11 – Melakha on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed

01. The Basic Prohibition of Melakha

The days of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed are neither weekdays nor Yom Tov, but something in between. Thus, some melakhot are permitted on them, while others are prohibited.

The Torah emphasizes that the first and last days of Pesaḥ and Sukkot are “sacred occasions” during which people must not work at their occupations (Vayikra 23:7-8; 35-36). In contrast, when speaking about Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, the Torah does not explicitly forbid melakha. On the other hand, given that the days of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed take place between two holy days, that they seem to be included with the “sacred occasions” at least once (Vayikra 23:37), and that festival offerings are sacrificed on them, clearly they are not just ordinary workdays. In fact, the Sages infer from a number of verses that there is a work prohibition on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (Ḥagiga 18b). The difference is that on Yom Tov all melekhet avoda (occupational work) is prohibited, while on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed only certain melakhot are prohibited.

Speaking in generalities, we can say that on Shabbat all melakha is prohibited; on Yom Tov melekhet avoda is prohibited (while melakhot of food preparation in a private home for same-day consumption are permitted); and on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed the only melakhot that are prohibited are those which are demanding or time-consuming (as explained in the next section), and which are not necessary for the festival or to prevent a loss.

The work prohibition on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed is a result of the sanctity with which the Torah endows it. However, the Rishonim disagree as to the precise nature of the prohibition – is it biblical or rabbinic in nature? Many write that a bona fide melakha that is demanding or time-consuming is prohibited by the Torah (unless it is undertaken for the sake of the festival or to prevent a loss, in which case it is permitted). Beyond that, the Sages added protective legislation and prohibited certain melakhot even when they do serve the festival or prevent loss.[1]

One who performs prohibited melakha on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed is considered to be belittling it, and has no portion in the World to Come (Pirkei Avot 3:11, following Rashi and R. Ovadia of Bertinoro). The Sages further state that “Anyone who belittles Ḥol Ha-mo’ed – it is as if he worships idols” (Pesaḥim 118a).

One who performed prohibited melakha on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed is not allowed to benefit from it. However, people who are not members of his household may benefit. When beit din had the power, it would fine anyone who worked on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, and destroy whatever he had made (SA 538:6; see Harḥavot 11:1:11-13).


[1]. Ḥagiga 18a quotes several Tanna’im and Amora’im who derive Ḥol Ha-mo’ed’s work prohibition from an assortment of biblical verses. Nevertheless, some maintain that the entire prohibition is actually rabbinic, and the verses are simply asmakhtot (biblical verses quoted in support of rabbinic enactments). This is the opinion of R. Tam; Rambam; Rosh; Smag; Yere’im; and Tashbetz. They use this premise to explain how some melakhot are permitted, while others are prohibited. In contrast, many others maintain that the Gemara should be understood simply, that doing melakha on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed violates a Torah prohibition. This is the opinion of Rashi and Rashbam. It is also implied by Rif, She’iltot, Sefer Ha-eshkol, and R. Yitzḥak ibn Gi’at, who quote the Gemara in Ḥagiga with no elaboration. Ramban suggests that biblically, absolute melakha that is difficult or time-consuming is prohibited, while melakha for the festival or to prevent loss is permitted. Beyond that, the Sages forbade certain melakhot as a safeguard. These include skilled labor for festival needs (other than bodily needs) and excessively demanding labor to prevent a relatively small loss. Ramban’s opinion is followed by Rashba, Sefer Ha-ḥinukh, and Ritva. This disagreement has practical ramifications when it comes to cases of uncertainty. We are stringent about Torah laws in such cases, while we are lenient about rabbinic laws. See BHL (530:1 s.v. “u-mutar”), which summarizes the various opinions while inclining toward stringency. Ḥazon Ovadia, p. 159 cites the poskim who are inclined to leniency.

02. General Rules

The prohibition of melakha on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed is meant to allow us to enjoy the festival through Torah study and festive meals. Therefore, the basic rule is that melakha involving tirḥa is prohibited. There are two ways in which an action may qualify as a tirḥa: 1) it is time-consuming; 2) it is difficult or demanding. Thus, craftsmanship (ma’aseh uman) is prohibited even when it can be completed quickly. In contrast, melakha which is neither time-consuming nor demanding is permitted, even if it is not necessary for the festival. Therefore, if a piece of plaster can be easily removed from the floor or wall, one may remove it, even if it is in a room that is not being used on the festival. Similarly, one who enjoys photography may take pictures, even if it meets no festival need and they could be taken at a later time. Lighting a match or turning on a light is also permitted, even if there is no need for the light. One may also enter the public domain with unnecessary items in his pockets (see Harḥavot 11:2:1-5).

Even time-consuming melakhot may be undertaken, as long as they are done for the sake of the festival. These include picking fruit, hunting animals or fish, grinding wheat, squeezing fruits, and packing food into bags or boxes so they can be sold in stores (section 3 below). One may do melakhot for other festival needs as well, such as repairing a window to prevent cold air from blowing in (section 5 below).

Doing melakha in order to prevent a loss (davar ha-aved) is permitted. This permissibility is in fact a festival need, as one worried about sustaining a loss would find it difficult to enjoy the festival (see 12:2 below).

In total, there are five justifications for doing melakha on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed:

  • To provide food for the festival, even craftsmanship or skilled labor is permitted.
  • For other festival needs, unskilled labor (ma’aseh hedyot) is permitted.
  • If one does not have food to eat, he may work as usual in order to buy food.
  • In order to prevent a loss, even craftsmanship is permitted.
  • To benefit the general public, unskilled labor may be undertaken, if it would be difficult to take care of the problem after Ḥol Ha-mo’ed.

