Friday, April 2, 2010

The Laws of Chol HaMoed (Intermediate Festival Days)


1. Although there’s a dispute whether the prohibitions of Chol HaMoed are from the Torah or Rabbis, we are warned that one who denigrates Chol HaMoed (ostensibly by not adhering to its laws) has no share in the world to come!

2. The objective of the Chol HaMoed work restrictions is to remove impediments to proper “Joy of the holiday”. On the other hand, the laws permit certain labor activities on Chol HaMoed to facilitate this joy.


The Categories of Exception:

1. Festival Needs - Amateurish work of any type may be done for the sake of the needs of the holiday or the Shabbat that follows (ex. one may turn on a light to read, turn on the radio to listen to recreational music for pleasure, drive to a family outing, etc.) but it must be a non-professional/non-specialized activity (ex. mechanic doing small repairs is generally ok if in the middle of a trip). If done in a professional manner, you must do so in an irregular manner (shinui), but if the melacha doesn’t require much effort and is not a “professional act” it need not be done with a shinui.

2. Food – even a professional act is permitted (ex. it’s permitted to get your oven fixed if you needed to), includes any actions — lighting fires, harvesting plants or turning on lights — needed either for Yom Tov, Chol HaMoed or the upcoming Shabbat's food needs (provided that it could not be done prior to the holiday!) Included in this category are “Bodily Needs” (ex. fixing glasses is permitted, women can put on cosmetics,etc.)

3. Suffering a Loss – even professional activity is permitted (ex. you don’t go to work, you’ll lose your job), but It doesn’t apply to a loss of interest or profit. One who owns a store that sells items of use on Chol HaMoed (food, for example) may remain open on Chol HaMoed. One who is not selling any such items may only keep the store open if the general good will necessary to run the business requires that the business be open each day during the general work week.

4. Communal Needs – the rationale for this exception is that public works are best done at a time when many are available. Most rule that amateurish work of benefit to many is permitted even if not for the sake of the holiday, and skilled work is permitted only for the sake of the public and the needs of the holiday.

5. Work to Buy Daily Necessities – a person who has no money to pay for the basic needs of himself or his family may work even in otherwise prohibited work, and it is preferable to do such work than to accept charity.

(It is preferable that such work be done in a private way)

Other factors that generally need to be taken into account:

a) Effort Involved

b) Denigrating the Festival

c) Public vs. Private

d) Professional Quality vs. Makeshift

e) Scheduling this work FOR Chol HaMoed

f) Payment


One cannot put off to Chol HaMoed filling up the car with gas, going to the bank, etc., when he has time or an opportunity to do so before Chol HaMoed.

Body Care

1. Doctor’s Appointments - unless there’s a pressing need, one shouldn’t schedule them on Chol HaMoed – even if they don’t involve any melacha (one may visit the doctor or dentist for even the slightest discomfort).

2. One may rip toilet paper, spread creams/ointments,

3. One may have their glasses repaired on Chol HaMoed; but not sunglasses (unless a prescription is involved)

4. One may not take a haircut nor a shave on Chol HaMoed (there are some leniencies in extreme situations)

5. A woman may shave body hair, apply makeup, etc, but may not take a haircut because it could have been done before (one may take a shower)

6. Cutting/setting a sheitel is considered skilled work and is prohibited even for the sake of the holiday.

6. Children may also not take a haircut, but some say they may if their 3rd birthday falls on Chol HaMoed.

7. One should refrain from cutting ones nails on Chol HaMoed, but there are leniencies if you cut them before the holiday and it’s needed (Sefardim may cut their nails/get a manicure if needed) – ask a rav!


1. It is preferable to eat meat and wine and more lavish meals than a normal weekday (whatever would give you joy)

2. One may do ANY form of work involved in making food (including picking fruit, grinding, capturing or lighting a fire) for Chol HaMoed, the last days of Yom Tov or Shabbos – even if it involves professional work or hard labour.

