THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Moed Katan 2
MOED KATAN 2 - dedicated by Ivan Silverman in memory of his father, Shmuel
ben Boruch Silverman, Alav ha'Shalom.
1) COMPARING CHOL HA'MO'ED TO SHEMITAH
QUESTIONS: The Mishnah states that on both Chol ha'Mo'ed and Shevi'is, we may
water a Beis ha'Shalchin (an irrigated field which does not have its own
natural water source) with the water from a spring, but we may not water a
Beis ha'Ba'al (a field naturally irrigated by rainwater or springwater).
However, we may not water a Beis ha'Shalchin on Chol ha'Mo'ed with rainwater
or with water from a cistern.
2) THE OPINION OF REBBI ELIEZER BEN YAKOV: WATERING TREES ON CHOL HA'MO'ED
The Gemara explain that the reasoning underlying the laws in the Mishnah is
that on Chol ha'Mo'ed, Melachah is prohibited unless it is needed for a Davar
ha'Aved (to prevent a loss), in which case the Rabanan permitted it. However,
the Rabanan permitted doing a Melachah for the sake of a Davar ha'Aved only
if the Melachah does not involved excessive labor (Tircha Yeseira).
This reasoning explains the laws in the Mishnah regarding Chol ha'Mo'ed: it
is permitted to water a Beis ha'Shalchin on Chol ha'Mo'ed, because without
that Melachah, the field might dry up completely since it has no natural
water source. It is prohibited to water a Beis ha'Ba'al, because watering
that type of field is not a Davar ha'Aved -- a Beis ha'Ba'al will not dry up
if one does not water it, because it has its own natural source of water.
This reasoning also explains why it is only permitted to water a Beis
ha'Shalchin from a spring, but not from rainwater or from a cistern. Even
though watering a Beis ha'Shalchin is a Davar ha'Aved, watering it from a
cistern involves strenuous work and thus it is prohibited.
(a) However, this reasoning only explains the laws as they relate to doing
Melachah on Chol ha'Mo'ed. How, though, does it explain these Melachos as
they relate to Shevi'is? During Shevi'is, there is no reason to differentiate
between a Melachah done for a Davar ha'Aved and one that is not for a Davar
ha'Aved. If watering a field is an Avodah which is Asur during Shevi'is, then
it should be Asur in both a Beis ha'Shalchin and a Beis ha'Ba'al! If watering
is not a forbidden Avodah during Shevi'is, then it should be permitted in
both types of fields!
(b) The same question applies for the prohibition of doing a Melachah, even
for a Davar ha'Aved, which involves a Tircha. If watering a field is
permitted during Shevi'is, then what difference does it make if it is an
excessive Tircha? There is no sort of prohibition against exerting oneself
during Shevi'is! A person may do as much Melachah (assuming it is not a type
of Melachah of working the ground that is Asur during Shevi'is) with as much
exertion as we wants during Shevi'is! Why should watering from a cistern be
Asur during Shevi'is because of Tircha?
(a) The Rishonim argue concerning the answer to the first question, that
during Shevi'is there should be no difference between a Beis ha'Shalchin
field and a Beis ha'Ba'al field -- if watering the ground is permitted during
Shevi'is, it should be permitted everywhere!
RASHI, cited by TOSFOS (6b, Marbitzin) and cited by the NIMUKEI YOSEF, says
that indeed, it is permitted to water both types of fields during Shevi'is.
When the Mishnah says that it is permitted to water only a Beis ha'Shalchin,
it is referring to Chol ha'Mo'ed; during Shevi'is, though, it is permitted to
water even a Beis ha'Ba'al. The reason why it is permitted during Shevi'is
is, like Rava says (end of 2b), that when the Torah prohibited Avodas
ha'Karka, working the land, on Shevi'is, it did not prohibit Hashka'ah,
watering the land. Only certain Toldos of Melachos are prohibited and not
Even though the Beraisa (3a) itself notes that some other Toldos are
prohibited mid'Rabanan, Rashi contends that watering is not one of them. The
Beraisa distinguishes between Toldos that are prohibited mid'Rabanan because
they involve farming-type labor, and others which do not involve "labor." The
Nimukei Yosef explains that watering plants is not considered a "labor"
because it is done constantly for the upkeep of the field. A "labor" is an
act done only once in a while in order to bring about a desired effect. Since
watering must be done regularly, it is not a labor, a "Melachah Chashuvah"
(rather, it is just a "daily chore"). This is evident from the Beraisa
itself, which provides a long list of the Toldos which are Asur mid'Rabanan,
and does not list watering among them.