Since there are many different general rules that apply to Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, and some of the laws derived from them may seem contradictory, the Sages stated: “The laws of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed are stand-alone; we do not extrapolate one from the other” (MK 12a). Rather, a person can arrive at halakhic conclusions only after learning the entire corpus of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed laws.

03. Food Preparation

Since we fulfill the mitzva to rejoice on the festival through festive meals, on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed it is permitted to do any melakha necessary to prepare food. This permission includes both skilled labor and demanding work. True, on Yom Tov one is also permitted to do melakha to prepare food, but there is a significant difference: On Yom Tov, melakhot that one generally does at home, such as cooking and baking, are permitted, whereas on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, all melakhot necessary for food preparation are permitted, including those generally done in fields or factories. Also, unlike Yom Tov, when it is permitted to do melakha only if the food will be eaten on Yom Tov itself, on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed it is permissible to prepare food for the entire festival, and even for the next Shabbat if it immediately follows Yom Tov (SA 533:1).

Therefore, on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed it is permissible to pick fruits and vegetables, package them, and transport them to grocery stores and markets. It is also permissible to pay workers for their work, to write receipts, and to keep whatever records the law requires. Modern machines may be used to facilitate picking and packaging, as skilled labor is permissible for food preparation (MB 530:1). Animals and fowl may be slaughtered, koshered, and transported to stores for festival use.

Even melakhot that could have been done before the festival may be done on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed for food preparation. The Sages did not want to limit food preparation in any way, as that might detract from the joy of the festival (SA 533:1). However, le-khatḥila, if possible it is preferable to prepare the food in the fields and factories before the festival, so that one will enjoy as much free time as possible on the festival.

When melakha is done as part of selling food to the public and people seeing it might mistakenly think that the work is being done for after the festival, it should be done discreetly, so that the prohibition of melakha on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed will not be belitteled. However, if it is clear that the work is being done for festival needs, it is not necessary to do it discreetly. Therefore, people who work in bakeries, including the salespeople, may work openly, as everyone knows they are preparing fresh baked goods for the festival. But those who work in factories where candy or canned goods are produced should work discreetly even though they are preparing food for the festival, as it will not be obvious to those who see them that the work is being done for the festival (SA 533:5; 537:15; Levush ad loc.; SSK 66:13).

One may not do melakha on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed for the days after the festival. However, it is not necessary to measure precisely how much is minimally required to make it through the festival. Rather, generous amounts of food may be prepared for the festival, and any leftovers may be enjoyed freely. This is on condition that one does not act disingenuously, pretending that the food is being made for the festival when his true intention is to cook for the days following the festival (SA 533:1).

A farmer who grows fruits, vegetables, and grain in his fields may pick them for himself on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, even if he could buy them in the grocery store instead (SA 537:15).

04. Makhshirei Okhel Nefesh

One may fix makhshirei okhel nefesh on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Makhshirei okhel nefesh are appliances or utensils needed to prepare food. These include stovetops, ovens, mixers, knives, and skewers. Even if fixing them will require a professional and be time-consuming, even a Jewish repairman may be hired and paid for his work. Just as it is permitted to do any melakha necessary to prepare food for the festival, so too it is permitted to do any melakha necessary to repair items which are used to prepare food. Even if one could ask neighbors to cook on their stovetop, it is still permissible to call a repairman (SA 540:7; MB ad loc. 28).

There is one difference between preparing food and repairing an item. Food, even if it could have been prepared before the festival, may be prepared on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. This is true even if the preparation requires expertise. In contrast, if an item could have been fixed before the festival, but the repair was pushed off to Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, it may not be repaired on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. If one did not intentionally push off the repair until Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, but was lazy and did not manage to take care of it before Yom Tov, it may be repaired on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed even by a professional (Rema 540:8; MB ad loc. 27; SHT ad loc. 23).

All this applies to makhshirim. Makhshirei makhshirim (items used only indirectly for food preparation) may not be repaired by a professional on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, even if it was impossible to repair them before the festival. However, they may be fixed if it can be done by a layman at no cost. For example, a fishnet may not be repaired professionally, because the net is not integral to food preparation in the way that a stovetop or oven is. It merely helps in catching the fish (SA 541:1). Similarly, if food is stored in the attic, and the ladder needed to get the food down is broken, it may not be repaired professionally. This is because the ladder does not help directly with food preparation; it helps only in gaining access to the food. However, the ladder may be fixed if the repair can be done by a layman. Similarly, a dining-room table may not be fixed professionally, nor may a dishwasher or countertop, since these are all makhshirei makhshirim.

If the kitchen faucet breaks and it would be difficult to use a different sink for food preparation, it may be fixed even professionally. It is deemed a makhshir okhel nefesh, as it is responsible for supplying the water for drinking and cooking. Similarly, if there is a blackout, a professional may restore the electricity, as it is necessary to illuminate the dining room and to allow the electric oven and urn to function.

05. Bodily Needs

Just as it is permitted to do any melakha necessary to prepare food, so too it is permitted to do any melakha necessary to care for the body on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. One may even pay a professional to do the job if necessary. For example, if a window breaks on a cold day, a repairman may be called to fix it, in order to prevent the cold from penetrating the house. Similarly, if it is cold out and the heater breaks, a professional may be called to fix it. On very hot days, a repairman may be hired to fix an air conditioner, since preventing great suffering is considered a bodily need (MB 540:19; BHL 542:1 s.v. “afilu”; SSK ch. 66 n. 203). A plumber may be called to repair the toilet and plumbing system, in order to prevent great suffering on the part of the residents. (See SSK 66:58.)

It is also permissible to have a plumber fix the shower, as washing on the festival is considered a bodily need. However, if the shower is working, one may not have the bathtub fixed, as bathing is a luxury that is not necessary for the festival.

