Work on Yom Tov - davar hashaveh lekol nephesh

The mishna says in Beitza (12a):
בית שמאי אומרים: אין מוציאין לא את הקטן ולא את הלולב ולא את ספר תורה לרשות הרבים. ובית הלל מתירין
"Beis Shammai say that you cannot carry a child, a lulav or a sefer torah into the street on Yom Tov and Beis Hillel say that this is mutar."

The gemara explains that Beis Shammai say that you can only do melacha on Yom Tov if it is for the purpose of preparing food, however Beis Hillel say that since you can carry in order to eat on Yom Tov, you can also carry for non-food related purposes.

This is called mitoch:
מתוך שהותרה הוצאה לצורך הותרה נמי שלא לצורך
“Because you can carry for eating you can also carry for non food related purposes.”

There is a machlokess Rashi and Tosafos if this halacha applies even in a case where the melacha is done for no reason at all. For example, are you allowed to carry stones in the street for no reason?
  • Rashi explains that once you say mitoch – you can do the melacha for no reason at all. However in order to prevent people doing melacha for no reason all day, the chachamim said that there has to be some use for the melacha to be mutar on Yom Tov. If you do do a melacha for no reason at all it is assur miderabanan.
  • Tosafos argues and says that if there is no use for the melacha at all then it remains assur mideoraisoh and the din of mitoch does not apply.  
What is the machlokess between rashi and tosafos?

Rb Rakow z”l explains that the passuk in Emor says:
בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם כָּל מְלֶאכֶת עֲבֹדָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ

 “On the first day of Pesach it will be a מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ for you, you should not do any labour.”

What does מְלֶאכֶת עֲבֹדָה mean? The Ramban explains:
פירוש "מלאכת עבודה" - כל מלאכה שאינה לצורך אוכל נפש, כענין שנאמר ששת ימים תעבוד ועשית כל מלאכתך (שמות כ ט) ... ומלאכה שהיא באוכל נפש היא מלאכת הנאה לא מלאכת עבודה. וזה מתבאר בתורה - כי בחג המצות שאמר תחילה (שמות יב טז) כל מלאכה לא יעשה בהם הוצרך לפרש אך אשר יאכל לכל נפש הוא לבדו יעשה לכם, ובשאר כל ימים טובים יקצר ויאמר כל מלאכת עבודה לא תעשו לאסור כל מלאכה שאיננה אוכל נפש, ולהודיע שאוכל נפש מותר בהן ...

מְלֶאכֶת עֲבֹדָה - labour - means any melacha that is not for eating. Work which is done for eating is called ‘work for satisfaction’ and not ‘labour’. Regarding Pesach, the Torah said (in Shemos) כל מלאכה לא יעשה בהם – you should not do any work [at all]. Therefore the Torah had to qualify this and say אך אשר יאכל לכל נפש הוא לבדו יעשה לכם – ‘that which is eaten by people may be done for you’. However with other Yomim Tovim the Torah says in a shortened manner כל מלאכת עבודה לא תעשו – ‘you cannot do any labour’ – [The Torah means] to prohibit only work which is not for eating and to tell you that ochel nephesh is allowed on them.”

Rb Rakow explains that both Rashi and Tosafos agree with the Ramban but
  • Rashi is of the opinion that once a melacha is classified as a meleches hana’ah – a melacha that is done for satisfaction, then, if the melacha is done for no reason at all, it does not gain the status of a meleches avoda. You need a positive reason to make it into a meleches avoda.
  • Tosafos however is of the opinion that in order for a melacha to be categorised as a meleches hana’ah - the melacha be generally done for ochel nephesh and also in every case where it is mutar it must be done for ochel nephesh. Therefore if a meleches ochel nephesh is done for no reason it remains ossur mideoraisoh
The gemara in Kesuvos (7a) says that although we say mitoch – this is only for a melacha where the outome is used by everyone. For example, it is ossur to burn fragrant wood on a fire on Yom Tov to impart a pleasant smell to clothes and utensils becuase this is only done by mephunakim – very sensitive people. Even although this is done for physical benefit it is still ossur because not everyone benefits from it:
אלא מעתה מותר לעשות מוגמר ביו"ט דמתוך שהותרה הבערה לצורך הותרה נמי שלא לצורך? אמר ליה עליך אמר קרא (שמות יב, טז) אך אשר יאכל לכל נפש דבר השוה לכל נפש. אמר ליה רב אחא בריה דרבא לרב אשי - אלא מעתה נזדמן לו צבי ביו"ט הואיל ואינו שוה לכל נפש הכי נמי דאסור למשחטיה? אמר ליה אנא דבר הצורך לכל נפש קאמינא צבי צריך לכל נפש הוא.