(According to Abaye, who says on 2b that the Mishnah which permits watering a
field during Shevi'is is referring only to Shevi'is d'Rabanan, it is obvious
that even Rashi would agree that the Heter applies only to a *Beis
ha'Shalchin* during Shevi'is; since the Isur of Shevi'is is mid'Rabanan, the
Rabanan only permitted watering the ground for a Davar ha'Aved.)
TOSFOS (6b), though, mentions another opinion that says that the Mishnah
permits watering *only* a Beis ha'Shalchin during Shevi'is (apparently, even
according to Rava). Even though watering fields is permitted mid'Oraisa
during Shemitah, the Rabanan prohibited it when there is no loss involved
(like the other Toldos which are prohibited mid'Rabanan). This is also the
view of the RITVA, who says that watering a field which is not a Beis
ha'Shalchin and is not a Davar ha'Aved is Asur mid'Rabanan according to the
Mishnah. This also seems to be the opinion of the RAMBAM.
(b) Concerning the second question, why should a Melachah involving excessive
Tircha be prohibited during Shevi'is, the NIMUKEI YOSEF and RASHI (as cited
by the Ritva) write that there is no prohibition of excessive Tircha on
Shevi'is, and therefore it is obvious that the Isur of watering a field from
a cistern applies only to Chol ha'Mo'ed and not to Shevi'is.
However, the RITVA argues and says that the simple reading of the Mishnah
implies that the Halachos apply equally to Chol ha'Mo'ed and to Shevi'is. It
must be, he says, that although the Torah does not prohibit acts of excessive
Tircha on Shevi'is, the Chachamim prohibited watering in a manner that
involves Tirchah. They made Shevi'is like Chol ha'Mo'ed when it comes to
matters of working the ground
The explanation of the Ritva, though, is difficult to understand in light of
the continuation of the Mishnah. The Ritva says that the Rabanan decreed that
Shevi'is has all of the Halachos of Melachah of Chol ha'Mo'ed. But the next
line in the Mishnah clearly records a distinction between the two! Rebbi
Elazar ben Azaryah says that "we may not make an Amah (irrigation canal) on
Chol ha'Mo'ed and Shevi'is." (Even though the Amah would be made for a Beis
ha'Shalchin which will otherwise be lost (it is a Davar ha'Aved), Rebbi
Elazar ben Azaryah does not permit work on Chol ha'Mo'ed or Shemitah even for
a Davar ha'Aved, as the Beraisa later on this Amud tells us.) The Chachamim
argue and say that an Amah may be made on Shevi'is, because it is a Davar
ha'Aved. The Chachamim then add that on Chol ha'Mo'ed, it is permitted to
*fix* an Amah, but not to make a new one -- apparently because it is an
excessive Tircha. It is clear that the Chachamim hold that doing a Melachah
for a Davar ha'Aved which involves excessive Tircha is prohibited on Chol
ha'Mo'ed but *permitted* on Shevi'is -- not like the Ritva says!
It must be that the Ritva understands the Mishnah as follows. Indeed, the
Chachamim do not equate Chol ha'Mo'ed with Shevi'is. The question is what
does the *Tana Kama* of the Mishnah hold? Does the Tana Kama argue with the
Chachamim mentioned later in the Mishnah who do not equate Chol ha'Mo'ed
(Asur) with Shemitah (Mutar) with regard to a Melachah involving Tircha, or
does he hold that both are Asur?
The Ritva understands that the Tana Kama does equate Chol ha'Mo'ed with
Shemitah -- not like the Chachamim later in the Mishnah. The Ritva says that
this is evident from the fact that the Tana Kama does not make any statement
differentiating between Chol ha'Mo'ed and Shevi'is in the case of a Melachah
involving Tircha (watering a field from a cistern). The reason it is also
Asur on Shevi'is is because the Rabanan decreed that Shevi'is has the
Halachos of Chol ha'Mo'ed with regard to Melachos of the land that involve
excessive Tircha. (See also Ritva, top of 3a, who follows his opinion.)