If a repair requires a great deal of time-consuming work and will be performed in the public view (such as breaking a wall in order to fix a pipe), then it may only be done when it is truly needed to enjoy the festival. The greater the need, the more sweeping the permissibility of doing melakha, even if it is public and time-consuming (see 12:2 below; SSK ch. 66, n. 67).

If a family’s only telephone breaks, it may be fixed. Having phone service today is so essential that it is considered a bodily need. If there is a great need for an additional telephone, it too may be fixed.

A woman may put on makeup and comb and braid her hair to her heart’s content. She may even pay a professional cosmetician, as any melakha that beautifies the body is permitted on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. She may also remove body hair, though she may not have the hair of her head cut (as the Sages forbade getting haircuts on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed; see section 9 below). A woman may undergo a treatment that will initially cause her face to redden, as long as in the course of the festival the treatment will make her skin look better (MK 8b and 9b; SA 546:5). However, le-khatḥila it is preferable for professional treatments to be done before the festival. This allows the person to start the festival while looking her very best, and also frees up Ḥol Ha-mo’ed for festival simḥa.

Jewelry, clothing, and wigs are not considered bodily needs but ordinary festival needs. Therefore, they may be taken care of if it can be done for free and through a layman, not through a professional.

One may take payment for babysitting, as this is considered a bodily need (SSK ch. 66 n. 160).

06. Medical Needs

Just as one may do any melakha necessary to prepare food or to take care of the body on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, so too one may undergo any medical treatment that is meant to relieve pain, as this too is a bodily need (SA 532:2). Even a healthy person may take medicine and apply an ointment in order to maintain his health.

One who has a painful toothache may go to the dentist for treatment, even if the pain will not go away immediately and he will feel the relief only after the festival. However, one may not do follow-up care on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, unless it involves either preventing pain or saving a tooth. It is also prohibited to schedule teeth straightening or cleaning for Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Since these treatments need not be done then, it would belittle the festival, much as intentionally planning to work then would (see SSK ch. 66 n. 88 and 92).

One may not schedule a routine medical checkup for Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, since it does not contribute to the festival in any way. However, if the doctor is a specialist, and if one does not accept the appointment for Ḥol Ha-mo’ed he will lose the opportunity to see a doctor of comparable skill, he may go on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. This is comparable to preventing a loss.

One who needs surgery should try to schedule it before the festival. If this is not possible, and if waiting until after the festival could cause him to suffer or his condition to deteriorate (even though no danger to life is involved), the surgery may be performed on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed.

If one’s glasses broke, and he needs them during the festival, he may take them to an optician to have them fixed on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. This is considered a bodily need. However, one may not get new frames for aesthetic reasons, and he may not have sunglasses repaired unless he wears them for health reasons (Igrot Moshe, OḤ 3:78; SSK ch. 66, n. 88).[2]


[2]. If one is struggling with mental illness and needs to work in order to maintain his health, he may work on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, as this is a medical need (Hitorerut Teshuva 4:48).

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.

08. Holiday Needs

Floors may be washed on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed using a squeegee stick and a rag. However, one may not give the floors an extra-thorough cleaning and polish, because that is skilled labor. Additionally, on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed one should not do the type of cleaning that is generally done only every few weeks (such as cleaning the windows). This is because choosing to do periodic maintenance work on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed makes it looks like he intentionally put it off until then, thus belittling the festival (SA 540:2; SSK 66:47). Similarly, while rugs and carpets may be cleaned and vacuumed, they may not be cleaned extremely thoroughly or be beaten outside, as people do only occasionally.

If furniture breaks, one may do a temporary repair that is easy and inexpert, such as gluing a chair leg into place. The repair may not be done in a professional fashion.

It should be emphasized that the permissibility of cleaning the house and carpets and fixing furniture inexpertly applies only when meeting a festival need. However, if one does not plan to use the house for the rest of the festival, he may not clean and prepare it for after the festival (SA and Rema 541:4-5; MB ad loc. 12).

If a bit of cement is stuck to the floor, and it makes walking more difficult or looks ugly, it may be removed by hand or with an implement in an unskilled way, even if doing so requires physical effort (see above, section 2).

Plants that are watered every few days may be watered with a hose or watering can on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. This is true whether they are in a planter or a garden, as long as watering them will beautify the home or garden on the festival. Similarly, flowers or twigs may be gathered and used to decorate the house during the festival, because watering plants and picking flowers are unskilled labor (SSK 66:57). Even if the plants won’t contribute anything to the festival, they may be watered if failure to do so would cause them harm. This is considered a case of preventing a loss (see 12:2 below).

09. Shaving and Haircuts

Since there is a mitzva to shave and to have one’s hair cut before the festival, the Sages forbade shaving or getting haircuts during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Therefore, even though the general rule on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed is that it is permissible to do melakha which involves caring for one’s body (and thus any bothersome hair may be removed), the Sages still prohibited haircuts and shaving. They were concerned that if haircuts were allowed on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, people would push off getting haircuts until then, and thus belittle the festival by starting it looking unkempt. Thus, prohibiting haircuts on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed ensured that everyone would get their hair cut before the festival (MK 14a; SA 531:1-2).

In earlier times, when one traveling by caravan from a distant land would arrive too close to the festival to get a haircut before Yom Tov, the Sages were lenient and allowed him to get his hair cut discreetly on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (MK 13b; SA 531:4-5). Nowadays, though, this leniency is not relevant, as international trips are generally short and haircuts are available just about anywhere. However, if one did manage to get lost in a desolate area for an extended period of time, and then was rescued on the festival, he may discreetly get a haircut on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed.

