even when necessary for the festival (‘tzorech ha-moed’), 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 ‘maaseh hedyot’ (work of an unskilled person) or a maaseh uman, depending on the skill of the person doing the work. A prime example is sewing. When sewing is done by a novice, it is considered to be a maaseh hedyot. A novice is therefore permitted to sew a torn suit or dress that is needed for the festival (i.e. another suitable garment is not readily available to wear.) These same repairs when made by a tailor are considered a maaseh uman, and are prohibited even when needed for the festival. A tailor may sew, however, for festival purposes if he employs a shinui, a change from the usual manner of sewing; specifically, he must use long (basting) stitches – (Ed. If you don’t know what that means, then you are a hedyot/amateur like me – I don’t know what it means either!) - and must also make one stitch high and the other low in a zigzag pattern. Use of this deviation transforms the skilled work of a craftsman into the inferior work of an amateur. (Holding the needle in an unconventional manner, however, is not a valid shinui, since there is no noticeable difference in the finished product itself.) The average woman, adept at sewing (hear that, ladies?!) is considered to be an ‘uman’ (craftsman - !) Thus she may not sew for the festival unless she uses the prescribed shinui. Since the standard shinui cannot be employed when sewing a button onto a garment, many authorities permit an alternate method. The button should be sewn loosely (Ed. Funny – many of the suits I buy at the store come with that shinui already!) or should be sewn with the thread passing through only two of the button’s four holes. According to some authorities, one should not sew buttons during Ch”H even if this method is used, except in cases of great necessity.”
“Knitting, crocheting, embroidering and other types of needlework are generally prohibited on Ch”H. They are considered skilled work and are prohibited even when needed for the festival.”
“New clothing needed for the festival may be tested for shaatnez (the forbidden mixture of wool and linen in a garment.) If it can be worn as is, it may not be sewn back together even in an unskilled fashion until after the festival. Otherwise, it may be sewn in an unskilled manner on Ch”H.”
MBY 533:1-5 Melachos permitted on Ch”H
Sew, have you learned anything new? – There’s a bunch! (One clue: What is the definition of a ‘maaseh hedyot’? – See also MBY 533:1-5 Melachos permitted on Ch”H)