I am grateful to God for providing me with the opportunity to study Torah and to teach it. The present volume, the Laws of the Festivals, addresses the laws of Yom Tov and Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. It is the natural outgrowth of the volumes on the Laws of Shabbat. Shabbat is the source of the sanctity of time. Its sanctity is absolute and permanent, and the sanctity of the festivals derives from it. From the perspective of Torah study too, the laws of Yom Tov are dependent upon those of Shabbat, as the only differences between Shabbat and Yom Tov laws relate to necessary food preparation (tzorekh okhel nefesh). Therefore, I am not planning to repeat here those laws which appeared already in The Laws of Shabbat. Rather, I will first explain the general rules about Yom Tov melakhot. Afterwards, I will explain the differences between Shabbat and Yom Tov. Anyone who wants to properly learn the laws of Yom Tov must first learn the laws of Shabbat.
A special feature of our holy days, including the festivals, is that sanctity reveals itself through both body and soul, through both festive meals and Torah study. The Sages, basing themselves upon a close reading of the Torah, instruct us to split our time on Yom Tov, dedicating half to the spiritual and half to the physical (Pesaḥim 68b). In order to properly establish the character of the festivals, the first chapter offers a broad philosophical and legal overview of these two aspects of Yom Tov. In Chapter 10, I will do the same for Ḥol Ha-mo’ed.
The laws of Yom Tov are discussed in depth in Chapters 2-8. The ninth chapter addresses the unique laws of the second day of Yom Tov observed outside of Eretz Yisrael, including a discussion of who is considered a resident of Eretz Yisrael and who is not. The details of the laws of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed are explained in Chapters 11-12. The thirteenth and final chapter addresses the laws and customs of the festival of Shavu’ot, the sole festival for which no separate volume of Peninei Halakha is planned or has been published.
The joy of the festivals is greater than that of Shabbat, because they demonstrate more clearly the sanctity of the Jewish people, who are responsible for sanctifying the festivals. In fact, the festivals are all based upon the relationship of God and the Jewish people. On Pesaḥ, God redeemed us from Egypt; on Shavu’ot, He gave us the Torah; on Sukkot, we commemorate the clouds of glory in which He enveloped the Jews when they left Egypt (as explained below in 1:3). Since the uniqueness of the Jewish people is demonstrated through the festivals, the brotherhood and unity of the Jewish people is more apparent then as well. This unity manifests itself first within the family circle, as most Jews celebrate the festivals together with their families. The circle widens with the explicit commandment on the festivals to make the poor happy and to invite the lonely for a meal (as explained below in 1:11). In Temple times, the circle expanded even further as all the Jews would ascend to Jerusalem together and connect with each other (as explained below in 1:15). These matters are expanded upon in Chapter 1 as well as in Chapter 13, which deals with Shavuot.
Since the sanctity of the festivals is demonstrated by the Jewish people, we are instructed to be happier on the festivals than on Shabbat. This is why necessary food preparation is permitted on the festivals – so we may more thoroughly enjoy them and their meals. This points to the special nature of the Jews. Even though these festivals are holy days, food may be prepared on them, so that the holy Jewish people may be happy and enjoy them. This accounts for the difference between the laws of Shabbat and the laws of Yom Tov.
In this volume, as in the previous ones, I first deal with the general principles and only afterwards with the details. Similarly, I first deal with the fundamentals and only afterwards with the applications. Within each chapter and topic as well, I present the general principles before the details. This way, I believe, everything is more completely understood – the halakhic fundamentals, the details of observance, and the inner spiritual concepts too. Along these lines, for each topic I begin with matters that are universally agreed upon, thus making clear that the disagreements are not as serious as they appear at first glance.
For each law, I have attempted to quote the primary source from the Gemara, Shulḥan Arukh, or Mishneh Torah. With respect to new questions that have arisen due to contemporary conditions, I have made an effort to follow the generally accepted rules of halakhic decision-making, two of which are foremost:
- Halakha follows the majority. “Majority” refers to the opinion accepted by the majority of the great halakhic poskim, not the technical majority of all available books.
- When a given law is disputed or uncertain, if it is on the Torah level we are stringent; if it is on the rabbinic level we are lenient.
For such cases, I generally cite a source from the halakhic works of current poskim, so the reader can see that the opinion I consider primary has been determined to be the halakha in other books as well. However, I do not follow a halakhic ruling simply because a specific author presents it. Sometimes the same work, when discussing other issues, does not follow the mainstream view, in my opinion. Accordingly, the citation does not serve as the source for my decision, but as a support for it. There are also times when I mention a certain work because it does a good job of explaining a particular halakha.
When there are those who disagree with the mainstream position, then if that opinion is significant, whether because of its halakhic weight or because there is a Jewish community that rules accordingly, I present it in the body of the text. Otherwise, I mention it in the footnotes.