The prohibition of haircutting applies only to the head and beard. When that hair grows longer than usual, it makes a person look unkempt, and entering into the festival in such a state is belittling it. In contrast, the moustache and other hair is not included in the prohibition, and they may be cut during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (SA 531:8; SHT ad loc. 15). One who has sores on his scalp may get a haircut, if it lessens his pain or helps him heal (MB 531:21).

One may give a minor a haircut on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed if the child is bothered by his hair length. Since he is not yet obligated to keep the commandments, he is not obligated to prepare for the festival either. Thus the Sages did not include him in the prohibition of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed haircuts (SA 531:6). Those whose custom is to give a boy his first haircut at age three, and to celebrate with a big party, may give him that haircut on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Even if his birthday is actually before the festival, the haircut may be delayed until Ḥol Ha-mo’ed in order to increase the joy (Gan Ha-melekh; Sha’arei Teshuva 531:7).

Nowadays there is a serious question: If one shaves daily, is it permitted for him to shave on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed? Some say that the original prohibition stands – the Sages decreed not to shave or get a haircut on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Nevertheless, it would seem that if one shaves daily and makes a point of shaving before the festival begins, he may shave during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Since he did not neglect to show respect for the festival, and the shave before Yom Tov will not keep him looking respectable throughout the weeklong festival, it is permitted and even a mitzva for him to shave during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. It is especially a mitzva to shave before Shabbat and before the concluding Yom Tov. However, if his father is stringent in this regard, it is preferable for him to follow his father’s custom rather than possibly offending his father.[4]


[4]. According to R. Tam, the goal of the ordinance is to make sure that people get haircuts before the festival. Therefore, if one did so, he may then get a haircut during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed as well. However, according to most Rishonim, even one who got a haircut before Yom Tov still may not get one on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (Or Zaru’a; Hagahot Maimoniyot; Mordechai; Tur and SA 531:2), because one who sees him doing so will not know that he had also gotten a haircut beforehand. As further support for their position, they point out that such a person is not included in the Mishna’s list of people permitted to get a haircut (MK 13b). However, none of these considerations apply to those who shave daily. The Mishna does not relate to such people, as there was no such practice in mishnaic times. There is no concern that anyone will suspect they did not shave before Yom Tov, because everyone knows that they shave every day, and certainly before festivals. On the contrary, the whole reason for the Sages’ decree is so people will not look unkempt on the festival. If those who shave daily do not shave on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, they will look like mourners. That would be the opposite of what the decree was meant to accomplish. In 1948, when electric shavers were still relatively rare, R. Moshe Feinstein wrote that it is not prohibited for one who shaves daily to shave on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (Igrot Moshe OḤ 1:163). R. Zvi Pesaḥ Frank also rules this way (cited by R. Lior, Devar Ḥevron §543), as does R. Naḥum Rabinovitch in Si’aḥ Naḥum §30. It is reported that R. Soloveitchik reprimanded students who did not shave then, and he said it was a mitzva to do so. In contrast, many others are stringent (R. Yisrael Veltz, Divrei Yisrael 1:140; SSK 66:23; see also Piskei Teshuvot 531:2). Ḥazon Ovadia, p. 191 inclines toward stringency as well. Now, the ban on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed shaving is rabbinic, and whether it applies here is under dispute. On the other hand, a man who does not shave might well be transgressing the Torah commandment to honor the festival. In practice, this is fulfilled by wearing clean clothing and by not looking like a mourner with a scruffy beard, which would belittle the festival. Accordingly, we should rule that it is a mitzva to shave on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, especially right before Shabbat and Yom Tov. However, it is different if one’s father has a custom not to do so and wants his son to follow his custom. In such a case, it is proper for the son to maintain the father’s custom as part of the mitzva of honoring parents, especially if he is spending the festival with his father.

10. Cutting Nails

One whose nails are overgrown should cut them before the festival. However, according to most poskim, if he did not do so, he may cut them be-di’avad during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. It is permitted as it is considered a bodily need, and bodily needs may be taken care of on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (Rif; Rambam; Rosh; Smag; SA 534:1). Others are stringent and state that just as the Sages forbade getting haircuts during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, they also forbade cutting nails. The logic is the same; the Sages wanted to encourage people to look their best before Yom Tov (Smak; Sefer Ha-teruma).

Even though the primary position is the lenient one, the custom in Ashkenazic and some Sephardic communities is to be stringent and not cut nails during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (Rema 532:1; Kaf Ha-ḥayim ad loc. 4). Even according to the stringent opinion, though, one who cut his nails before the festival may cut them again on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (MA; MB ad loc. 2; AHS ad loc. 2). If one cuts his nails every Friday, he may cut them on Friday of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed as well, even if he did not cut them before the festival (Naḥalat Shiva 2:57).[5]


[5]. Some apply Rema’s stringency in that case as well, and permit nail-cutting only in the case of a woman who needs to immerse in the mikveh. However, we need not defer to this position, since the majority of Rishonim allow nails to be cut on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Even among those who are stringent, many permit it in the cases discussed above (see Kaf Ha-ḥayim 532:5, 7). Furthermore, this is a disagreement about a rabbinic law. Additionally, AHS 532:2 states that if one following Ashkenazic custom was extremely busy before the festival, he may cut his nails on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed if necessary.

11. Laundry

It is a mitzva to launder one’s clothing before the festival. In order to make sure that people would not be lazy about it, the Sages prohibited washing clothes on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. That is, although based on the halakhic principles of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, doing laundry should have been permitted as long as the clothing would be worn on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, in the same way that other unskilled labor is permitted for a festival need, nevertheless, the Sages prohibited it so that people would not delay doing laundry until Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, when they are not working. For were they to do so, people would begin the festival in dirty clothes, thus belittling Yom Tov (MK 14a; SA 534:1). Therefore, one may not wash shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, suits, and the like on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. An exception to this rule is the clothing of babies and small children. Not only do these get dirty quickly, but even if they are washed before the festival they will get dirty again. Therefore, they may be washed on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed for festival wear (as is explained in the next section).

