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Halacha: Chol Hamoed Customs a Jew Must Observe

Published on Monday April 5th, 2021

The Rambam writes: "It is a positive Mitzvah of the Torah to be joyful, light-hearted and cheerful during Chol Hamoed. This commandment applies to a man, his wife, his children, and his entourage. However, although eating and drinking during the Festival are positive Mitzvot, we must not indulge ourselves disproportionately.

The recommended behavior is to try to adhere to the following schedule: in the morning, a man rises early to go to Shacharit services at the synagogue;  thereafter, he returns home for a meal. Then, he goes to the study house to read and study in the afternoon and from there proceeds to Mincha services.

Afterward, he may return home to eat, drink and be merry and spend the rest of the day with his family. However, he must be careful not to solely focus on wine, laughter, and lightness, on the grounds that overindulgence enhances joy.

Inebriation, laughter, and lightness of heart are not equated with joy. Rather, they are a source of absurdity and madness. The commandment to be joyful does not imply acting unreasonably and foolishly. Quite the contrary. It is critical to be joyful in service to the Creator. As written: "Because you have not served the Lord your God with a joyous and merry heart ".

We learn from this verse that the service of God must be done joyfully, as opposed to light-mindedly or in a state of intoxication and hilarity.  

On the days of Chol Hamoed, some form of work is prohibited to distinguish these days from ordinary weekdays that bare no special holiness.

We must honor them with beautiful clothes and special dishes.

Our Sages warned us: "He who neglects the days of Chol Hamoed, even if he practices Torah and good deeds, has no portion in the world-to-come".

Rashi explains that this applies to one who treats these days as mere weekdays and doesn’t celebrate them with special dishes and drink.

Our Sages say that a  man’s judgment in the future world will relate foremostly to how much he studied Torah.

Pele Yoetz writes: "When a man claims he was too busy earning a livelihood to support his family, and thus, he could not set aside any time to study Torah, he will be judged according to the use of his time during  Chol Hamoed, when a Jews is exempt from work and free to study. If he wasted his time touring the country and was involved in idle chatter, he will be asked: “Why did you waste your free time during the days of Chol Hamoed, instead of studying Torah? ".

On the other hand, a God fearing man who takes advantage of the Chol Hamoed days to study Torah will be judged with indulgence, even on the days where his livelihood demands distracted him from studying. The latter will be counted if he had actually studied.

This is what King David said in the Psalms (75,3): "When I have set the time, I will render My judgments with equity."

Indeed, Hashem will judge man according to his behavior and to how wisely he exploited the days of Chol Hamoed'.

16th of Nissan

It is recommended to add a special dish to the meal (apart from observing the joy of the Festival by consuming meat and wine) on the first day of Chol Hamoed, in memory of Esther, who welcomed Ahasuerus and Haman to a banquet, after which Haman was executed by hanging.

Yaaleh Veyavo

We mention "Yaaleh Veyavo" in the morning Shacharit prayer,  as well as in the afternoon "Mincha" and the night "Arvit" prayers...

One who forgets doing so, and only remembers this lapse after having said: "Baruch ata Ado-na-y ...", must add “Lamdeni Chukecha", after concluding "Ha Machzir shechinato lezion".

And thereafter, he will say "Yaaleh Veyavo". But if one has already said "Ha Machzir shechinato lezion", must add "Yaaleh Veyavo" before "Modim".

If he has pronounced even the single word "Modim" and then remembered, he must go back to the beginning of "Retze".The same applies, wherever he notices his lapse before concluding the prayer.

But if he remembers when he is about to conclude, we will resume the prayer from the beginning, even during Arvit (unlike during the Rosh Chodesh Arvit prayer where he does not resume the Amidah from the beginning).

Torah Reading

If one makes the mistake of reading a Passover Torah portion assigned to a different Chol Hamoed day, he does not have to resume the day’s appointed reading, as the order of the Passover readings is not an absolute requirement.

We also say "Yaaleh Veyavo" during Birkat Hamazon. If one omitted it and remembered it after the blessing "Boneh Yerushalayim", then one will add a corrective blessing: "Baruch asher natan moadim leaamo Israel lessasson ulsimcha".

Working during Chol Hamoed

The purpose of Chol Hamoed - Rabbi Abba Mamal Bar says: “If someone had backed my opinion, I would have allowed work during Chol Hamoed, as the entire point of the ban, was to have spare time to rejoice in food, drink and Torah study. But the bottom line is: they eat and drink but behave foolishly. "

From hence, we must become aware that the prohibition of buffoonery and laxity on the days of Chol Hamoed, is more reprehensible than that of working since the purpose of these half days is the strengthen one’s attachment to God and in His holy Torah.

