You have to be a good visualizer to picture all the topics that come up on דף י עמוד א/ב, so right off the bat you may want to tune in to R’ Eli Stefansky’s version of the Daf and his copiously illustrated printouts to complement our regularly scheduled programming with Rabbi Stern. You will however have to wade through the public announcements after the “Guht Vuuuuhch, Raboysai!” that makes Rav Eli a Daf-celebrity, or just fast forward to the 6:00 minute mark.
The first topic we come across, at the very top of the Daf, is the distinction between a skilled craftsman or artisan, and an unskilled craftsman (an amateur or layman). The Gemara begins: הַהֶדְיוֹט תּוֹפֵר כְּדַרְכּוֹ – A layman, who is not a skilled tailor, may sew in his usual manner on חול המועד. And how, the Gemara asks, can we tell if someone is an unskilled tailor? Two answers are given (aside from the obvious of watching me attempt to sew anything):
- אָמְרִי דְּבֵי רַבִּי יַנַּאי: כֹּל שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהוֹצִיא מְלֹא מַחַט בְּבַת אַחַת – The Sages of the school of Rabbi Yannai said: Anyone who cannot deftly pull a full needle of stitches through the fabric at the same time.
- רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בַּר חֲנִינָא אָמַר: כֹּל שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְכַוֵּין אִימְרָא בְּחֵפֶת חֲלוּקוֹ – Rabbi Yosei bar Ḥanina said: Anyone who cannot form a straight seam on the hem [cḥefes] of his shirt.
Another criterion given for judging if one is a skilled tailor is that the individual is “מַכְלִיב”, or makes temporary stitches which, as Rabbi Yoḥanan explains, means that he doesn’t sew all the stitches that are necessary, but rather he skips certain stitches in the middle. Rabba bar Shmuel offers an alternative explanation which is that he sews stitches that are not all in a straight line, but rather resemble the teeth of a dog, which also are not in a straight line.
The Gemara then directs our attention to what is considered work on Chol HaMoed as it relates to interlacing ropes or chords to serve as a mattress for a bed (״מְסָרְגִין״), as opposed to tightening chords that are already in place (״מְמַתְּחִין״). In case you’re having trouble visualizing why this would be considered work (even with R’ Stefansky’s visual aids), here’s a video showing how much work is involved in interlacing ropes the correct way lengthwise (עֵרֶב) and widthwise (crosswise, or שְׁתִי) to make a trundle bed mattress.
After tying us up in knots, the Gemara comes to the conclusion that this type of work in permitted if it would otherwise lead to דבר האבוד, since one has no alternative bed in which to sleep. We Zoom ahead to the next Mishnah which reads: מַעֲמִידִין תַּנּוּר וְכִירַיִם וְרֵיחַיִם בַּמּוֹעֵד. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר: אֵין מְכַבְּשִׁין אֶת הָרֵיחַיִם בַּתְּחִילָּה – One may set up an oven, a stove, and a mill on the intermediate days of a Festival. Rabbi Yehuda says: One may not chisel millstones on חול המועד if it is for first time use.
This isn’t purely ancient stuff. I first encountered an artisan yearning for love and respect for his work as reflected in a touching song by Bobby Darin, musing about the status of a miller at his mill wheel grinding. Though that was in 1966, which no doubt some will consider ancient.
The Mishnah says: “One may set up an oven, a stove, and a mill on the intermediate days of a Festival. Rabbi Yehuda says: One may not chisel millstones for the first time on the intermediate days of a Festival.”
The Gemara asks: What is meant by chiseling millstones? Rav Yehuda said: Cutting grooves into the millstones. As the millstones wear down over time and become smooth, one must occasionally cut grooves into the stones so that they can grind properly. Rav Yecḥiel said: Cutting out an eyehole in the upper millstone, through which the grain can pass, so that it can be ground between the two millstones.
The Gemara raises an objection from a בּרייתא, stated by R’ Eliezer: One may set up an oven and a stove on חול המועד, provided that he does not fully complete the labor, although other Rabbis say that he may even complete the labor. R’ Yehuda said in the name of R’ Eliezer that one may set up a new millstone and one may chisel an old millstone, although other Rabbis say that one may not chisel a millstone at all.