A stain on clothing may be removed using water and/or cleaning agents, because removing a stain was not included in the decree. However, as long as one has other clean clothes, it is preferable that he wear them rather than remove the stain. If the stained item of clothing is preferable to the unstained one in some way, it may be cleaned in order to wear it on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed or Yom Tov. (See SSK 66:72.)

If one owns only one outfit, the Sages permitted him to wash it on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. For even if he washes it before the festival, one can assume it will get dirty during the week of the festival, and the Sages did not want to force anyone to wear dirty clothing during the festival. Therefore, if one has only one shirt or dress and it gets dirty, it may be washed on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. One should be careful to wash the clothing discreetly, meaning in a washing machine at home, and should not hang the clothes outside to dry.

In contrast, if one owns two outfits, he may not wash during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed even if they are both dirty and he will be unhappy wearing them, as the Sages assumed that two outfits should be enough to take one through the festival. Even when one of the items is not as nice as the other, he is still considered as one who owns two garments, and he may not do laundry on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Similarly, if one owns a dress and a skirt-blouse outfit, she is considered to own two garments. Even if both get a little dirty, she may not wash them. Rather, she should wear them as is.

If one has one outfit for the weekday and one for Shabbat and holidays which he would not wear during the week, he is considered to have only one outfit. Should his Shabbat outfit get dirty, he may wash it before the concluding Yom Tov.

When all of one’s available clothes are so dirty that he’d be embarrassed to leave the house in them, he may wash one outfit so that he will not be forced to remain at home.[6] (Normal ironing is permitted, as we explained in section 7.)


[6]. If one owns only one outfit, the Sages were lenient about washing it (MK 14a). Smak and Rabbeinu Peretz point out that the Gemara says that such a person would be dressed in a way that made it clear that what he was washing was his only outfit. They argue that this is a condition for the leniency; since nowadays there is no equivalent sign, the Gemara’s permit no longer applies. MB 534:9 cites those who are stringent, and that is also the inclination of SSK 66:63. However, Rif, Rambam, and Rosh maintain that the leniency is not conditional. SA rules this way in 534:1, as do most poskim (Kaf Ha-ḥayim ad loc. also r appliesgg was his only ed in a way that 11).

If a person owns two outfits, one of which is for weekday wear and one of which is for Yom Tov (and Shabbat), there is disagreement as to his status. Some say that he is considered to have two garments, and thus may not wash his Yom Tov garment if it got dirty (Avnei Yashfeh 104:4), while others maintain he is considered to have only one garment, so if it got dirty he may wash it (Or Le-Tziyon 3:24:3; Ḥut Shani 15:6). It would seem when this last opinion is taken into consideration together with the upcoming rationale, one may be lenient.

According to MK 18a-b, linen clothes may be washed, either because they are white and constantly get dirty, so washing them before Yom Tov is insufficient (MT, Laws of Yom Tov 7:21; Nimukei Yosef), or because they are easy to wash (Rashi; Ran). Nevertheless, by the time of the Rishonim, the custom was to be stringent about this, possibly because it is difficult to draw distinctions between different types of clothing. In practice, SA rules that it is prohibited to wash linen clothes (534:2). However, when there are additional reasons to be lenient, such as in the case of one who has only one outfit for Yom Tov and one for weekdays, we may take into account the rationale of Rashi and Ran that the leniency to launder linen was because it is easy to do so. Accordingly, using a washing machine would be permissible.

If one has two outfits but they are both so dirty that he is too embarrassed to leave the house wearing them, it would seem that it is permissible to wash them, on the grounds of preventing a loss. After all, he would otherwise “lose out” on prayers, Torah classes, and family meals. Some have written in the name of R. Elyashiv that washing may be permitted in this case because of human dignity. For the prohibition to do laundry refers to cases where it would be a little embarrassing to wear the dirty clothes. If it would be extremely embarrassing, washing is permissible. See Harḥavot.

12. Clothing That May Be Washed

Clothes that get dirty frequently, such as those of babies and small children, may be washed on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed for festival use. The Sages prohibited washing clothes during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed in order to encourage people to wash them before the festival rather than wait. They did not include clothing that in any case would need to be washed during the festival. This laundry need not be done in private, as everyone knows that washing such clothes is permissible.

Nevertheless, one must wash all of the baby’s clothing and children’s clothing before the festival. Only after using up all the clean clothes may one wash whatever is necessary to get through the rest of the festival. If all of a child’s Yom Tov clothes are dirty, they may be washed even if he has clean weekday clothes. One must be careful not to throw in additional clothes for use after the festival. If one did not wash all the children’s clothing before the festival, many maintain that he may not do the laundry during Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, as it is considered as though he purposefully left this task for the festival. However, in practice, children should not suffer for their parent’s mistake. Therefore, be-di’avad one may wash the clothes that got dirty during the festival together with those which were not washed beforehand.

In general, children at age nine and up do not constantly get their clothes dirty, and thus their clothes may not be washed on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. However, for those children who constantly get dirty when older, clothes may still be washed for festival use when they are nine or ten as well.

What about hand towels that are generally changed every day or two, and tablecloths that get dirty frequently? If they are all dirty on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, they may be washed in a quantity sufficient to make it through the festival (SA 534:1). This is also the case for socks and underwear, which are generally changed daily on account of sweat. After all the clean ones have been used up, enough may be washed to get through the festival.[7]


[7]. In hotels, sheets and towels are normally changed daily. If guests demand this on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed as well, because otherwise they would feel the place is not sufficiently clean, the hotel staff may wash the sheets and towels, as they normally change them every day. We do not require hotel owners to buy enough sheets and towels that they can avoid washing throughout Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (see SSK ch. 66 n. 263). However, le-khatḥila it is preferable for the guests not to request that their sheets and towels be changed daily, in order to minimize the need to wash. When new guests arrive, of course the sheets and towels must be changed for them.