3. One need not prepare all their food before Yom Tov so that one doesn’t have to cook/bake on Chol HaMoed (however one may not prepare food on Chol HaMoed for AFTER the holiday)

4. One may do any form of work involved in making food even if one can obtain similar food from the store.

(ie. one may pick apples from a tree even though one can borrow from a neighbor, one may travel by car to pick fruit even though one can walk to a nearby store and purchase fruit, one may pick peaches from a tree and not have to use canned peaches, one bake break even though one has bread, because freshly baked bread is tastier)

5. However if one has a certain type of food at home, one may not make additional food unless it’s better tasting.

6. A cook or baker may also be paid for their food preparation on Chol HaMoed.

7. It is permissible to write a shopping list because it’s for the sake of the holiday.

8. It is generally preferable to pay with cash, rather than cheque/credit card (which involves writing)

9. One may bake a bigger cake than you need if it MIGHT be eaten on Chol HaMoed/Yom Tov or it’s more attractive to place a large cake on the table than a smaller one because that’s considered a Chol HaMoed/YT necessity.

10. One may sharpen knives, repair a broken refrigerator, oven, stove, faucet, or food processor (even if one has to call a Jewish technician and pay for the services rendered; he isn’t required to work free of charge)

11. If one didn’t have time to repair it before it may be repaired on Chol Hamoed, but if one was able to repair it before Chol Hamoed and decided that there will be more time to deal with it on Chol Hamoed, it is forbidden.

(if one didn’t get around to repairing it because of laziness, it may be repaired in a non-professional manner)

12. One may repair the following items ONLY in a NON-professional manner: dining room/kitchen tables, chairs, counters, dishwashers (ie. these items are not directly involved in food preparation)

Miscellaneous Daily Activities

1. Recreation - ex. fishing, music lessons, etc. (The Jerusalem Talmud states that Chol Hamoed is time for recreation and Torah study, but also castigates those who spend all of Chol Hamoed involved in recreational activities ONLY!)

2. Taking pictures with a camera/camcorder, writing with a typewriter, and making a tape recording are permitted.

3. One may use a computer (it’s not a professional activity); but some prohibit its use

4. Some prohibit printing on Chol HaMoed; one should only print their work to avoid a loss

5. Writing a mezuzah/sefer torah is prohibited unless they are needed (ie. to be repaired) on Chol HaMoed.

6. Writing Letters to a friend - is considered a necessity, but should preferably be done with a shinui (ie. slanted)

This is true even if the letter will only arrive after Chol HaMoed (writing is effortless and performed in private)

7. One may write a cheque/pay bills only if there is a holiday need

8. Using a rubber stamp is also a non-professional activity and may be used on Chol HaMoed

8. One may use the telephone but not have it repaired unless needed by the elderly or the sick

9. Engagements are permitted on Chol HaMoed. Some authorities permit a full meal.

10. One may make tzitzis (one can perform a non-professional craft for a mitzvah even for after Chol HaMoed)

Unless one would have ample time to make the tzitzis after Yom Tov!!


1. It is preferable to wear clothing that is nicer than your normal weekday attire

2. One may dust a hat (because it gets dusty regularly)

3. Most say it is permitted to shine shoes on Chol HaMoed (some say they shouldn’t make them look “like new”)

4. One may sew an essential button onto and one may mend clothing needed for Chol HaMoed. However, most say that one must do it in an irregular manner (by end result; not just holding the needle in a weird way)

5. Shoes needed for the holiday or liable to totally unravel may be repaired – but only in an irregular manner.

6. One may fold clothing on Chol HaMoed (even though one may not do so on Shabbos!) because it’s not a professional activity – but only when folding is necessary for the holiday; not if they’ll be worn after the holiday.

(however, if storing the clothes in a tidy manner will appease one’s mind, one may do so)

7. Ironing clothes is permitted when the clothes are to be worn on Chol Hamoed or Yom Tov (however, starching shirts and introducing permanent creases is forbidden because it’s considered professional activity)


1. It is prohibited to launder clothes on Chol Hamoed (if one were permitted to launder on chol hamoed , given that erev Yom Tov is very hectic, one might be tempted to wear any clothing at hand and launder on Chol Hamoed. One must wear clean clothes to honor Yom tov, therefore Chazal prohibited laundering on Chol Hamoed)

2. One may not launder on Chol Hamoed for the last day of Yom Tov even though one does not have fresh clothing!! One may not hand it to a gentile to launder (ie. dry cleaning), even if he will launder it for free, nor may one hire a Jew who needs money for Yom Tov expenses.