Things that may result in a loss: It is forbidden to work during Chol Hamoed, except failing to do so may incur a loss, for example:

For the Festival’s convenience: any job that is necessary for the enjoyment of the Festival may be performed during Chol Hamoed, even if it requires hiring a professional service.

Therefore, it is allowed (during Chol Hamoed) to repair a refrigerator, a gas or electric oven, a kitchen faucet, as well as similar things.

The worker will receive full fees for his work unless there is another handyman willing to do it for free.

Canning food and preserves- is forbidden, unless they are to be consumed by noon. But if they are not planned for consumption during Chol Hamoed, they are forbidden. If there is a risk that food will rot or deteriorate if it is not preserved during the Festival, then it permitted to preserve it to avoid a loss.

Trimming the beard and getting a haircut: we do not shave or cut our hair during Chol Hamoed, even if it was impossible to do so before the Holiday.

Even a "Mohel", a newborn's father and a "Sandak" are not allowed to do so. But anyone can wax and align his mustache.

If a person shaved the day before the Festival, he must avoid shaving during Chol Hamoed,  even if he is accustomed to shaving every day.

A person who comes out of prison during Chol Hamoed may cut his hair and shave, even if he could have done so before the Festival, considering that a convict might not have been in the mood to shave and cut his hair while in prison.

A bereaved father or mother, whose thirty days of mourning ended during the holiday, may feel pressured to cut his/her hair and is allowed to do so and he/she may even ask a third party to urge them to get a haircut.

Filing one’s nails are allowed during Chol Hamoed. But the Ashkenazi custom forbids it.

Eyeglasses that broke during the Festival may be sent to get repaired, even by a specialist.

Sewing and ironing: a person who needs to sew a coat hem or a button during Chol Hamoed, may do so, as long as he is not a professional tailor or seamstress. One is allowed to iron during 'Chol Hamoed'.

Car repairs: we may not repair a car if this requires hiring the services of a mechanic; even in the event that we need to use the car to transport something necessary for the Holiday. But if the repair can be done without hiring a mechanic it is permissible.

An employee who risks being fired from his job if he does not come to work is allowed to continue working, in the event that he cannot take leave on his annual vacation rights. Undoubtedly, this will cause a loss.

A shop or business owner who employs full-time employees and is obliged to pay their full wages during Chol Hamoed may ask them to come to work. The latter will try as much as possible to work without making too much noise.

Stores: grocers, fruit, and vegetable merchants have the right to open their stores, as obviously, we must buy food for the Festival and some products such as dairy and vegetables are perishable. Sales must be done without advertising.

If the store faces the street, one door will be open and a second door will remain closed for discretion purposes and to avoid appearances (of openly selling during Chol Hamoed).

But, on the eve of the seventh day of Passover, selling openly in honor of the festival is allowed.

Laundry: It is forbidden to do laundry, even for the Festival’s needs. It is allowed to wash towels and linen where there are young children, as they soil the latter more than adults.

It is not allowed to add adults’ clothes into the washing machine.

Nowadays, as we are accustomed to changing our stockings and underwear daily, it is permissible to wash them in case one runs short of clean undergarments.

If a garment is stained, it is permissible to remove the stain with a stain remover. This does not fall under the definition of doing laundry.

Polishing shoes: It is permissible to polish one’s shoes during 'Chol Hamoed' as this does not fall into the laundry category.

Use of a Camera: It is permissible to take photographs during Chol Hamoed, but forbidden to develop the photos during the festival.

Hiring the services of a non-Jew: it is forbidden to hire a non-Jew to perform work which is prohibited during Chol Hamoed.  

However, if we failed to respect this, the Sages are lenient and do not forbid enjoying the work of a non-Jew, even during Chol Hamoed.

Writing: simple, habitual writing (which is not especially neat and orderly) is allowed as long as it fulfills the needs of the Festival.

Likewise, it is permissible to write a letter containing Torah insights, whether one is authoring them or whether one has heard them from the lips of a third party, when and where one risks forgetting them.

Thus, they are considered as something that may incur a loss, because even if one repeats the teaching several times, the risk of forgetfulness still exists. It is therefore allowed to write them by hand, typewriter or computer.

Talmud Torah: It is permissible to renovate Talmud Torah halls, as well as to hire the services of a carpenter to build student benches so that they are ready after the festival. This is to ensure the students are not deprived to resume their Torah study after the holiday.

Workers can receive full wages for the renovations.

Synagogue: Do not build a synagogue during Chol Hamoed

But even if there are people opposing the synagogue’s construction, one is allowed to proceed with this construction, as nothing causes a greater loss than delaying this construction.



Excerpt from the book "PESSAH's Laws & Stories" - Torah-Box Publishing - © All rights reserved


The Torah-Box Team - © Torah-Box Account

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