13. Writing

Writing is prohibited on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, just as other melakhot are. Therefore, one may not write even just a single letter of a Torah scroll, a mezuza, or tefilin. It is also prohibited to draft legal documents, do paperwork for business, take a test, or write a paper or book report (SA 541:1 and 6). Even for festival needs, skilled writing is prohibited. This means writing (whether in cursive or print) while making special efforts to write aesthetically or precisely. However, for festival needs it is permitted to write normally, without making efforts. Therefore, one who needs to buy food on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed may write a shopping list.

One may also write a letter to a friend with normal handwriting. Doing so is a festival need, as it gives people enjoyment and strengthens friendships. This is on condition that he does not plan to write the letter on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. If one wishes to write to his friends, he should not delay it until Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (MB 545:31).

Similarly, one who wishes to give a present to his friend may write out a card, and if it is a book he may inscribe it (SA 545:5). Whenever writing is permissible on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, some are stringent to write the first line crookedly. However, one who wishes to be lenient may be, as this is the position of most poskim in practice. (See MB ad loc. 35.)

“Writing” with a computer is considered unskilled. Thus one may type a shopping list on a computer or smartphone, and send an email or text message, but only on condition that it is serving a festival need, as even unskilled labor is forbidden if it does not fulfill a festival need.

If one is studying Torah and finds that taking notes (whether handwritten or typed) helps him focus, he may do so. This writing is for the sake of a mitzva and is thus permissible. (In 12:11 and 12:13 below, we will explain about writing for the sake of a mitzva.)

Printing with a computer printer is considered skilled labor by some of the poskim. Even though sending something to print is very simple, the quality of the result is professional. Ideally, it is proper to defer to the stringent opinion and avoid printing on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. (In 12:14 below, we will explain about writing for a court case and to prevent a loss.)[8]


[8]. According to most poskim, handwriting that demands effort and precision, whether in Hebrew or a foreign language, qualifies as skilled labor; in contrast, normal handwriting, which one makes no special efforts to make beautiful and precise, is considered unskilled. Therefore, they permitted normal handwriting, such as that used to write a letter, as it contributes to festival joy (Rambam; Ramban; Mor U-ketzi’a). However, some are stringent, maintaining that all forms of handwriting are considered skilled labor, and it is only writing non-cursive, disconnected block letters that is considered unskilled (Tur citing Behag; Terumat Ha-deshen). SA 545:5 rules in accordance with the permissive position, while Rema writes that even though the lenient position is the primary one, the custom is to be stringent and write everything crookedly. According to MA, the custom is to write only the first line crookedly. Nevertheless, MB ad loc. 35 cites most Aḥaronim as saying that the custom is to be lenient with normal writing (Baḥ; Taz; Eliya Rabba; and others).

“Writing” on a computer without printing: Some say that there is no problem with this, and that it is permissible even for non-festival needs, since what one is doing is virtual, not real. Letters are being formed only electronically, which is similar to non-permanent writing. Doing it to make a living is still prohibited (Ḥol Ha-mo’ed Ke-hilkhato 6:98). Others maintain that “writing” on the computer is considered unskilled labor, and may be done only for a festival need. In contrast, what isn’t saved on the computer, such as “writing” in a game, is entirely permissible. This is the halakha (R. Eliyahu, Ma’amar Mordechai 19:54; Ḥut Shani 19:6).

Computer printing: Some say that this is skilled labor, because the resulting printout is deemed professional (based on Eliya Rabba 460:6). Others maintain it is unskilled, as everyone knows how to do it (based on Eshel Avraham [Buczacz], second edition, §545). See Ḥol Ha-mo’ed Kehilkhato 6: 89 and Piskei Teshuvot 545:2. In practice, it would seem that le-khatḥila one should be stringent and avoid printing even for festival use. However, when necessary, such as for a Torah class, one may rely on the lenient position, since the rationale makes sense. If the avoidance of printing something out will lead to less Torah being learned, the printing is permitted to prevent the loss. One may also be lenient in other times of necessity, because according to most poskim this is a case of doubt about a rabbinic law. For even those who maintain that melakha on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed is prohibited by the Torah, it is reasonable to assume that this is limited to major melakha, or that which is involved in making a living.

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.

15. Traveling, Outings, and Entertainment

On Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, one may drive a car for the purpose of an outing, as anything that we generally do for fun and which is not demanding is considered a festival need. However, if the driving does not serve a festival need, it is prohibited. Therefore, one may not take driving lessons on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, nor drive somewhere to check out something related to the work he will do after the festival.

Traveling via buses, trains, or taxis is permissible, as is paying for the trips. It is also permitted for Jewish drivers in Israel to work for pay on buses and trains on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, since it serves the needs of the community. It is proper for cab drivers to take off from work. However, if the public needs them to work they may do so.[9] In ḥutz la-aretz, a Jewish driver should make every effort to avoid driving professionally on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed; only if there is concern that he will lose his job may he work, as is it considered davar ha-aved.

One who needs to travel on the festival may do minor, unskilled auto repairs to enable this. Similarly, in the past when people traveled by horse, the Sages allowed people to engage in unskilled care of their horses, such as fixing their hooves on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (MK 10a; SA 536:1). Therefore, it is permissible when necessary to change a tire, or to make small repairs that do not require specialized tools or professional expertise. In contrast, professional repairs may be undertaken only to prevent loss (as explained below in 12:2).

