03. Rabbinic Prohibitions

The laws pertaining to Shabbat and Yom Tov are generally the same, except when it comes to melakhot which are necessary for okhel nefesh. These melakhot are prohibited on Shabbat but permitted on Yom Tov. Shabbat and Yom Tov are also the same when it comes to rabbinic prohibitions. True, violating Shabbat is more severe than violating Yom Tov, as we see from their respective punishments. One who knowingly performs melakha on Shabbat is liable to stoning; unknowing transgression makes him liable to bring a sin offering. In contrast, on Yom Tov one who transgresses knowingly is liable to lashes, while one who transgresses unknowingly is exempt from a sin offering. On the other hand, one could also argue that it makes sense to be stricter on Yom Tov. Since melakha for okhel nefesh is permitted on Yom Tov, there is more of a concern that people might not take Yom Tov seriously enough, and thus end up doing prohibited melakhot. In fact, we have seen that the halakha is more stringent about muktzeh on Yom Tov than on Shabbat (see above 6:6). Since Shabbat is stricter in some ways and Yom Tov is stricter in others, unless it is stated explicitly that there is a difference, the laws are the same for both (see Beitza 35b-36a, 37a; Harḥavot 6:6:7).

We have already explained the rabbinic prohibitions in Peninei Halakha: Shabbat. Since they are also relevant to Yom Tov (Beitza 36b; SA 524:1), we will review them here in brief.

On Shabbat and Yom Tov, it is prohibited to climb trees (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 19:7), ride animals (ibid. 20:1), swim (ibid. 14:9), or play musical instruments (lest one end up repairing them). Dancing in a way that could lead to the repairing of a musical instrument is also prohibited (ibid. 22:17-18). A beit din does not convene. No matrimonial ceremonies are performed – marriage, divorce, yibum (levirate marriage), or ḥalitza (levirate divorce). Objects are not consecrated for Temple use, nor are terumot and ma’aser set aside. However, one who bakes on Yom Tov does set aside ḥalla (see above 4:3).

The rabbinic prohibition of asking a non-Jew to perform melakha is in force on Yom Tov, as it is on Shabbat. In other words, anything that a Jew may not do (even rabbinically), he may not request a non-Jew to do for him. There are exceptions, though: on Yom Tov, as on Shabbat, if the request is for the sake of a mitzva or great need, or is meant to alleviate suffering, a non-Jew may be asked to do a rabbinically prohibited action, because involving the non-Jew reduces the prohibition from a shvut to a shvut di-shvut (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 25:4-5; 9:11-12).

However, when it comes to tzorekh okhel nefesh on Yom Tov, just as the Torah permitted biblically prohibited melakha, the Sages permitted rabbinically prohibited actions. For example, they allowed the skins of just-slaughtered animals to be left in a place where people would walk on them (SA 499:3; see above 4:6). They also permitted removing a door from a store’s cabinet in order to take food out of it. In some cases, they even permitted replacing the door in a temporary fashion to prevent the food in the cabinet from being stolen. They also permitted assembling, in a temporary fashion, a table and chair to use at a meal. Even though these last activities are prohibited on Shabbat due to a concern that the assembly will be done in a permanent way, on Yom Tov we are lenient if it is necessary for a meal (SA 519:1-2).

Some say that just as the Sages prohibited benefiting from forbidden melakha on Shabbat, so too they prohibited benefiting from forbidden melakha on Yom Tov (Rambam). Others maintain that since Yom Tov is less severe than Shabbat, the Sages did not forbid benefiting from forbidden melakha then (Rashba). All agree that if the melakha done in a forbidden manner is one of those that is permitted for okhel nefesh, it is not forbidden to derive benefit from it.[3]


[3]. If one did not make an eruv tavshilin and then intentionally cooked on Yom Tov for Shabbat, the cooked food may be eaten on Shabbat. We are not concerned that people will draw the incorrect conclusion that it is permitted to act as he did, since everyone knows that what he did was halakhically incorrect (SA 527:23). This would seem to open the door to a question: as we have seen (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 26:1-2), the Sages forbade one from ever benefiting from a melakha that he himself did intentionally on Shabbat (whether the violation was biblical or rabbinic). Even others may benefit from it only after Shabbat. (This is the opinion of the majority of poskim as well as the SA.) Why do we not apply this principle to food illicitly cooked on Yom Tov as well? Shouldn’t there be a prohibition of ma’aseh Yom Tov? Three explanations of this rule appear in the writings of the Rishonim:

  1. A) Rambam says that there is indeed a prohibition of ma’aseh Yom Tov, which applies only to the prohibitions that are the same on Shabbat and Yom Tov. In contrast, when it comes to melakhot such as cooking that are permissible on Yom Tov for okhel nefesh, even if they were performed in a forbidden fashion, there is no prohibition of ma’aseh Yom Tov (MT, Laws of Shabbat 23:15 and Laws of Yom Tov 6:10, following the understanding of Or Same’aḥ, Yom Tov 4:17).
  2. B) According to Rashba, the Sages chose not to enact a prohibition of ma’aseh Yom Tov, since transgressing on Yom Tov is less severe than on Shabbat. In the words of the Gemara (Beitza 17b), “Shabbat prohibitions are different” (Responsa Rashba 5:8). SAH agrees with this (52:1, 3; 503:13), and it is implied by SA 503:1.
  3. C) Rashi maintains that one may not benefit when a Torah prohibition is transgressed, but he may when a rabbinic prohibition is transgressed. One who knowingly cooks on Yom Tov has not transgressed a Torah law, since the food can be eaten by guests on Yom Tov. Therefore, benefit may be derived from the food (Rashi to Beitza 17b). This is also the position of Pri Megadim (Hilkhot Yom Tov, Petiḥa 2:5) and Shevet Ha-Levi 6:68.
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