The Six Lenient Malachos for Yom Tov

The Six Lenient Malachos for Yom Tov 1

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for The Five Towns Jewish Times

We know, of course, that there are 39 forbidden categories of Malacha on Shabbos. Hashem is the creator of the world and He did so in six days – on the seventh day He stopped creating.

To entrench this concept within us, we refrain from the 39 categories of creative acts. We do so both on the Shabbosim as well as on the Yomim Tovim. However, there are six specific creative acts which are slightly different on Yom Tov than they are on Shabbos.

The six malachos which are different are:

  1. Carrying
  2. Cooking
  3. Kindling (lighting a fire)
  4. Tochain (Grinding)
  5. Borer (selecting)
  6. Losh (kneading)

These six Malachos are only permitted on Yom Tov for the needs of Yom Tov. If they are done for a weekday, or even for the second day of Yom Tov, one has violated a Torah prohibition.

As an example, one may not carry on Yom Tov if there is no reason to be carrying that item. If one can throw out a napkin, then it is forbidden to carry out that napkin on Yom Tov.

Why are these malachos modified for Yom Tov? Because there is a verse in the Torah that says one is permitted to do food preparing malachos on Yom Tov for Yom Tov.

Why then are they somewhat restricted? The answer is that there is a Gemorah that tells us that we cannot just do everything. The Mishna in Baitzah (23b) says that we are not permitted to fish. The Gemorah in Baitzah (2b) also tells us that we may not reap or harvest crops.

So far then, we have at least two exceptions: Fishing and reaping. Why these particular exceptions?


There are two possible reasons found in the Rishonim.

Reason #1 – The sages did not want us putting off what we could have done before hand if there is no significant difference in taste. In fishing and reaping – the fish tastes the same and so does the fruit, whether it was done on Yom Tov or the day before Yom Tov. {This is the Rambam’s reason in Hilchos Yom Tov 1:5}. Since this is the case, we should have done these beforehand.

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Reason #2 – Fishing and harvesting are usually done on a fairly large scale. The sages did not want people doing any of these activities – either because they resemble regular weekday activities or because of a concern that these activities will be done on a larger scale and food will be prepared for the days that follow Yom Tov. {These are the explanations of the Rosh and Ran respectively in Baitzah.}
So how do we Pasken? Do we rule like the Rambam or like the Rosh and Ran? Ashkenazic Jews rule like both of these opinions. In other words, regarding something that would basically taste the same no matter when one prepared it: If one could have done it before Yom Tov but was lazy and did not – then the Malachah may not be done regularly – rather, one must do it with a Shinui (a change in how the Malacha is regularly performed).

Note the term used above was “lazy.” If the person was not lazy, but just didn’t get a chance to do it because they were pressed for time or because the store did not have it until the last minute – then a shinui is not required. [This is really true – see the Mishna Brurah 495:8].

What kind of Shinui do we need? Well, if the issue is cooking then what should be done is to flip the way it is done. Generally speaking, food is often added to the pot while it is on the fire. To make a Shinui – add the food to the pot before it is on the fire. If the situation is grinding – such as nuts for Charoses – then hold the grater upside down or grind the nuts onto the tablecloth rather than the bowl. For sifting pre-sifted flour (to get rid of bugs) invert the sifter.

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What about Borer (sorting or selecting) on Yom Tov? Well, if you were confused up until now, it is not going to get any better. But let’s give it a go (For a detailed analysis of these halachos see the Mishna Brurah to SA 510:2 and Ramah 506:2).

Borer is defined as selecting or sorting an item when there is a true mixture of two or more items. Believe it or not, the explanations given above also apply to the malacha of Borer. If the food will be tasting better if we delay its preparation until Yom Tov – then Borer is generally permitted. If one did not have time to do the borer beforehand – then borer on Yom Tov itself is also permitted. The only criterion is that one should do the selection in the easiest manner possible. If taking “good from bad” is easier than taking “bad from good” – then do it that way. If “bad from good” is easier – then do it that way. There is also no need for the Shabbos requirement of “immediate use” – as long as it is used on that day.

If the Borer could have been done before Yom Tov and one was lazy or there is no distinction in taste – then it must be done with a Shinui – a change in how Borer is regularly performed. So, therefore, make sure to take the good from the waste rather than the other way around.

It should be noted that these stringencies about “if it could have been done earlier” only apply to Ashkenazic Jews. Sephardic Jews may rely upon the opinion of Rabbi Karo in OC 495:1 who permits the food preparation malachos even if they could have been done before Yom Tov.

The Six Lenient Malachos for Yom Tov 2

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