A car’s windshield and rear windows may be washed. However, a car may not be washed, as doing maintenance work on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed that is generally only undertaken once every few weeks is belittling Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Nevertheless, if a Ḥol Ha-mo’ed trip made the car so filthy that it is embarrassing to drive it, one may wash the car so that it can continue to be used.

It would seem that the permissibility of outings on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed is limited to trips that are relatively short and not exhausting or demanding. Rather, they should be consistent with the goals of Ḥol Ha-mo’ed – to rest and to enjoy good meals and Torah study. We have already seen (1:6 and 10:6) that half the day should be dedicated to Torah study. Only half the day is left for trips, during which one should make sure to have meals as well. Nevertheless, it would seem that one may travel even a great distance in order to visit the holy city of Jerusalem, home of the Temple.


[9]. True, the general principle is that a person may ask a friend to do melakha for him for the sake of the festival only if it will be done free of charge. Nevertheless, when communal needs of the festival are at stake and they cannot be met without paying, payment may be made. For it is inconceivable that a Jewish driver would agree to leave his family on the festival in order to transport people for free (Ritva; BHL 541:5 s.v. “ela”; 542:1 s.v. “afilu”; 12:8 below). For the case of a cab driver who has enough to eat (and does not need to work to put food on the table), see Harḥavot 11:15:6.

16. Business and Purchases

Business is prohibited on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Buying, selling, renting, and hiring are included in this prohibition. For the festival was given to the Jews to enable us to eat, drink, and study Torah. Business is generally burdensome and worrisome, and also has the potential to be upsetting, as when a deal does not go through. True, one minor deal is not so burdensome and worrisome. Nevertheless, since business is open-ended, and something small sometimes morphs into something big and complex, the Sages prohibited all business dealings on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (MK 10b; Rosh; SA 539:1; MB ad loc. 2; AHS ad loc. 3-4).

Nevertheless, in order to feed people on the festival, one may buy and sell (MK 13a-b). Even if he could have bought all necessary food before the festival, he may buy as much food as he needs on the festival, as the Sages did not want to create limitations likely to reduce festival joy. Food purchases do not need to be minimized. A person may buy generously so that the food will last him for the whole festival, up to and including the Shabbat immediately following the concluding Yom Tov. If any food is left for afterward, he may enjoy it then. However, he may not intentionally buy extra for post-festival consumption (SA and Rema 539:11; see section 3 above).

If people generally buy food in large packages to save money, they may do so on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed as well, since this is how they usually shop. Similarly, when there is a significant discount for buying in bulk, extra food may be bought even if some of it will not be used until after the festival, as this can be considered preventing a loss. However, as with all such cases, the leniency may be taken advantage of only by those who did not intentionally delay until Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, meaning they did not plan to buy in bulk on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. If one did plan things this way, he may not buy extra on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, but only what is necessary for the festival (SA 539:1; MB ad loc. 4; see SHT 537:49; compare 12:3 below).

Fundamentally, even non-food items – such as clothes, shoes, kitchenware, electronics, and school books – may be bought on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed if in fact they will be used during the festival. For example, if a woman’s Yom Tov outfit tore or got dirty, she may buy a new dress to wear on Yom Tov. (If she already has a Yom Tov outfit, but would prefer a nicer one, she may not buy another outfit.) In practice, for a number of reasons, this permit is almost never relevant. First, because these are not food items, the permissibility of buying them on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed is conditioned on one’s having been unaware before the festival that he would need them. However, if he knew but did not bother to buy them beforehand, he may not buy them on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, as he purposefully deferred the melakha until then (MB 539:4 and 540:9; R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach cited in SSK ch. 67 n. 130).

Additionally, it is prohibited to buy in a store which is not supposed to be open on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, to avoid supporting transgressors. In practice, almost all stores in Israel which are open to the public on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed are not allowed to be (12:6 below). So the permissibility of buying is limited to buying from one who closes his store on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed but sells privately to clients who make requests, or to buying in a store owned by a non-Jew. One must also be aware that the permissibility of buying clothing or furniture in a non-Jew’s store is on condition that it does not need any professional tailoring or repair. If it does, buying it is prohibited (section 18 below). Note that it is sometimes permitted to buy an item that is not necessary for the festival in order to prevent a loss, as we will explain below (12:7).

17. Moving Items When It Requires Effort

The Sages prohibited doing anything very labor-intensive in public that is not necessary for the festival, even when there is no technical melakha involved, in order to encourage people to enjoy the festival and avoid belittling it. Therefore, the Sages forbade moving furniture and other items from one house to another (MK 13a). It is permissible only if the two homes are next door to one another and the moving does not involve carrying things through the street, because moving items for such a short distance does not involve much effort and can be accomplished discreetly. Similarly, furniture and other items may be moved from one apartment to another in the same building (SA 535:1; Levush ad loc. 1; MB ad loc. 6). Moving the contents of an entire household is still prohibited, since that is very labor-intensive.[10]

What if individual items need to be moved for festival needs – such as tables, chairs, and fans for a meal, or cots or mattresses for guests to sleep on? If it is reasonable to assume that people seeing the moving will realize that it is for festival needs, it is permitted, but if their natural assumption would be that the moving is being done for weekday needs (such as when moving a cupboard), it is prohibited (SA 535:1; MB ad loc. 4).

If yeshiva students are visiting the yeshiva dorm during their Ḥol Ha-mo’ed break and intend to return home shortly, they may not take advantage of their visit in order to bring linens and books to the dorms, which they will make use of only upon their return to yeshiva after the festival. However, if on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed they have the help of one who has a car, while after the festival they would have to rent a car, this is considered a case of preventing a loss, so they may transport the items on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (SA 538:3).

