14. Playing and Creative Activities

Although writing, drawing, cutting, gluing, and sewing are included among the prohibited melakhot of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, young children may engage in them while playing. Since they cannot study Torah the way adults can, and playing is something they enjoy as part of their normal routine, it is considered a festival need for them. As long as the playing is unskilled, it is permissible. Adults may even join in, because it is something unskilled for the sake of the festival.

However, adults may not draw, do origami, or undertake other creative activities for pleasure. Since adults, as a rule, try to create works of art, their efforts are considered craftsmanship, which is prohibited on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Children are not allowed to create serious works of art either. As we have seen, only for food preparation and bodily needs is skilled labor permitted. For other festival needs, only unskilled labor is allowed. As children approach the age of bar or bat mitzva, they should be encouraged to stop engaging in these activities on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, and start focusing instead on Torah and enjoyable activities that do not involve melakha.

An adult may take children on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed to an arts and crafts program, such as a workshop in which children decorate pottery, and he may even help them. However, he may not decorate his own pottery.

Computer games may be played on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, even though they involve creating letters and forms that are retained in the computer’s memory. Adults may play as well as children, because playing computer games is unskilled, and such melakha is permitted in order to enjoy the festival. All this is on condition that the playing does not negate the main point of the festival – Torah study.

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