“If you say mitoch then it should be mutar to [burn] fragrance on Yom Tov? You should say - since making fire is mutar for food-related purposes, it is also mutar for non-food-related purposes?

He answered him - the Torah says, “That which is eaten by any person [is mutar to do on Yom Tov]” – the melacha has to be something which is used by anyone. [Because burning fragrant wood is not done by most people, it is ossur.]

Rav Acha brei d’Rava asked Rav Ashi - if so, if he had a deer on Yom Tov, since it is not eaten by everyone, it should be ossur to schecht it! [Only wealthy people eat venison, so it is not shaveh lekol nepesh.]

He said to him: I meant, “Something which is an equal need to every person.” A deer [fulfills] a need for every person. [Anyone can eat deer, just that most people cannot afford it. However many people do not burn fragrant wood to make clothes and utensils smell nice. Therefore burning wood for the smell is ossur on Yom Tov but shechting deer is mutar.]”

The Rosh derives two halachos from this gemara:
  • You only say the halacha of mitoch for something which most people enjoy – for example it is ossur to burn fragrant wood on Yom Tov. The benefit has to be shaveh lekol nephesh.
  • This halacha of shaveh lekol nephesh applies even if the melacha is for actual eating. If most people would not enjoy the outcome it is ossur on Yom Tov. You can prove this from the fact that the gemara had a have amina that it is ossur to schecht deer, despite the fact that this is an actual meleches ochel nepesh. The gemara only rejects this because anyone would eat deer if they were able to afford it, however if you had something that was not enjoyable for most people then it would be ossur on Yom Tov even if it the melacha was done for eating.  
The Rosh asks a question on Rashi from this gemara:

How can Rashi say that the halacha of mitoch makes a melacha mutar even if it is done for no reason at all? You see from this gemara that if if a meleches ochel nephesh is not enjoyed by most people it is ossur. This is certainly not worse than a melacha done for no reason at all?

According to Rashi - if a melacha done for no reason at all is mutar, because of mitoch, then kal vechomer if a melacha is done for a reason which is suited for the person doing it but is just not suited for everyone then it should definitely be mutar?

Rb Rakow answers that according to Rashi, once a melacha is called a meleches hana’ah – you need a positive reason to make it into a meleches avodah. If the melacha is done for no reason at all, then it remains a meleches hanaah and it is not included in the issur of meleches avoda of Yom Tov. However if a meleches hana’ah is done for a constructive reason that is not pleasurable to most people then 
  • The outcome achieved cannot classify it as meleches hanaah becuase most people do not enjoy this outcome.
  • Becuase it is done to achieve an outcome it becomes ‘work’ or ‘labour’. It is a meleches avoda.

In this case it is worse than a melacha done for no reason becuase that is a ‘pareve’ meleches hana’ah – here because you achieved an outcome, which is not pleasurable to most people, the melacha is work and not a way of gaining pleasure.


  1. Why would you not learn the mach. Rashi and Tos. as a simple hutra/dechuya issue?

  2. how would you explain the gemara that says if the melacha is einoh shoveh it is ossur?

  3. It's hutra/dechuya only if the melacha is b'geder ochel nefesh. Aino shaveh is not ochel nefesh.

    IIRC R' Elchanan explains that Rashi/Tosfos hold there is an issur melacha, but ochel nefesh pushes it off b'toras hutra or dechuya. The Ramban is a different idea: there was never an issur stated l'gabei cooking. It's not that you are pushing something off -- it's that is was never assur in the first place.

  4. "ochel nefesh pushes it off b'toras hutra or dechuya"

    Nobody can hold that meleches ochel nefesh is hudcha - it's vadai hutra ("mitoch shehutra...")

    "It's hutra/dechuya only if the melacha is b'geder ochel nefesh. Aino shaveh is not ochel nefesh."

    the person is going to shecht a deer and eat it, how can that not be ochel nephesh?

    pc :-)


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