05. Bodily Needs

Just as it is permitted to do any melakha necessary to prepare food, so too it is permitted to do any melakha necessary to care for the body on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. One may even pay a professional to do the job if necessary. For example, if a window breaks on a cold day, a repairman may be called to fix it, in order to prevent the cold from penetrating the house. Similarly, if it is cold out and the heater breaks, a professional may be called to fix it. On very hot days, a repairman may be hired to fix an air conditioner, since preventing great suffering is considered a bodily need (MB 540:19; BHL 542:1 s.v. “afilu”; SSK ch. 66 n. 203). A plumber may be called to repair the toilet and plumbing system, in order to prevent great suffering on the part of the residents. (See SSK 66:58.)

It is also permissible to have a plumber fix the shower, as washing on the festival is considered a bodily need. However, if the shower is working, one may not have the bathtub fixed, as bathing is a luxury that is not necessary for the festival.

If a repair requires a great deal of time-consuming work and will be performed in the public view (such as breaking a wall in order to fix a pipe), then it may only be done when it is truly needed to enjoy the festival. The greater the need, the more sweeping the permissibility of doing melakha, even if it is public and time-consuming (see 12:2 below; SSK ch. 66, n. 67).

If a family’s only telephone breaks, it may be fixed. Having phone service today is so essential that it is considered a bodily need. If there is a great need for an additional telephone, it too may be fixed.

A woman may put on makeup and comb and braid her hair to her heart’s content. She may even pay a professional cosmetician, as any melakha that beautifies the body is permitted on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. She may also remove body hair, though she may not have the hair of her head cut (as the Sages forbade getting haircuts on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed; see section 9 below). A woman may undergo a treatment that will initially cause her face to redden, as long as in the course of the festival the treatment will make her skin look better (MK 8b and 9b; SA 546:5). However, le-khatḥila it is preferable for professional treatments to be done before the festival. This allows the person to start the festival while looking her very best, and also frees up Ḥol Ha-mo’ed for festival simḥa.

Jewelry, clothing, and wigs are not considered bodily needs but ordinary festival needs. Therefore, they may be taken care of if it can be done for free and through a layman, not through a professional.

One may take payment for babysitting, as this is considered a bodily need (SSK ch. 66 n. 160).

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