The Sages prohibit picking up items such as clothing or furniture from a professional unless they are necessary for the festival. First, transporting them is both inconvenient and unnecessary for the festival. Second, when people see one doing so, they might think he requested that the professional fix the items during the festival.[11]

However, when these items are necessary for the festival, one may pick them up. Therefore, he may pick up chairs needed for a meal, a blanket for warmth on the festival, and even a refrigerator for storing food or an oven for cooking on the festival. (It is also permitted to take the items to be repaired, as we explained above in section 4.)

The Sages forbade taking garbage from one’s courtyard to the central garbage dump, because it was both very physically demanding and unnecessary. However, if so much garbage accumulated that it was dirtying the yard, they permitted removing it and taking it to the communal dump (Pesaḥim 55b; SA 535:3). Nowadays, when yards are small and garbage is plentiful, it is necessary to have garbage pickups over Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. This is included in festival needs as well as communal needs (below 12:9).


[10]. The Yerushalmi states that if a person has the chance on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed to move from a home he is renting to a smaller place that he owns, he may move even though the new place is on a different block, as living in one’s own home is a pleasure and contributes to festival joy (y. MK 2:4; SA 535:2). It would seem, though, that this permission was limited to times when people had few possessions and generally lived in one room. Today, when a family has a great deal of furniture and possessions to move, moving is very labor-intensive. Therefore, it is prohibited to move on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, even into a home of one’s own, and even within the same building. For it is hard to think of something more joy-sapping and festival-belittling than moving. If delaying the move will lead to a very great loss, a halakhic authority should be consulted. In any case, if one could have moved before the festival but did not make the effort to do so, then even if he will suffer a great loss, it is not permitted.

[11]. If the professional does not have food for the festival, one should pay him for his work, but leave the items with him until after the festival. If one is afraid to leave the items there out of concern that the professional might sell them to someone else, he may take the items to the home of a friend who lives near the professional. If this is not possible, he may pick them up and take them to his home as discreetly as possible (MK 13a; SA 534:3).

18. Jews and Non-Jews on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed

Just as on Shabbat the Sages prohibited a Jew from asking a non-Jew to do melakha for him, so too on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed they prohibited a Jew from asking a non-Jew to do melakha for him that he would not be allowed to do himself (SA 543:1; MB ad loc. 1). This is the case even if the Jew anticipates that if he does not hire the non-Jew to do the work on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, he will have to pay him more after Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, for the permissibility of preventing a loss applies only when one would lose something that he already has (Ḥayei Adam, Yom Tov, 106:12; MB ad loc. 2).

One may ask a non-Jew to do melakha that a Jew may do – i.e., labor that is unskilled or undertaken with a shinui. An example would be sewing clothing for the festival (sections 7-8 above). If the non-Jew wants to do the work in his usual professional manner, he does not have to be asked not to do so (see SSK ch. 68 n. 137). Similarly, if a non-Jew decides on his own to do melakha for a Jew on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, the Jew may benefit from it (Piskei Tosafot; Kaf Ha-ḥayim 543:5).

Even though a Jew may not ask a non-Jew to do work for him which is prohibited on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, it is permissible if it will lead to a mitzva being performed on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. Therefore, a non-Jew may be asked to finish building a synagogue so Jews may pray there (MB 543:1; SHT 544:10).[12]

One may give a non-Jew work before the festival, on two conditions: 1) The non-Jew is working for himself – for example, he works as a contractor who is paid by the job (not by the hour), and he decides when he will do the work. Alternatively, the non-Jew shares in the profits of the work, so he is working for his own benefit. 2) It must not be work that is normally paid by the hour, so that no one will suspect the Jew of hiring the non-Jew to work on the festival. Since buildings today are normally built by contractors, it is permissible for a non-Jew to continue building a house for a Jew on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (SA 543:2; BHL 244:1 s.v. “o liktzor”).

If there is merchandise that a Jew may not buy on the festival, he may not ask a non-Jew to purchase it on his behalf either, even if he makes the request before the festival (BHL 539:1 s.v. “bein liknot”). However, one may tell a non-Jew, “You should buy it for yourself. I will buy it from you later, and you will make a profit.” One may even lend the non-Jew money to do so (SA 307:3; MB ad loc. 13; SSK 68:34).

On Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, a Jew may give a non-Jew work to do if he makes it conditional upon the work being done after Ḥol Ha-mo’ed. The Jew may not weigh, measure, or count the items which he is leaving with the non-Jew, because that is a weekday activity. If the non-Jew later ignores the terms and does the work on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, the Jew does not have to object, since he explicitly requested that he do the work after the festival (SA and Rema 543:3).

Some say that a Jew may not cook or do other melakhot on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed for a non-Jew, as all the melakhot permitted on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed are permitted for the sake of enjoying the festival. Since a non-Jew has no mitzva to enjoy the festival, a Jew may not do any melakha for him (Ḥayei Adam 106:11). Others allow it (see Shevet Ha-Levi 8:124:2). In practice, when there is a great need, such as to sanctify God’s name or prevent animosity, those melakhot may be done for a non-Jew on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed (see SSK 68:37 and Harḥavot here).


[12]. On Shabbat, a shvut di-shvut is permitted for a mitzva need (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 9:11). Both according to those who say that doing melakha on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed is rabbinic, as well as according to those who say that anything which is for the sake of the festival is prohibited only on the rabbinic level (as do Ramban and those who follow him), this case is a shvut di-shvut for the sake of a mitzva. Those who maintain that the prohibition is on the Torah level can still rely upon the opinion of  Ha-itur, that even a single shvut may be transgressed for the sake of a mitzva. True, on Shabbat we rely upon Ha-itur only in times of pressing need. But on Ḥol Ha-mo’ed, when some say that the entire prohibition of melakha is rabbinic, this opinion may be relied upon (Pri Megadim, Eshel Avraham 543:1).

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