Shiur #08: "Mi-tokh She-hutra Le-tzorekh"

  • Rav Shlomo Levy

(Summary of a shiur delivered in the yeshiva, translated by David Silverberg)


             Amidst the discussion of whether relations with a bride are permitted on Shabbat, the Gemara (7a) cites Rav Papa's comment in the name of Rava permitting these relations on Yom Tov, but not on Shabbat.  Rav Papi understood this ruling as based on the principle known as, "mi-tokh she-hutra le-tzorekh, hutra nami she-lo le-tzorekh," that once a given melakha is suspended on Yom Tov for purposes of food preparation, it becomes permissible even for other needs.  Once the melakha of chabura (inflicting bloody wounds, such as through slaughtering an animal) is permitted for purposes of food preparation, it is permitted for other purposes, as well.  Rav Papi then questions this halakha in light of the prohibition to prepare "mugmar" (incense) on Yom Tov, as this involves the melakha of "hav'ara" - kindling a fire.  Once the Torah permits kindling a fire to prepare food, it should be permitted altogether, even for the preparation of mugmar.  Rav Papa answers by citing the verse that introduces the halakha permitting food preparation on Yom Tov: "only that which is eaten by every soul, only that may you perform for yourselves."  The expression "by every soul," Rav Papa explains, implies that the Torah permits on Yom Tov only activities that we consider "davar ha-shaveh le-khol nefesh," equal for everyone, or something that everybody does, such as eating or marital relations.  Mugmar, however, was used only by those with a delicate sensibility.  In this shiur we will try to understand the underlying concept behind this halakha of "mi-tokh."


The Scope of the Halakha


            This principle establishes that once a melakha is suspended on Yom Tov in order to allow for the preparation of food, it is suspended vis-א-vis other activities, as well.  Before inquiring as to the basis for this expansion beyond what the verse explicitly permits, we will first address its scope.  Does this mean that the given melakha does not apply on Yom Tov altogether, or is it permitted only when it serves some other purpose besides food preparation? 


This issue is subject to a debate between Rashi and Tosefot.  Tosefot in our sugya (s.v. "mi-tokh") write that to permit a melakha we require that the given activity serve the purpose of "hana'at ha-yom o tzorekh kiyum mitzva" - either the enjoyment of Yom Tov or the fulfillment of a mitzva.  However, this halakha does not permit the given melakha for activities that are "she-lo le-tzorekh ha-yom kelal" - that involve no purpose relevant to the Yom Tov.  Rashi, by contrast, commenting on Masekhet Beitza (12a, s.v. "elea"), establishes that mi-de-orayta (according to Torah law), one may even carry stones on Yom Tov, despite the fact that this serves no purpose as far as Yom Tov is concerned.


The Basis of the Halakha


            This debate brings us to the fundamental issue concerning mi-tokh - the basis of the halakha.  Indeed, the Or Zarua (teshuva 754) cites a questioner as asking, "It is astonishing; wherein lies the rational to say that once hav'ara is permitted for the purpose [of food preparation] it becomes permitted even not for the purpose [of food preparation]?  Where is the basis and where are the legs [= foundation] for this matter that appears to have no reason?!"


            In response to this question, we will suggest three approaches.  We will first present them in general terms and then discuss this issue in greater detail.


First Approach


            The Gemara in Masekhet Kiddushin (21b) discusses the status of a kohen vis-א-vis the halakha of eishet yefat to'ar.  As we know, the Torah permits a person to sleep with an eishet yefat to'ar - a gentile woman captured during battle.  This applies, however, only to the initial relations with the woman.  Thereafter, she must be properly converted; only then does she become permissible for a Jew to marry.  A kohen, however, may not marry a convert.  The question thus arises, can a kohen who had relations with an eishet yefat to'ar then marry her after her conversion, despite the general prohibition against his marriage to converts?  Rav allows the kohen to do so: "Ho'il ve-ishtiri, ishtarya" (once she is permitted, she is entirely permitted).  According to Rav, once the Torah lifts the prohibition with respect to initial relations, she cannot become once again forbidden thereafter.  Seemingly, despite the general prohibition forbidding a kohen to marry a convert, once the prohibition is suspended with respect to the initial relations we may expand it further, to permit the kohen's marriage to the converted woman.