The other Rishonim (RASHI cited by the Ritva; NEMUKEI YOSEF, etc.) hold that
the Tana Kama of the Mishnah is the same opinion as the Chachamim later, who
do not equate Chol ha'Mo'ed with Shevi'is and permit doing a Melachah which
involves excessive Tircha for a Davar ha'Aved, on Shevi'is. This is also
clear from the YERUSHALMI.
QUESTION: The Gemara asks who is the Tana of our Mishnah who permits doing
Melachah on Chol ha'Mo'ed for a Davar ha'Aved (in order to prevent a loss)
but not for a Harvachah (in order to ensure a profit), and who prohibits
doing a Melachah, even for a Davar ha'Aved, when it involves excessive
Tircha. Rav Huna proposes that the Tana of the Mishnah is Rebbi Eliezer ben
Yakov. In the Mishnah later (6b), Rebbi Eliezer ben Yakov says that it is
permitted to draw water from one tree to another on Chol ha'Mo'ed, as long as
one does not water the entire field (a Beis ha'Ba'al). The fact that he
prohibits watering the entire field shows that he holds that doing a Melachah
for the sake of Harvachah is prohibited -- like our Mishnah.
The Gemara asks that we see that Rebbi Eliezer agrees with one point of our
Mishnah, that Melachah is not permitted for the sake of Harvachah, but we do
not see that he holds that even for a Davar ha'Aved, Melachah is not
permitted if it involves excessive Tircha. Perhaps he holds that even where
there is excessive Tircha, it is permitted for the sake of a Davar ha'Aved.
Rebbi Eliezer ben Yakov's opinion, though, is not clear. If he agrees with
the first point of the Mishnah, that Melachah is not permitted for the sake
of Harvachah, then why does he permit watering the trees? Watering the trees
also seems to be an act to ensure that the trees grow well, and is not a
(a) TOSFOS (DH Mosh'chin) and RASHI (6b, DH Mosh'chin) explain that putting
water around the trees is indeed a Davar ha'Aved, and is necessary in order
*to prevent a loss*. Therefore, it is like watering a Beis ha'Shalchin which
is Mutar because of Davar ha'Aved (even though the rest of the field around
these trees is a Beis ha'Ba'al).
(b) RASHI on the Rif (DH Mashkin Beis ha'Shalchin) says the opposite --
watering trees is not something done to prevent a loss, since the trees will
not suffer if they are not watered during Chol ha'Mo'ed. They are not
considered like a Beis ha'Shalchin and do not have the status of a Davar
ha'Aved. Only a field of Tevu'ah, grain and other produce, can be have the
status of a Beis ha'Shalchin. If so, why does Rebbi Eliezer ben Yakov permit
watering trees on Chol ha'Mo'ed?
Rashi on the Rif, on the Mishnah later (2a of the pages of the Rif), explains
that the reason this Melachah is permitted is because it involves no Tircha
whatsoever and it is being done for Harvachah, to ensure a profit. There is
no Tircha, the RITVA adds, because there are grooves, like small trenches, in
the field leading from one tree to the next, and therefore bringing water
from one tree to the other involves no Tircha. According to Rashi's approach,
Rebbi Eliezer ben Yakov's wording is very accurate: he says "Moshchin (draw,
or let flow) water from one tree to the other," and he does not use the
typical word "Mashkin" (we may water). The word "Moshchin" limits the
Halachah to drawing water from trees which are connected by grooves, such
that there is no Tircha involved in this Melachah because it involves merely
letting the water flow from one tree to another through the grooves in the
Hence, according to Rashi on the Rif, there are three levels of Melachah on
Chol ha'Mo'ed: (1) A Melachah which involves no Tircha: this is Mutar even
for Harvachah (ensuring a profit) and not just for a Davar ha'Aved (to
prevent a loss); (2) A Melachah which involves a slight Tircha: this is Mutar
only for a Davar ha'Aved, but not for Harvachah; (3) A Melachah which
involves excessive Tircha: this is Asur even for a Davar ha'Aved.