As a result of the long exile and dispersion, differing customs developed in different Jewish communities. Each community followed its local Torah leaders. These traditions have the halakhic status of minhag that should be followed. I make sure to mention the different halakhic traditions that are accepted in various Jewish communities, so that the work is useful to members of all communities.
However, it is important to note that often people mistakenly attribute a disagreement among the Aḥaronim to differences of custom between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, when in fact a careful reading of the sources reveals that this is incorrect. Often there are disagreements among the Sephardic poskim or the Ashkenazic poskim, with some being stringent and others being lenient. In these cases I cite the varying opinions. It is particularly necessary to add the halakhic tradition of the North African and Yemenite communities, which are ignored in certain works based on the assumption that they are the same as other Mizraḥi communities. For example, North Africans have a unique custom when it comes to Hallel on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed Pesaḥ (2:7 below). The custom of most Yemenites is not to make a blessing on Yom Tov candles (2 n. 1).
The laws of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed are among the most difficult. Due to their complexity, few people take the time to study them. I would like to mention two important books that clarify the details of these laws with great precision. The first is Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata by R. Yehoshua Neuwirth, which addresses the laws in the final chapters of Volume 2; the second is Ḥol Ha-mo’ed Ke-hilkhato by R. Yekutiel Farkas. Nevertheless, there is a certain disadvantage in using these books: because they are so detailed, it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. In this work, I try to clarify and make use of general principles in order to arrive at the specific laws. It seems to me that this is the proper way to study and clarify the halakha. This approach also makes it easier to remember the laws, and thus easier to observe them.
I am grateful to God for granting me the privilege of studying and teaching in Har Bracha, both the yeshiva and the community. From the residents, I learn about halakhic issues that arise in their daily lives. With the scholars at the yeshiva, both young and old, I have the privilege of clarifying halakhic rationales and guidelines in context of halakha classes and in discussions with teachers and advanced students. Thanks to God’s kindness, the Har Bracha Yeshiva is brimming with ever more talented, diligent, and deep-thinking students, some of whom attend these classes having already studied about the festivals in depth, starting with Talmudic tractates Beitza and Mo’ed Katan, and continuing with Tur, Beit Yosef, and Shulḥan Arukh with its commentaries. Their contribution is recognizable in this book. Indeed, without this combination of study hall and real life, I would not have been able to write Peninei Halakha.
It is my privilege to acknowledge the following people, who have reviewed and commented on this work. Rav Maor Cayam, in addition to his responsibilities towards the student body, was involved in clarifying practically every topic. Prior to the publication of the Hebrew edition, he went over the entire book and made helpful comments on it. He also meticulously checked the English translation to ensure that it is fully consistent with the Hebrew original, and that no slight change in meaning, which could alter the halakhic ruling, creeps into the text. R. Barel Shevach participated in clarifying many topics, and also went over and commented on the entire work. R. Oren Dachbash was involved in clarifying topics pertaining to Hol Ha-mo’ed. R. Yonadav Zar helped in editing the entire work and clarifying some of the topics. R. Gur Galon was also involved in clarifying some of the topics.
This is the place to thank R. Maor Horowitz for his help with all the editing – both content and copy editing – as well as preparing the book for publication. I would also like to thank R. Netanel Rosenstein for writing the index, and Natan Levine and Aviad Rachimi for helping with the notes. Thanks too to R. Ze’ev Sultanovich for contributing advice and insights. Thanks to R. David Wietchner, R. Aharon Friedman, R. Aharon Gross, R. Elyashiv Grosser, and R. Elisha Henshke, along with the rest of the yeshiva students who participated in my classes and were involved in commenting on the book. From my students, I have learned most of all. The team that rendered this volume in English also deserves special mention: Dr. Yocheved Cohen, who translated this volume with great skill; Rav Elli Fischer, who edited the volume and oversees all aspects of the production of the English Peninei Halakha series; Mrs. Nechama Unterman, who copyedits and proofreads the manuscript with an unrivaled eye for detail and style; and Mrs. Nechama Rosenstein, who expertly does the typesetting and layout of the English volumes.
I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to my father and teacher – Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, Rosh Yeshiva of the Beit El Yeshiva and rabbi of the community – and to my mother and teacher. They have provided me with the foundations of my Torah and my worldview. Special thanks to my dear wife Inbal. She dedicates all her talent to the growth and strengthening of Torah, the success of Torah study, and the publications of books to benefit the community. May it be God’s will that we be privileged to see all our offspring – sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters – advance in Torah and mitzvot, establish wonderful families, and increase truth, ḥesed, and peace forever.