            We may apply this model to our sugya and claim that although the Torah forbids certain melakhot on Yom Tov, once we permit them for one purpose we can then expand this permission.  Accordingly, we should interpret the word, "mi-tokh" ("since," or "once") very simply: once we permitted the given melakha somewhat, we can permit even more.  Both Rashi and Tosefot could accommodate such an approach.  Tosefot could explain that since the prohibition was suspended for a certain purpose, we extend this suspension for additional purposes, as well.  Rashi will claim that once the prohibition is rendered inapplicable to some extent, it does not apply at all.


Second Approach


            We could understand this halakha not as reflecting a two-staged process, whereby the melakha is first permitted for purposes of food preparation and thereafter suspended further, but rather as establishing that the Torah never prohibited certain melakhot in the first place.  The expression "mi-tokh she-hutra le-tzorekh, hutra nami she-lo le-tzorekh" merely provides us with the defining characteristic of those melakhot that the Torah never forbade on Yom Tov, namely, those melakhot that relate, at their core, to food preparation.  In this vein, the Ra'avad, cited in the Shita Mekubetzet in Ketubot, explained Rav Papi's question posed to Rav Papa: "What is your position - that once [the melakha of] chabura was permitted for purposes [of food preparation]… "  The Ra'avad explains, "Meaning, all those melakhot which were permitted for purposes of eating were not included under the prohibition."  The Ra'avad claims, however, that in its conclusion the Gemara rejects this approach.  In any event, this approach would explain Rashi's position very clearly.  Tosefot, presumably, cannot adopt this explanation, as it does not allow for Tosefot's limitation of the halakha to specific purposes (Yom Tov celebration or a mitzva).


            A similar approach emerges from the Ramban's remarks in his commentary to the Torah.  Commenting on the verse, "On the first day you shall observe as a sacred occasion; you shall not perform any work of occupation [melekhet avoda]," the Ramban elaborates on the meaning of the expression, "melekhet avoda."  We cite here one segment from his discussion:


"Rather, the meaning of melekhet avoda is any activity that does not serve the purpose of food preparation, as it says, 'Six days you shall work and perform all your activity [melakha]' (Shemot 20:9); 'and with every work [avoda] in the field' (Shemot 1:14); …But melakha that serves the purposes of food preparation is categorized as a melakha of hana'a ['personal benefit'], and not melekhet avoda ['work of occupation']…

'Melekhet avoda' denotes work for the purpose of material possessions, such as sowing, harvesting, plowing and the like.  But okhel nefesh is not melekhet avoda."


The Ramban here draws a distinction between activities classified as "melekhet avoda" and melakhot of "okhel nefesh" (food preparation).  However, a careful analysis of the Ramban's discussion reveals that he does not make a clear, absolute distinction between different melakhot; the same melakha can be categorized as a melekhet avoda in one context and as a melekhet okhel nefesh in another, depending on the purpose of the given activity.  (We suggest that the reader study the text of the Ramban's commentary to confirm this point.)  This approach could explain Rashi's position; however it is unsuitable with regard to Tosafot.


Third Approach


            The Yerei'im (104) writes that when the Torah permitted activities pertaining to "okhel nefesh" on Yom Tov, it referred to "kol hana'at ha-nefesh" - all personal enjoyment.  Accordingly, we deal here neither with an expansion of the permission granted to prepare food, nor with an absolute negation of the relevance of certain halakhot to Yom Tov.  Rather, the Torah permitted not only food preparation but all personal enjoyment.  The Yerei'im makes such an assertion based on the comment of Rabbi Avahu, in Masekhet Pesachim (21b).  Rabbi Avahau posited that whenever the Torah introduces a prohibition against the consumption of some item with the term "lo yei'akhel" or a derivative thereof, it actually forbids both the consumption and the derivation of benefit from the item.  In other words, consumption constitutes a form of benefit.  Thus, we may conclude that when the Torah permits performing melakha for purposes of eating on Yom Tov, it permits melakhot involving personal enjoyment as well.  Needless to say, this approach will not accommodate Rashi's position, cited earlier.


