07 – Various Laws of Yom Tov

01. Sick People

Since, in most cases, the laws pertaining to the sick are the same on Yom Tov and on Shabbat, we will briefly review the laws pertaining to the sick on Shabbat and explain the special laws of Yom Tov. There are three categories of sick people according to halakha: 1) a gravely ill person whose life is in danger; 2) a “regular” sick person, whose whole body is ill but whose life is not in danger; 3) a mildly sick person, who is ill in part of his body or who experiences pain from a bodily ailment. We will now explain the pertinent laws.

Regarding a gravely ill person, the relevant principle is well known: saving a life overrides Shabbat and Yom Tov. Such a person is treated on Shabbat or Yom Tov in the same way he would be treated on a weekday, and all prohibitions are superseded in order to save his life.

Torah prohibitions may not be violated on behalf of a regular sick person, meaning one who is bedridden but whose life is not in danger, but rabbinic prohibitions may be violated on Shabbat to treat him.

Regarding Yom Tov, poskim disagree as to whether melakhot that may be done for food preparation may also be done for a sick person. Some permit, saying that the same way these melakhot may be undertaken for purposes of food preparation or other Yom Tov needs, they may also be undertaken on behalf of one who is sick. Others prohibit, maintaining that it is forbidden by the Torah to undertake such melakhot for a person who is sick but in no danger, because these melakhot are permitted only when they are shaveh le-khol nefesh. These poskim maintain that the needs of a sick person do not fit into this category (see above 3:6).

In practice, because this disagreement pertains to a Torah prohibition, the halakha follows the stringent position. Therefore, melakhot that may not be done on behalf of a sick person on Shabbat may also not be done on behalf of a sick person on Yom Tov (as is explained in Peninei Halakha: Shabbat ch. 28). Thus, medication may not be cooked for a sick person, nor may a flame be lit to sterilize a needle. Intravenous injections may not be given, because they cause bleeding (which is considered Ḥovel, “wounding,” a tolada of Shoḥet). In contrast, actions which are only rabbinically prohibited may be done for a regular sick person.[1]


[1]. Those who permit the above-mentioned melakhot on Yom Tov for a sick person include: R. Shlomo Kluger (Sefer Ha-ḥayim §328); R. Shmuel Matalon, Responsa Avodat Hashem (OḤ §4); Ḥazon Ovadia, p. 23. Those who prohibit include: Ramban; Ḥelkat Yo’av, OH §26; SHT 511:9; Orḥot Ḥayim 511:1; SSK 33:25-26. This is the opinion of most poskim, as detailed in Harḥavot.

On Shabbat, the Sages permitted asking a non-Jew to perform melakha on behalf of someone who is sick (Shabbat 129a). According to Ran, this permission is limited to a non-Jew; a Jew may not perform a rabbinically prohibited action on behalf of someone who is sick. In contrast, Rashba maintains that a Jew may indeed do so. Le-khatḥila, we are stringent; be-di’avad, if possible, one should use a shinui in order to downgrade the prohibition to shvut di-shvut. When there is no choice, he may rely on Rashba (see Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 28:2 n. 2). However, on Yom Tov it would seem that even le-khatḥila, one may rely on those who permit doing activities that would normally be rabbinically prohibited, because the punishment for Yom Tov desecration is less severe than the punishment for Shabbat desecration. Even if one violates a Torah prohibition on Yom Tov, he is not liable to the death penalty as he would be if he did so on Shabbat. There are certainly grounds for leniency when we are speaking of a rabbinic prohibition. All agree that such activities are permitted for okhel nefesh, and the debate is only whether they are also permitted for someone who is sick.