Finally, I’d like to thank all those who dedicate themselves to the holy task of developing the yeshiva and publishing its books: R. Yaakov Weinberger, the yeshiva’s administrator; Yoni Bouzaglo, who is in charge of publishing the works and circulating them; and their predecessors, R. Yaakov Katz, R. Dudu Sa’ada, and Yisrael Sa’adia. May God grant all who help and assist the necessary wisdom and strength to succeed in their work. May they be privileged to establish beautiful families, and may God fulfill all their hearts’ desires in the best possible way.
May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our ancestors, merciful king, that You in Your abounding compassion may once more have mercy on us and on Your sanctuary, rebuilding it swiftly and adding to its glory. Our Father, our King, reveal the glory of Your kingdom to us swiftly. Appear and be exalted over us in the sight of all that lives. Bring back our scattered ones from among the nations, and gather our dispersed people from the ends of the earth. Lead us to Zion, Your city, in jubilation, and to Jerusalem, home of Your Temple, with everlasting joy. There we will prepare for You our obligatory offerings: the regular daily offerings in their order and the additional offerings according to their law. There we will go up and appear and bow before You on the three pilgrimage festivals. Bestow on us, Lord our God, the blessing of Your festivals for life and peace, joy and gladness, as You desired and promised to bless us.
Yeshivat Har Bracha is proud to present this translation of Rav Eliezer Melamed’s Peninei Halakha: Laws of the Festivals. It is the seventh volume of Peninei Halakha to appear in English. We hope that our efforts yield a clear, readable, and thorough presentation of the laws of Shabbat and exhibit the accuracy, clarity, and concision typical of the Hebrew version of Peninei Halakha.
As we noted in earlier prefaces, Peninei Halakha owes its success in large part to Rav Melamed’s definition and elucidation of basic principles before moving on to practical details, the contemporary relevance of all the material he includes in his works, and the clear and accessible language to explain the theoretical and theological roots of halakha. The result is a code of law that is crystal clear in its presentation, concise in its formulation, and well organized. These qualities are attested to in the approbations of many leading Torah scholars and former chief rabbis of Israel:
These volumes have a number of unique features, all of which contribute to the usefulness of the series. For starters, the author demonstrates literary skill and human sensitivity in rendering complex topics clearly intelligible to the novice practitioner but still gratifying to advanced students. Secondly, for a work to qualify as a practical guidebook, it must be authoritative. Rav Melamed is thoroughly familiar with the entire realm of applied halakha and is able to offer definitive rules and regulations. Finally, Rav Melamed excels in providing ideological rationales for the dos and don’ts of halakha. The background he provides as he introduces each new topic is consistently enlightening and uplifting. Charging the fine details of halakha with spiritual significance is a daunting objective, but it is one that Rav Melamed unfailingly achieves. (Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President, Emeritus, Orthodox Union)
[Peninei Halakha] is an extraordinarily well-written work by an extraordinarily erudite gadol ba-Torah. It is a wonderful addition to our community’s home libraries. Rav Melamed shlit”a is truly a posek for the Dati Leumi community. (Rabbi Ozer Glickman z”l, Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary)
I do not know of a better compendium of Jewish Law than Peninei Halakha by Harav Eliezer Melamed shlita. The clarity and organization of the legal requirements of Judaism makes the study of Jewish Law most pleasurable for any interested student. I recommend it with all my heart. (Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi of Efrat and Chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs)
Rav Melamed’s book is of great value. He adroitly elucidates and illustrates the principles and reasons for the mitzvot and laws he addresses, and then he encompasses the vast details of the issue at hand, presenting both its principles and its specifics in a clear light. (Rav Avraham Shapira z”l, former Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz Harav and Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel)
I am impressed by his clear and readable style. He wisely chose relevant halakhic issues and problems of paramount importance to contemporary students of the Torah. He presents the foundations and basics in an organized fashion, to the point that his conclusions are virtually self-evident. (Rav Nachum Eliezer Rabinovitch, Rosh Yeshiva of Birkat Moshe – Maale Adumim)
You have blazed a singular trail in elucidating the depth and breadth of halakha by first considering the basis of each matter. By explaining the fundamental parameters and rationale of the halakha, you provide great clarity for each issue, down to the last detail. (Rav Zalman Baruch Melamed, Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva of Beit El, and father of Rav Eliezer Melamed)
Rav Melamed has already singled out the members of the team that rendered this work into English, and we join him in acknowledging Dr. Yocheved Cohen, Mrs. Nechama Unterman, and Mrs. Nechama Rosenstein for the skill and professionalism that they bring to the task.
Rabbi Maor Cayam
Halakhic Editor, the English Peninei Halakha Series
Director of Publications, Peninei Halakha
Rabbi Elli Fischer
Editor, the English Peninei Halakha Series