3. One may not launder by hand or in a washing machine or if one was unable to launder clothes before Yom Tov

(if possible one should purchase clothing, if the expense is not too great, rather than launder)

4. Hand/kitchen towels, children’s clothing and underwear (including socks and tights) may be laundered because they constantly become soiled (however, one may not wash other clothes together with baby clothes/towels)

5. If one has sufficient items to last the entire Yom Tov, they may not be laundered on Chol HaMoed

6. One may launder towels and sheet for house guests (this is also true for hotels and mikvaos)

7. Even when one would be permitted to launder certain items, one may not call a technician to repair a washing machine, but one may place an order for after Chol Hamoed.

8. One may remove a stain with detergent on Chol Hamoed (provided that the garment became stained on Yom Tov, not prior to Yom Tov). This is because stains are common like laundering towels/children’s clothing.

9. One may take the necessary minimum steps to prevent the stain from becoming permanent, but not more than what is required. (ie. if soaking will suffice one should not launder it until after Chol Hamoed.

House Work

1. One may do the regular cleaning (ie. daily/weekly upkeep) in the house; but not periodic cleaning.

2. One may mop floors on Chol HaMoed when necessary and wash and squeeze the cloth upon completion (the dirty water may be poured onto plants that one is usually prohibited to water on Chol Hamoed because it takes no more effort, provided that one does not have an easy viable solution as to where to pour the water).

3. One shouldn’t wax floors or shine windows on Chol Hamoed (unless dirty), one may vacuum carpets (when dirty)

4. One may repair a broken window or heater, but only if it presents a health hazard (otherwise, it may be repaired in a non-professional manner

5. Plumbing repairs needed for Chol HaMoed may be made (ie. broken hot water heater, blocked sewer, etc.)

6. Gardening is not permitted. One must also stop a non-Jewish gardener from working (but watering houseplants which will die if not watered is permitted)

7. Changing light bulbs is permitted; painting is not (even if one wishes to beautify his residence for the holiday, due to the excessive effort involved)

8. Rav Moshe forbids hammering a nail into the wall during Chol Hamoed to hang a picture to beautify one's home unless there is a pressing need to do so. Even though it involves minimal effort, one should refrain from this activity if it is not a holiday necessity. Mere beautification of one's dwelling does not constitute a "holiday necessity" to justify engaging in home improvements on Chol Hamoed.

Work & Business

1. It is preferable to forego one's summer vacation and use his vacation days to avoid the need to work on Chol Hamoed. However, if one needs to take his vacation during the summer, he is permitted to do so (Rav Moshe)

Some say that if vacation days are given at the start of the secular year, one should use them for the Chol HaMoed days of Passover, but may use the rest of his vacation days for summer vacation, knowing that this would result in having no vacation days left over for Chol HaMoed Succos.

2. Even if one must work on Chol Hamoed he should try to limit the hours he works. This is especially true if he works at a very demanding job where he must often work until the late hours of the night.

3. One should not buy stocks on Chol HaMoed; one may sell a stock if there is a reasonable possibility that he may otherwise incur a loss.

4. One may write a check for charity as the donor may not be willing or able to make the donation after Yom Tov

(writing a receipt if the donor requests one is permitted as the donor might not otherwise make the donation)

5. One is permitted to purchase an item on sale if the sale is not a regular event.

6. One may even buy a non-essential item on sale that he would not have purchased if there was no sale.

(but one may not buy something and wear it on Chol HaMoed to get around this law!)

7. Rav Moshe even counseled one yeshiva student to miss one day of yeshiva (ie. push back his return to yeshiva) so he can purchase what he needed after the holiday, rather than shop on Chol Hamoed.

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