“…The Sages, in deciding the prohibition or permissibility of a particular melacha or activity on Ch”H, applied a general “formula”: First they assessed the grounds for permissibility - e.g. festival needs (‘tzorech hamoed’); food preparation (‘tzorech ochel nefesh’); communal needs (‘tzorchei rabim’); avoiding loss (‘davar ha-aveid’) etc. (see MBY 530). On the other side, they weighed any limiting factors - e.g. the degree of skill required (‘ma’aseh uman/hedyot’); the amount of exertion (‘tircha’), the deliberate scheduling for Ch”H (‘mechavein melachto l’moed’), etc. The resulting quotient is the halacha! To see this in action, in a previous lesson we learned that while a melacha is permissible ‘l’tzorech hamoed’, it may only be done as a ‘ma’aseh hedyot’ (in an unskilled manner), not as a ‘ma’aseh uman’ (in a skilled manner). On the other hand, melacha for ‘ochel nefesh’ may be done even as a ‘ma’aseh uman’. Evidently, the added importance of the grounds of ‘ochel nefesh’ outweighs (i.e. “trumps”) the limiting factor of ‘ma’aseh uman’. Bottom line: Each category of permissibility has its own corresponding measure of limiting factors. Get it?”
Communal needs (‘tzorchei rabim’)
There is definite leniency for this category of melacha, but it is not without limit.
Hilchos Chol Hamoed Zichron Shlomo, by Rabbis Zucker and Francis, p. 63 presents a nice overview of this category: “It is permissible to provide for community needs on Ch”H to the extent that one may do even highly strenuous melacha, in public and for pay. Moreover, melacha is permitted even for post-festival needs and even if deliberately planned for Ch”H… Why is work permitted on Ch”H for public needs even when unnecessary for the festival? Since community needs are not the responsibility of any one individual, they are often neglected during the year. On Ch”H, however, community members, free from their usual occupations, can work together on important public concerns. Delaying these projects until after the festival might place them in jeopardy, risking a loss for the community. It is for this same reason that melacha is permitted for community needs even when deliberately scheduled for Ch”H.”
The above excerpt gives us the general idea of the unique status of ‘tzorchei rabim’. However, additional study is still required to stipulate exactly which leniencies and which limitations apply to this category. We will attempt to give a clear summary of these factors for the remainder of this lesson. One way to formulate these halachos is by subdividing this category into: ‘ma’aseh hedyot’ (un-skilled) and ‘ma’aseh uman’ (skilled). In this formulation, we will further differentiate between when the communal need is something that is needed on the festival – i.e. it is needed for and is able to be completed therein – or something that is not specifically needed for the festival, but for afterwards. To that end, we will venture a chart to summarize these factors: (Ed: If this chart did not appear on your email, please open the attached document.)
Chart for MBY 544:1-2 Communal needs on Chol Hamoed
Communal needs – Tzorchei rabim maaseh hedyot maaseh uman leniencies or limitations
L’tzorech moed (needed for and able to be completed on the festival)
mutar / permissible mutar / permissible,if it fills a physical need.
[If not, it is asur unless it is a DHA]*Strenuous activity, and in public is permitted. Deliberate scheduling is permitted if a large number of people are needed, who are not available at other times.
Not l’tzorech moed but for afterwards
mutar / permissible asur / prohibited
[unless it is a DHA] Strenuous activity, and in public is permitted. Deliberate scheduling is permitted if a large number of people are needed, who are not available at other times.
* Note the important distinction here between physical needs and non-physical ones. Examples (Ibid. pp. 64-65) : A hole in the walk leading up to the entrance of a synagogue may be cemented in order to prevent a possible physical injury to a congregant. A community’s only mikvah may also be skillfully repaired during chol hamoed… (However,) skilled labor may not be used on Ch”H to complete a synagogue for festival prayer, since no physical need is involved. If it was determined by a halachic authority that work on the synagogue falls into the category of a bona fide DHA, then permission for even maaseh uman may be granted.