02. A Mildly Sick Person

One who suffers from mild sickness or ailments – that is, one who can walk around as though healthy, but experiences discomfort or irritation from a mild illness – has the same status as a healthy person. He must observe all the Shabbat and Yom Tov prohibitions, including the relatively minor rabbinic ones referred to as shvut di-shvut. However, if the illness or ailment causes pain, then any shvut di-shvut may be undertaken on his behalf. In other words, actions that are prohibited rabbinically may be done on his behalf, either by a non-Jew or by a Jew using a shinui. When it comes to these laws, the same rules apply to both Yom Tov and Shabbat (SA 307:5; MB 328:3; Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 9:11, 28:3).

However, when it comes to taking medicine, there is a difference between Shabbat and Yom Tov. The prohibition on taking medicine on Yom Tov is dependent upon the disagreement mentioned in the previous section. On Shabbat, the Sages prohibited taking medicine out of concern that one would end up grinding the ingredients, thus transgressing Toḥen. However, on Yom Tov, some are permissive, maintaining that just as black pepper may be ground up to season food, so too medicine may be ground up for someone who is sick. If grinding the medicine is permitted, taking it is certainly permitted. In contrast, according to the stringent view, the permissibility of doing melakha on Yom Tov applies to the needs of those who are healthy. It does not extend to the needs of the sick, since their needs are not shaveh le-khol nefesh. Accordingly, it is rabbinically prohibited to take medicine, out of concern that one will grind the ingredients. Nevertheless, the prohibition on taking medicine is rabbinic, and we are lenient in cases of doubt about rabbinic rules. Thus, we are lenient here, and medicine of all sorts may be taken on Yom Tov, whether liquids or pills. Similarly, a liquid medicine may be applied topically on Yom Tov.[2]


[2]. The prohibition on taking medicine is explained in Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 28:4-5. Many are stringent about this on Yom Tov too, since the Gemara forbids treating the eye on Yom Tov (Beitza 22a). This is the opinion of MA 532:2; Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham ad loc. 2); Ḥayei Adam 103:1; MB 532:5; Kitzur Shulḥan Arukh 98:32; and SSK 34:1. Those who permit are the same authorities mentioned at the beginning of the previous footnote. We can add Ritva to their ranks (commentary to Beitza 22b). His reasoning is as follows: Since the entire prohibition of taking medicine on Shabbat is because of a concern that one will grind its ingredients and transgress Toḥen, this is not relevant to Yom Tov, when grinding black pepper is permitted. As for treating the eye, the prohibition is only because it is not clear that the treatment is effective. Aḥaronim present this approach as well, as detailed in Harḥavot. Since this is a case of doubt pertaining to a rabbinic law, we are lenient. Furthermore, some are of the opinion that even on Shabbat one may take modern, mass-produced medications, as there is no real concern that anyone will grind anything in order to produce the medicine. Although on Shabbat we rely on this leniency only if one is in pain (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 28:5 n. 3) or if it is a medicine that must be taken for several days consecutively (28:6), on Yom Tov there are additional reasons to be lenient, so one may take medicine as needed. Moreover, even though melakhot that are permitted in the framework of okhel nefesh are otherwise prohibited by Torah law, if they are done by a non-Jew or using a shinui, they are prohibited only by rabbinic law. Since the poskim disagree as to whether melakhot permitted for okhel nefesh are also permitted for the sick, this is a case of doubt about a rabbinic law, and so we are lenient.

03. Rabbinic Prohibitions

The laws pertaining to Shabbat and Yom Tov are generally the same, except when it comes to melakhot which are necessary for okhel nefesh. These melakhot are prohibited on Shabbat but permitted on Yom Tov. Shabbat and Yom Tov are also the same when it comes to rabbinic prohibitions. True, violating Shabbat is more severe than violating Yom Tov, as we see from their respective punishments. One who knowingly performs melakha on Shabbat is liable to stoning; unknowing transgression makes him liable to bring a sin offering. In contrast, on Yom Tov one who transgresses knowingly is liable to lashes, while one who transgresses unknowingly is exempt from a sin offering. On the other hand, one could also argue that it makes sense to be stricter on Yom Tov. Since melakha for okhel nefesh is permitted on Yom Tov, there is more of a concern that people might not take Yom Tov seriously enough, and thus end up doing prohibited melakhot. In fact, we have seen that the halakha is more stringent about muktzeh on Yom Tov than on Shabbat (see above 6:6). Since Shabbat is stricter in some ways and Yom Tov is stricter in others, unless it is stated explicitly that there is a difference, the laws are the same for both (see Beitza 35b-36a, 37a; Harḥavot 6:6:7).

