Shabbat Pesach| 5764
Ask the Rabbi
Question: I know that a lot of things that are forbidden on Yom Tov are permitted on Chol Hamoed. Are all rabbinic prohibitions like muktzeh and amirah l’nachri (requesting a non-Jew to do the work) permitted on Chol Hamoed?
Answer: There isn’t an across-the-board distinction on Chol Hamoed between Torah and rabbinic prohibitions. In general, there are three approaches among the Rishonim as to the basis for the limitations on work on Chol Hamoed. Some say it is from the Torah, but has more areas of leniency than Yom Tov does. Some hold it is totally rabbinic. And the third, fascinating approach is that the Torah decreed that some areas of melacha would be forbidden, but left it up to Chazal to determine what would be forbidden and what would be permitted. (See a summary in the Beit Yosef in the beginning of Orach Chayim 530.) Although there are significant differences between the laws of Chol Hamoed and those of Yom Tov, they are more related to the category of a melacha, its nature, and its purpose than they are related to the source and severity of the laws. The general approach of Chazal was to distinguish between activity which is related to enhancing the festive spirit of the moed and that which occupies a person with other, tiresome activity (see Moed Katan 2b). However, it was up to Chazal to determine how to apply that general principle. As we are bound to follow the guidelines Chazal set out for us, one must search the sources to see what is permitted and what is forbidden.
If one goes through the sugyot of Chol Hamoed one will not find explicit references to the classic laws of muktzeh. (The concept of muktzeh l’mitzvato does come up.) The poskim (see Tosafot, Shabbat 22a; Darkei Moshe, OC 544:2; Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 68:26) claim that, indeed, it was never included in the prohibitions of Chol Hamoed.
In contrast, the rabbinic prohibition not to ask a non-Jew to do work that is forbidden for a Jew applies throughout the Torah (see Bava Metzia 90) and extends to Chol Hamoed, as well (Moed Katan 12a; Shulchan Aruch, OC 543:1). This can be because of fear that the Jew will come to do the work himself (see Chol Hamoed K’hilchata 2:(245)) or because involvement through a proxy is also often not conducive to the spirit of the day (Aruch Hashulchan 543:1). This prohibition applies whether one holds that melacha on Chol Hamoed is forbidden from the Torah or is rabbinic.
There are some areas of leniency regarding amirah l’nachri on Chol Hamoed as opposed to on Shabbat and Yom Tov. The most pertinent is that when the work is done for a mitzva that will be needed on Chol Hamoed, then the non-Jew can do the work (Magen Avraham 543:1). (When there is a mitzva need it is often permitted for a Jew to do the work himself (Shulchan Aruch OC 545:3). However, there are situations when it is not permitted for a Jew, and the more inclusive leniency of using a non-Jew is needed.) The Magen Avraham explains that since there is an opinion that permits a non-Jew to do melacha on a Jew’s behalf in the case of a mitzva even on Shabbat, one can be lenient on Chol Hamoed. The Levushei S’rad (ad loc.) understands that this is on the assumption that the entire prohibition on work on Chol.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is
This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld