7. Mending Clothes

As we have seen, even skilled labor may be done to meet bodily needs (such as food and medicine), and when necessary one may even pay for it. However, when it comes to other festival needs, only unskilled and unpaid labor is permitted. Even a non-Jew may not be asked to do skilled labor for a Jew on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (SA 541:4-5 and 542:1; see 12:15 below).

Therefore, if one needs to mend a torn item of clothing in order to wear it on the festival, he may do so if the repair does not require any special skill. This means that a regular person, whose sewing is easily distinguishable from that of a professional, may do the repair in the way he normally would. In contrast, a skilled tailor must use a shinui to mend the clothing. For example, he may use wide, crooked stitches (SA 541:5). A button may be sewn on, as anybody can do that. Even a professional may sew on a button without using a shinui.

If one does not know how to sew at all, he may ask a friend who is a tailor to fix his clothing using a shinui, so that his work will be like that of a layman. However, he may not pay the tailor for his work, because payment would endow it with the status of professional work. The underlying principle here is that wherever only an unskilled repair is permitted, the repair may not be done for pay.[3]

If one knew before Yom Tov that there was a tear in a garment that he would need for Yom Tov, and he nevertheless put off the repair until Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, he may not fix the item on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. This applies even if the repair is basic, since he intentionally pushed off the melakha until the festival (MB 540:9).

An item of clothing that one wishes to wear on the festival may be ironed at home. However, he may not iron in pleats the way professionals do (SA 541:3; MB ad loc. 9).

Professional shoe repair may not be done on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. However, a simple, inexpert repair may be done, such as removing a nail from the sole of a shoe (SA and Rema 541:4).

Shoes may be polished on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Some are stringent and do not allow this, but the primary position is the permissive one, as this is unskilled work that meets a festival need.


[3]. MK 12a states that a person may not pay for festival needs that are not bodily needs. Rosh (MK 2:9) explains that when payment is rendered for these services, it makes them seem like weekday activities. Furthermore, payment grants them significance, making them similar to skilled labor. This is the ruling of SA 542:1. However, Kol Bo maintains that a person may pay for any festival needs. Although Beit Yosef 541:5 states that this is incorrect, there are additional Rishonim who espouse the same position. In practice, most Aḥaronim follow the position of Rosh and SA and rule that it is forbidden to be paid for unskilled labor undertaken for festival needs (MB 541:16; BHL s.v. “ela”). However, according to Ritva, the prohibition applies only when it is possible to get the work done for free; if there is no such option, one may pay. One may rely upon this view when necessary (MB 542:2; SSK 66:40). This is all relevant to festival needs that are not bodily needs. In contrast, one may pay to take care of bodily needs, just as he may use skilled labor for them (MB 542:1). Similarly, one may pay to prevent a loss (Rema 542:1; BHL s.v. “afilu”) or for communal needs (as explained below in 12:8; MK 6a; BHL 544:1 s.v. “tzorkhei rabim”). See Harḥavot 7:5-8.

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