We have already explained the rabbinic prohibitions in Peninei Halakha: Shabbat. Since they are also relevant to Yom Tov (Beitza 36b; SA 524:1), we will review them here in brief.

On Shabbat and Yom Tov, it is prohibited to climb trees (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 19:7), ride animals (ibid. 20:1), swim (ibid. 14:9), or play musical instruments (lest one end up repairing them). Dancing in a way that could lead to the repairing of a musical instrument is also prohibited (ibid. 22:17-18). A beit din does not convene. No matrimonial ceremonies are performed – marriage, divorce, yibum (levirate marriage), or ḥalitza (levirate divorce). Objects are not consecrated for Temple use, nor are terumot and ma’aser set aside. However, one who bakes on Yom Tov does set aside ḥalla (see above 4:3).

The rabbinic prohibition of asking a non-Jew to perform melakha is in force on Yom Tov, as it is on Shabbat. In other words, anything that a Jew may not do (even rabbinically), he may not request a non-Jew to do for him. There are exceptions, though: on Yom Tov, as on Shabbat, if the request is for the sake of a mitzva or great need, or is meant to alleviate suffering, a non-Jew may be asked to do a rabbinically prohibited action, because involving the non-Jew reduces the prohibition from a shvut to a shvut di-shvut (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 25:4-5; 9:11-12).

However, when it comes to tzorekh okhel nefesh on Yom Tov, just as the Torah permitted biblically prohibited melakha, the Sages permitted rabbinically prohibited actions. For example, they allowed the skins of just-slaughtered animals to be left in a place where people would walk on them (SA 499:3; see above 4:6). They also permitted removing a door from a store’s cabinet in order to take food out of it. In some cases, they even permitted replacing the door in a temporary fashion to prevent the food in the cabinet from being stolen. They also permitted assembling, in a temporary fashion, a table and chair to use at a meal. Even though these last activities are prohibited on Shabbat due to a concern that the assembly will be done in a permanent way, on Yom Tov we are lenient if it is necessary for a meal (SA 519:1-2).

Some say that just as the Sages prohibited benefiting from forbidden melakha on Shabbat, so too they prohibited benefiting from forbidden melakha on Yom Tov (Rambam). Others maintain that since Yom Tov is less severe than Shabbat, the Sages did not forbid benefiting from forbidden melakha then (Rashba). All agree that if the melakha done in a forbidden manner is one of those that is permitted for okhel nefesh, it is not forbidden to derive benefit from it.[3]


[3]. If one did not make an eruv tavshilin and then intentionally cooked on Yom Tov for Shabbat, the cooked food may be eaten on Shabbat. We are not concerned that people will draw the incorrect conclusion that it is permitted to act as he did, since everyone knows that what he did was halakhically incorrect (SA 527:23). This would seem to open the door to a question: as we have seen (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 26:1-2), the Sages forbade one from ever benefiting from a melakha that he himself did intentionally on Shabbat (whether the violation was biblical or rabbinic). Even others may benefit from it only after Shabbat. (This is the opinion of the majority of poskim as well as the SA.) Why do we not apply this principle to food illicitly cooked on Yom Tov as well? Shouldn’t there be a prohibition of ma’aseh Yom Tov? Three explanations of this rule appear in the writings of the Rishonim:

