B'Yachad

For the week ending 8 September 2018 / 28 Elul 5778

Working During Chol Ha'Moed

by Rabbi Ari Wasserman
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Question

I have been offered a great job, but now I am informed that the kickoff/initiation call will take place during Chol HaMoed (the intervening days between the festival Yom Tov days of Succot and Pesach). Since this conference call will take place not on the holidays themselves but in the week between, am I allowed to take the call?

Two partners of the company are Jewish (though not Torah observant), and I do not know what to do. I am worried that I might rub my new bosses the wrong way, and I will lose the job if I postpone the call.

Under the circumstances, considering that I need this job to support my family, can I go forward with the call?

Halachic Background

Just as Torah-defined creative work (melacha) is prohibited on Shabbat and Yom Tov, so too, it’s prohibited on Chol HaMoed. (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 530:1) Some early halachic authorities (Rishonim) are of the view that the prohibition of melacha on Chol Ha’oed is ordained by the Torah, while others are of the view that it’s ordained by the Talmudic sages.

However, according to both of these views, the Sages were clearly authorized to decide which forms of work are permitted and which are prohibited on Chol HaMoed (Chagiga 18a), and they have instituted a number of exceptions. Practically, this means that we are permitted to do certain types of work on Chol HaMoed that we are not permitted to do on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

One of the five categories of work allowed on Chol HaMoed is called davar ha’aveid, roughly defined as work which we are permitted to do in order to avoid a financial loss. In addition, we are permitted to do this type of work if worry about financial loss will spoil our enjoyment of the holiday. (Ritva, Moed Katan 13a)

Response

The crucial issue in your case is financial loss and, as you see from the above, the laws concerning working on Chol HaMoed make an exception in this regard.

But does your situation fit into the halachic definition of “financial loss”? It seems that your concern is more speculative. You do not know that you will, in fact, suffer a loss. You are merely concerned that you might. But that concern may cause you to worry and not allow you to enjoy the holiday.

Ideally, you should arrange the call before or after Succot. Try to do that and see what your bosses say. If they insist on talking on Chol HaMoed, then you can go forward with the call.

Postscript

After receiving the above advice, the questioner responded that he asked his bosses to delay the call until after the holidays, and they acquiesced without any reluctance.

  • l’Iluy nishmas Yehudah ben Shmuel HaKohen Breslauer

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