By: Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski
The following is meant as a convenient review of Halachos pertaining to Chol-Hamoed. The Piskei Din, for the most part, are based purely on the Sugyos, Shulchan Aruch and Rama, and the Mishna Berurah, unless stated otherwise. They are based on my understanding of the aforementioned texts through the teachings of my Rebbeim. As individual circumstances are often important in determining the psak in specific cases, and as there may be different approaches to some of the issues, one should always check with one’s Rov first.
Hilchos Chol HaMoed:
Chol HaMoed has its own very specific Halachos. As in other instances, some Melachos are permissible to do on Chol Hamoed while others are forbidden. What is important to keep in mind is that even the Melachos that are permitted on Chol Hamoed are only permitted if they are done l’tzorech hamoed (for the sake of Chol Hamoed, i.e. in order to benefit from them on Chol Hamoed).
In general, the Melachos that are forbidden on Shabbos are forbidden on Chol-Hamoed except when they are being done for the sake of the Chag (Chol- Hamoed/Yom-Tov). There are, however, specific Melachos that Chazal ruled to be forbidden (Assur) even when they are Letzorech HaMoed.
- Melachos that are completely forbidden on Chol Hamoed:
- Shaving and haircuts (there are a few rare exceptions).
i. We do not cut nails in a conventional manner. However to bite off, or peal, a nail is permitted.
- It is permitted to cut a particular nail (fingernail or toenail) if it is a source of discomfort.
- Laundering. There are, however, a few common exceptions:
i. Bibs and cheesing cloths (used for infants), cloth diapers, may be laundered on Chol Hamoed. They may be laundered even before one needs them so long as we can reasonably assume that they will be used over the Chag (Chol Hamoed – Yom Tov).
- Likewise towels (especially hand towels and cleaning shmates) can be washed (i.e. not just those needed immediately) on Chol Hamoed.
ii. Other children’s clothing may be laundered, but only what is needed during Chol Hamoed or Yom Tov. It is forbidden to wash many children’s outfits at the same time if they are not all needed right away. Obviously, no laundering should be done if the child has enough clothing to make it through Yom-Tov.
- Tablecloths can likewise be washed on Chol Hamoed (but only what is needed at that time).
iii. A full ironing of a garment should not be done on Chol Hamoed, however one may spot iron a garment on Chol Hamoed.
- Gardening on Chol Hamoed is permitted only in the following limited circumstances:
i. One can do anything with regard to edible plants if the work is done so as to be able to eat from these plants during the Chag.
- One shouldn’t plan on doing gardening on Chol Hamoed unless the freshness of the produce will make a marked difference to the quality and taste of the Yom-Tov foods.
- In the event any produce is left over from what was harvested during Chol Hamoed, this can be used even after Yom Tov.
- One may harvest as much as one wishes to on Chol Hamoed so long as what is harvested can in theory at least be consumed on the Chag.
ii. Regular gardening (not for eating, but rather for esthetic purposes) is only permitted if the plants would otherwise die.
- Fishing and trapping are only permitted if they are Letzorech Hamoed.
i. One may fish and trap more than one is going to consume so long as the resulting catch could be eaten over Yom Tov.
ii. As fish and meat are generally better the fresher they are, it is permissible to plan on fishing or trapping on Chol-Hamoed.
iii. One is allowed to fish as a sport on Chol Hamoed .
iv. If one is fishing for commercial purposes, one should try to avoid doing so publically or in a way that makes it clear that the fishing is done commercially.
- One can undertake minor home improvements if those are for the immediate benefit of Chol Hamoed, and if the Melacha (work) involved does not require a professional. (A task that would normally require a professional can also be done if one can do it on one’s own without such an expert).
- Building or demolishing (a building, house…) is forbidden on Chol- Hamoed.
i. It is forbidden to have a non-Jew build or demolish something for you on Chol-Hamoed. This is true even if the work is to be done on a property outside of the regular populated areas and no one will know that the work is being done for a Jew.
- One cannot have something made on Chol Hamoed if it is not letzorech Hamoed, or if it can only be manufactured by a special craftsman (even if it is Letzorech Hamoed).
- If someone ordered something from a non-Jew before Yom-Tov and didn’t specify that it should be made over the Chag, it is ok for the non-Jew to manufacture the item during the Chag. This is as long as it is done in the non-Jew’s property, and the materials being used still belong to the non-Jew.
- We do not write on Chol Hamoed any documents or similar types of papers.
i. One can write a letter to a friend on Chol-Hamoed, but the minhag is to do so with some change from the norm (either by writing the first line slanted, or by turning the paper sideways etc.)
- When writing a shopping list or other similar item Letzorech Hamoed (for Chol Hamoed/Yom Tov needs) it is preferable to do so with some sort of Shinui (change).
ii. One may write Divrei Torah so as not to forget them.
iii. One may type a letter or a list even though there isn’t really any way of making a Shinui.
- It is permissible to take pictures on Chol Hamoed.
i. If one wishes to develop pictures from a digital camera on Chol Hamoed one can. One should not, however, develop film (if you have that!) on Chol Hamoed (Rav Yisroel Belsky ZT’L).
- One should not move (furniture etc..) on Chol-Hamoed unless it is somehow Letzorech Hamoed. If one is afraid that an item may be damaged or stolen on Chol-Hamoed one can then move it, preferably without making it a very public act.
- Meleches Umon – professional work is forbidden on Chol-Hamoed. Therefore any job that a layman cannot perform without having special training is forbidden.
i. One cannot have clothing tailored. One is allowed, however, to sew a button back on.
- If one’s hem becomes undone (or one needs to hem something for any other reason) one can do so in a non-professional manner (in a non-perfect manner).
ii. Car work requiring a professional mechanic should not be done on Chol-Hamoed. If, however, the work in question could also be performed by an untrained individual, but it is easier to have the mechanic do it, it then permissible to use a mechanic.
- Meleches Davar Ha’aved (loss of opportunity) is mutar (allowed). However, it is unclear if loss of possible gain is Mutar or not.
- One may go to work if otherwise one would lose one’s job. If, however, one will lose vacation days etc. one should then not work.
- If what is at stake is not loss of the job, but making less money that month, one should not go to work. If, however, the loss of salary will cause severe consequences one can then work.
- If one is in the middle of a lawsuit one can continue with the lawsuit over Chol Hamoed. If there isn’t any loss in putting off dealing with it until after the Chag, one should wait until after Yom-Tov.
i. If one wishes to file a lawsuit on Chol Hamoed, one should preferably wait until after the Chag. If, however, one would lose out by waiting, one can go ahead and file even during Chol Hamoed.
- All the things that are allowed because of Davar Ha’aved on Chol Hamoed should be done by a Non-Jew whenever possible.
- One who sells things that are for the purpose of Yom-Tov may do so on Chol-Hamoed.
- Although many Chol-Hamoed activities involve various melachos these activities are nevertheless allowed since they are for the purpose of Simchas Yom-Tov – enjoying the Chag.
- This goes as far as being allowed to get/do a car wash on Chol Hamoed if we will enjoy driving a cleaner car.