  1. A) Rambam says that there is indeed a prohibition of ma’aseh Yom Tov, which applies only to the prohibitions that are the same on Shabbat and Yom Tov. In contrast, when it comes to melakhot such as cooking that are permissible on Yom Tov for okhel nefesh, even if they were performed in a forbidden fashion, there is no prohibition of ma’aseh Yom Tov (MT, Laws of Shabbat 23:15 and Laws of Yom Tov 6:10, following the understanding of Or Same’aḥ, Yom Tov 4:17).
  2. B) According to Rashba, the Sages chose not to enact a prohibition of ma’aseh Yom Tov, since transgressing on Yom Tov is less severe than on Shabbat. In the words of the Gemara (Beitza 17b), “Shabbat prohibitions are different” (Responsa Rashba 5:8). SAH agrees with this (52:1, 3; 503:13), and it is implied by SA 503:1.
  3. C) Rashi maintains that one may not benefit when a Torah prohibition is transgressed, but he may when a rabbinic prohibition is transgressed. One who knowingly cooks on Yom Tov has not transgressed a Torah law, since the food can be eaten by guests on Yom Tov. Therefore, benefit may be derived from the food (Rashi to Beitza 17b). This is also the position of Pri Megadim (Hilkhot Yom Tov, Petiḥa 2:5) and Shevet Ha-Levi 6:68.

04. Rest for Animals

Just as a Jew is commanded to rest on Shabbat, so too, he is commanded to allow his animals to rest. There are two commandments that address this issue, one positive (aseh), as the Torah states (Shemot 23:12): “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your maidservant and the stranger may be refreshed”; and one negative (lo ta’aseh), as the Torah states (Shemot 20:10): “But the seventh day is a Shabbat of the Lord your God; you shall not do any melakha – you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your beast, or the stranger who is within your settlements.” On Shabbat, a Jew may not lend or rent out his animal to a non-Jew unless the non-Jew agrees to allow the animal to rest (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 20:1).

The poskim disagree about this with respect to Yom Tov. Some say that there is no mitzva to allow an animal to rest on Yom Tov. Therefore, it is permissible to rent out an animal to a non-Jew, even though he plans to use it to plow on Yom Tov. Similarly, they permit a Jew to use his animal to transport food necessary for Yom Tov, as long as it is clear to onlookers that the load will be used for Yom Tov, not for weekdays (Rema 246:3; Tosfot Yom Tov; Pri Ḥadash).

In contrast, most poskim maintain that just as there is a mitzva to allow one’s animal to rest on Shabbat, so too there is a mitzva to allow one’s animals to rest on Yom Tov. According to this approach, all laws of Yom Tov are the same as those of Shabbat, with the one explicit exception of melakhot necessary for okhel nefesh. Therefore, one may not lend or rent out his animal to a non-Jew who will work it on Yom Tov, and he may not use it to transport food necessary for Yom Tov. Even though the Jew himself is permitted to carry for Yom Tov needs, he may not use his animal to do so (SA 495:3; Maharshal; Vilna Gaon; MB 495:14).[4]


[4]. According to Maharikash (Ohalei Yaakov §89), although one may not plow with an animal on Yom Tov, he may use an animal to transport items from one domain to another. After all, it would be illogical for a person to be allowed to carry something on his own back, but not on his animal’s back. Several additional poskim who agree with him are cited in Ḥazon Ovadia, p. 6. However, most poskim still say that one may not transport items on an animal. R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (SSK ch. 19, n. 17-18) points out that those who are stringent do not even allow an animal to carry its own food! Nevertheless, if there is a risk that the animal will die without the food, then those who allow a safe key to be carried (see above 6:3) would allow a Jew to bring the animal its food, as the carrying is being done to avoid a loss which would upset the owner on Yom Tov.