Granted, according to the one who said that chiseling a millstone means cutting grooves into the millstones, this is how you can find this activity relevant to an old mill. But according to the one who said it means cutting out an eyehole, how could this apply to a functioning millstone which of necessity must already have an eyehole? The Gemara answers: This is referring to a case where he wants to widen the hole a little more.
The Gemara relates that Rav Huna once heard a certain man cutting grooves into his millstone on the intermediate days of a Festival. He said: Who is this? May his body be desecrated, for he desecrates חול המועד. The Gemara comments: Rav Huna holds in accordance with the statement cited as: Some say, that one is not permitted to roughen his millstones at all. Rav Ḥama taught that one may cut grooves into millstones on חול המועד.
The Gemara proceeds to address to a debate about whether it is permissible to trim the hooves of a mill donkey. Again, if you have trouble visualizing this, here is a rotating mill donkey in action, blindfold and all.
The Gemara now cites a series of eight rulings by Rava pertaining to Chol HaMoed:
- רָבָא שְׁרָא לְסָרוֹקֵי סוּסְיָא, וּלְמִיבְנֵי אַקְרָפִיטָא, וּלְמִיבְנֵי אִיצְטְבָא.
רָבָא שְׁרָא לְמִישְׁקַל דְּמָא לִבְהֵמָה בְּחוּלָּא דְּמוֹעֲדָא – The first involves veterinary considerations about animal welfare. On Chol HaMoed, Rava permitted the building of stables and troughs for horse, as well as letting the blood of an animal for medical purposes. Abaye cited a בּרייתא that supports Rava’s opinion on these matters (one may let blood from an animal, and one does not withhold any medical treatment from an animal on the intermediate days of a Festival.)
2. רָבָא שְׁרָא לְכַסְכּוֹסֵי קִירְמֵי – Rava ruled it permissible to press clothes on חול המועד, with the stipulation that it is done by an amateur as opposed to a craftsman.
3. אָמַר רָבָא: מַאן דִּמְתַקֵּיל אַרְעָא אַדַּעְתָּא דְּבֵי דָרֵי — שְׁרֵי, אַדַּעְתָּא דְאַרְעָא — אֲסִיר – Rava said: With regard to one who clears the ground on חול המועד, the following distinction applies: If his intention is to prepare a threshing floor, it is permitted, but if his intention is to prepare the ground for planting, it is prohibited.
4. וְאָמַר רָבָא: הַאי מַאן דְּזָכֵי זִיכֵי, אַדַּעְתָּא דְצִיבֵי — שְׁרֵי, אַדַּעְתָּא דְאַרְעָא — אֲסִיר – Rava said further, With regard to one who clears his field from twigs on the intermediate days of a Festival, the following distinction applies: If his intention is to use the twigs it is permitted, but if his intention is to prepare the ground for planting, it is prohibited.
5. וְאָמַר רָבָא: הַאי מַאן דְּפָתַח מַיָּא לְאַרְעֵיהּ, אַדַּעְתָּא דִכְווֹרֵי — שְׁרֵי, אַדַּעְתָּא דְאַרְעָא — אֲסִיר – Rava said additionally, a person is permitted t open a gate for water to flow into his land if it is for the purpose of catching fish; but if he does it with the intention of irrigating his land, it is prohibited.
6. וְאָמַר רָבָא: הַאי מַאן דְּפָשַׁח דִּיקְלָא, אַדַּעְתָּא דְחֵיוָתָא — שְׁרֵי, אַדַּעְתָּא דְּדִיקְלָא — אֲסִיר – Rava also said, one is permitted to remove branches from a palm tree as food for his animals, but not for the purpose of pruning the palm tree so that it grows better.
7. וְאָמַר רָבָא: הָנֵי תַּמְרֵי תוּחְלָנִי, מִיגְזְרִינְהוּ — שְׁרֵי, מַיְיצִינְהוּ — אֲסִיר – and Rava said, it is permitted to cut dates in half for the purpose of eating them; one is not permitted to press them under weights for the purpose of drying them, which would indicate intent to eat them after the יום טוב.
8. וְאָמַר רָבָא: פְּרַקְמַטְיָא כָּל שֶׁהוּא, אָסוּר – and holding in my hand the final envelope …. Rava said that any kind of merchandising is prohibited on חול המועד.