shabbos candles

Weekly Halacha Series
Halachos Series on Hilchos Yom Tov

shabbos candles

Published by
Pirchei Shoshanim

A Project of
The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Written by

Rabbi Dovid
Ostroff, shlita


These Halachos were shown by Rabbi Ostroff to
HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita



Questions for the Week of Parshas Mishpotim

May one shave body hair on Chol Hamoed?

A woman may shave body hair on Chol Hamoed, the same as she may apply makeup, powder etc., as it is all inclusive in tzorchei haguf – physical necessities.  [1] A woman may not have a haircut on Chol Hamoed. [2] for the same reason that prohibits a man from doing so.

May one cut the hair of a male child who reaches the age of three on Chol Hamoed?

Some have the custom to undertake a child’s first haircut on Chol Hamoed, [3] but seeing that it is an interesting question, let us view the reasoning.

In normal circumstances one may not shave on Chol Hamoed because it should have been done before the Chag. According to halacha, one who is released from prison on Chol Hamoed may shave. [4] The reason is twofold: firstly, in prison he was unable to shave; secondly, even if his jailers permitted him to shave, he was not in a joyous mood to do so. Hence upon release a prisoner may shave. [5]

Many have the custom not to cut a child’s hair before the age of three. Consequently, a child who turns three is only “released from prison” on Chol Hamoed and it should therefore be permitted to give him a haircut.

Sounds good, so why not give him a haircut?

It’s more than that. The Shulchan Aruch explicitly says that one may give a haircut to a child under bar mitzvah, however the Mishna Berura [6] adds that this is only when the child has a lot of hair that disturbs him, which is not normally the case.

It seems that halacha is in favor of giving a three year old a haircut on Chol Hamoed but some distinguished rabbis prefer the custom not to do so.

As is usual in such instances, one must ask one’s rav.

Are there restrictions as to cutting fingernails?

The Mechaber rules that one may cut finger and toenails in the regular manner on Chol Hamoed. The Rama is stringent and says that custom is one does not, unless for a mitzvah (immersion). [7] The Mishna Berura rules [8] that if one cut nails before Yom Tov one may cut them on Yom Tov as well.

This implies that one who did not cut nails before Yom Tov may not cut them on Yom Tov (e.g. before the last day of Yom Tov). The Be’er Heitev cites an opinion who holds that one who cuts nails regularly before Shabbos may cut them on Chol Hamoed before Shabbos (it probably includes before Yom Tov as well). [9]

What is the halacha with regards to melachos not performed for physical benefit?

As opposed to ochel nefesh and tzorchei haguf – physical benefit, where melachos may be performed in the regular professional manner, other needs necessary for Chol Hamoed may only be tended to in compliance with restrictions laid down by Chazal.

What are the restrictions?

We will attempt to present the various rules.

  1. One who performs the melacha in a non-professional manner may do so on Chol Hamoed. [10]
  2. One who performs the melacha in a professional manner (even if he is not a professional but does it professionally) must perform the melacha in an irregular manner (shinui). The melacha may not be done in a professional manner even for a mitzvah. We will see b’ezras Hashem that certain leniencies apply to mitzvos. [11]
  3. A melacha that does not require much effort and is not a meleches uman (craftsman) may be done in the regular manner without need for a shinui.

Can you present practical examples?

One may mop floors on Chol Hamoed when necessary and wash and squeeze the cloth upon completion. Cleaning the floor is a necessity and is not a professional melacha. [12]

The dirty water may be poured onto plants that one is usually prohibited to water on Chol Hamoed, provided that one does not have an easy viable solution as to where to pour the water. [13]

Why is one permitted to pour water onto plants?

In the above case one does not intend to water plants, rather one wants to dispose of the water. The plants are being watered ‘by the way’ in a manner called p’sik reisha. P’sik reisha is permitted on Chol Hamoed because melachos on Chol Hamoed are prohibited mainly on account of tircha – effort, and when a melacha is done ‘by the way’ in a manner of p’sik reisha, it is not prohibited. [14]

May one wax floors on Chol Hamoed?

One should not wax floors on Chol Hamoed because it involves a melacha and is an uvda d’chol. Certain opinions hold that one may not shine windows on Chol Hamoed (unless dirty) on account of uvda d’chol.

The basic rule is that one may do the regular cleaning, not periodic cleaning. [15]

[1] Simon 546:5 and M”B 16.

[2] M”B ibid, SS”K 66 23.

[3] See Kaf haChaim simon 531:30, SS”K 66 footnote 126.

[4] Simon 531:4.

[5] The SS”K 66 footnote 114 says that this might not be applicable in many contemporary prisons where shaving is mandatory.

[6] Simon 531:15.

[7] Simon 532:1.

[8] Simon 532:2.

[9] See the SS”K 66:33 and footnote 136.

[10] SS”K 66:36 and footnote.

[11] SS”K 66:37.

[12] SS”K 66:47.

[13] See SS”K 66 footnote 181 citing Rav Shlomo Zalman and in the tikunim.

[14] SS”K 66 footnote 181.

[15] SS”K 66:47 and footnote 182 citing the Be’er Moshe.


Food for Thought

May one vacuum carpets on Chol Hamoed?

What about shining shoes?

May a Jewish charwoman work regularly on Chol Hamoed?

Answers coming BE"H next week.

Vort on the Parsha

You must distance yourself from falsehood (23:7). Chazal teach us that when two people appear before the dayanim and one is dressed meticulously and the other is dressed in rags, the dayanim tell the wealthy person, either you dress him like yourself or dress like him. In order for the dayan to reach true judgment, he must be free of even the slightest prejudice. It is known that several dayanim would avoid looking at the plaintiffs so as not to be biased and would hear the claims with eyes closed.


For a printed version, click here.




One may receive and distribute these weekly shiurim by calling or writing: Office 99 Rechov Bayit Vegan, Yerushalayim,
Phone Numbers:U.S. and Canada 732-370-3344 Israel 972-3-616-6340
 South Africa
078 1655 242 England 44-020-8731-6666 Australia 61-296835626 Switzerland 01141430288
e-mail:, or, weekly sponsorships are available as well. 

If you would like to send a question to Rav Ostroff, you can write to him at

Note:  The purpose of this series is intended solely for the clarification of the topics discussed and not to render halachic decisions. It is intended to heighten everyone's awareness of important practical questions which do arise on this topic.  One must consult with a proper halachic authority in order to receive p'sak.