05. Tending to a Corpse

If a person died on Shabbat or Yom Kippur, we do not deal with the burial on that day, nor may one move the body, as it is muktzeh. If there is a concern that the body will be degraded, we cover it with an item of clothing or another non-muktzeh item and thus move it to a place where it can be preserved with dignity (SA 311:1-4). A non-Jew may not be asked to deal with the burial, as it is rabbinically prohibited to ask a non-Jew to do something that would be prohibited by Torah law if a Jew did it. Desecrating Shabbat or Yom Kippur on behalf of the corpse is not respectful toward the deceased (SA 526:3).

On Yom Tov, in contrast, the Sages permitted asking a non-Jew to deal with the burial. The Sages here are following the lead of the Torah. Since the Torah is lenient in allowing one to do melakhot in order to prepare necessary food items on Yom Tov, the Sages too are lenient in allowing one to ask a non-Jew to do whatever melakhot might be necessary for the burial, including sewing the shrouds, making the coffin, and digging the grave. Furthermore, Jews may do rabbinically prohibited melakhot to facilitate the burial. These include washing the body, transporting it, escorting it (within the teḥum), and placing it in the grave. Non-Jews may then fill the grave with dirt (Beitza 6a; SA 526:1).

On Yom Tov Sheni and the second day of Rosh Ha-shana, the Sages allowed Jews to deal with the burial of the dead, for the Sages rendered Yom Tov Sheni as a weekday for everything needed to take care of the dead. Since the Sages are the ones who enacted the second day of Yom Tov in the Diaspora (as explained below, 9:2-3), they had the authority to permit melakha then, in order to prevent the degradation of the dead. Therefore, a Jew may sew the shrouds, dig the grave, and even cut myrtle branches to be placed on the coffin in those places where this is a standard way of paying respect to the dead (Beitza 6a; SA 526:4). Some say that when possible, a non-Jew should be asked to do the biblically prohibited melakhot (Rema, ibid.)

Anything that may not be done on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed for the deceased may not be done on Yom Tov Sheni either. Therefore, one may not do melakha publicly if onlookers will be unaware that it is for the sake of the dead. This includes engraving the tombstone and cutting down trees to make the coffin (SA 547:10; MB 526:24).

Even if the cemetery is beyond one’s teḥum Shabbat, he may still accompany the body there on Yom Tov Sheni. However, if it is necessary to drive in order to get to the cemetery, then the only people who may do so are those whose presence is required for the burial. The rest of the escorts, including mourners, may not go (SA 526:7; Oraḥ Mishpat §130; as for coming back afterward, see SA 526:6; MB ad loc. 35; BHL s.v. “ve-ḥozrin”).

If someone passed away on the first day of Yom Tov, the burial should not be delayed until the second day in order to allow Jews to take care of it. Be-di’avad, if they transgressed by waiting, Jews may perform the burial (SA 526:2; BHL s.v. “asur”). Some follow the practice of delaying burials le-khatḥila from the first day of Yom Tov to the second (Raavad). Nowadays in particular, when relegating the burial to non-Jews is considered very disrespectful toward the deceased, some are lenient and permit waiting. Those who wish to rely on this leniency may do so (see Piskei Teshuvot 526:3).

When there is a concern that if the burial takes place on Yom Tov, people will desecrate Yom Tov (such as by making phone calls to notify people of the time of the funeral, or by driving in order to participate), it is proper to delay the burial until after Yom Tov. This is especially true nowadays, when bodies can be kept refrigerated, thus minimizing the degradation. Anywhere that Jews are likely to desecrate Yom Tov because of the funeral, it should not be held on Yom Tov Sheni (Igrot Moshe OḤ 3:76).

Since a body can now be refrigerated so that it will not be degraded, it would seem that even when we are not concerned about Yom Tov desecration, the relatives of the deceased may choose to delay the funeral until after Yom Tov in order to allow more people to attend. True, there is a mitzva to bury the dead as soon as possible and not to leave the body unburied. Nevertheless, when delaying the funeral will result in a better-attended funeral, thus increasing the respect paid to the deceased, it is not prohibited (SA YD 357:1).