09. Communal Needs Nowadays

The permissibility of doing melakha for communal needs on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed still applies in areas where the government is weak and thus unable to collect taxes and enforce the law. However, if the government is able to take care of communal needs through the year, they may not be addressed during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (MA; MB 544:1). Therefore, nowadays, when the local government is well organized with financial resources and staff at its disposal, melakha may not be done on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed if it can be done at a different time. The one exception is work which must be done on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed itself, such as collecting garbage from overflowing bins.

If a communal need involves meeting a bodily need, such as preventing people from suffering or getting hurt, even skilled labor is permitted. Therefore, if streetlights have gone out, electricians may fix them on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. If a sewer is blocked, creating a public nuisance, it may be fixed by a skilled laborer even if this entails hard work. The sink of a synagogue may be fixed in order to allow those praying there to wash their hands prior to services. A mechanic may fix a bus or cab needed by the public for Ḥol Ha-mo’ed travel (SSK 68:7-8).[7]

One may print a quality newspaper on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed and write articles for a quality website. Nowadays, the public is used to constantly following the news, and the media influences the public as well as its leaders. When the media outlet is a quality one, it has a positive influence, and is considered to meet a communal need. Refraining from writing for quality media would thus be a davar ha-aved so the writing is permitted. Additionally, since people are used to following the news, many will be negatively influenced by harmful media if they are not supplied with news by quality media.

A quality newspaper may go to print during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, even with advertisements. However, the journalists may not write pieces for after the festival. Nevertheless, if the paper will suffer losses if it does not include certain pieces, and if it would be impossible to make the deadline for inclusion without working on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, and if the pieces could not have been written before the festival, then they may be prepared on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (see SSK 68:12 and the notes there).


[7]. If an apartment building’s elevator or hallway lighting stops working, it may be fixed by a professional if there are concerns about danger or health. For example, a working elevator is required by pregnant women, the sick, and the elderly; without lights, people may fall. If there are no current residents with health issues, then whether or not a professional may fix the elevator depends on the size of the building. If there are ten or more families in the building, it is considered a community (rabim). Since having lights and a working elevator benefits the body on the festival, they may be fixed even by a professional on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. However, if there are fewer than ten families, they are considered individuals for this purpose, and the repairs may be made with unskilled labor only. (See Ḥol Ha-mo’ed Ke-hilkhato ch. 8 n. 41 in the name of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach; Piskei Teshuvot 544:1; and Harḥavot here.)