            According to the Yerei'im, the term "mi-tokh" should be interpreted as "ke-shem" ("just like… "): just like these melakhot were permitted for purposes of food preparation, so were they suspended for other purposes, as well.


"Ho'il Ve-ishtiri, Ishtarya"


            Let us now examine the first approach we raised.  As we know, the Torah suspended the prohibition of kil'ayim (wearing clothing made from both wool and linen) for the performance of the mitzva of tzitzit (Yevamot 3b).  Rabbenu Tam and the Ra'avad (Peirush ha-Ra'avad to Masekhet Tamid 31b) debate the issue of whether or not one may wear a tallit with kil'ayim even at nighttime, when the obligation of tzitzit does not apply.  Rabbenu Tam ruled leniently, and presented the following argument: "Since the Torah permitted it, no prohibition of kil'ayim applies."  Meaning, this garment is completely excluded from the prohibition of kil'ayim.  (The Sha'agat Aryeh discusses this ruling of Rabbenu Tam at length.)  The Ra'avad disagrees, claiming that we cannot employ this concept, of expanding the Torah's suspension of a prohibition, in all areas of halakha.  True, as mentioned earlier, with regard to a kohen's marriage to an eishet yefat to'ar we assume that "ho'il ve-ishtiri, ishtarya" - once she is permitted, she is entirely permitted.  To explain the criterion determining when we may employ this principle, the Ra'avad develops a fundamental distinction between two types of heterim.  With regard to wearing kil'ayim in tzitzit, we confront a conflict between the mitzva of wearing tzitzit and the prohibition against wearing kil'ayim.  In such cases, halakha establishes that "asei docheh lo ta'aseh" - the mitzvat asei overrides the mitzvat lo ta'aseh.  This term, "dechiya" (overriding) implies that both conflicting institutions remain fully intact, so-to-speak, only due to the conflict one must be temporarily superseded by the other.  The moment the mitzva asei no longer applies, such as when night falls, and one no longer bears an obligation to wear tzitzit, the lo ta'aseh applies.  In the situation of eishet yefat to'ar, by contrast, we do not face two conflicting interests, a clash between an asei and a lo ta'aseh.  The Torah did not permit relations with the woman in deference to a conflicting mitzvat asei; no mitzva is involved in taking an eishet yefat to'ar.  Rather, the Torah introduced an entirely new principle allowing one to take this woman.  The Ra'avad claims that such an institution does not put the lo ta'aseh "on hold," as occurs in a situation of dechiya, but rather negates the lo ta'aseh entirely.


            Does Rabbenu Tam believe that we may apply the concept of "ho'il ve-ishtiri, ishtarya" to wearing a tallit of kil'ayim?  Apparently he does.  This does not necessarily mean, however, that he will apply it to Yom Tov, as well.  We may suggest that the notion of "ho'il ve-ishtiri, ishtarya" has relevance only when we speak of an object or person.  In such cases, we can say that once halakha determines the status of the given person or item as "permitted," it becomes permitted entirely - such as an eishet yefat to'ar or tzitzit with kil'ayim.  Yom Tov, however, is not a tangible object whose formal status we can determine.  We may therefore claim that even when a given melakha is suspended for purposes of food preparation, it remains in force regarding other purposes.


            We have thus seen a fundamental debate between Rabbenu Tam and the Ra'avad as to the nature of the halakha of "ho'il ve-ishtiri."  According to Rabbenu Tam, this halakha completely negates the prohibition at least concerning the status of a person or object, whereas according to the Ra'avad, it would seem, this halakha relates not to the person or item, but rather to the status of the prohibition.  If it is merely overridden, we suspend it only temporarily; if, however, the Torah renders a given prohibition inapplicable regarding a certain matter, such as in the case of eishet yefat to'ar, it is permitted entirely.


            Just as we considered the status of melakha on Yom Tov within the view of Rabbenu Tam, so must we examine it according to the Ra'avad's understanding.  Should we compare Yom Tov to the halakha of eishet yefat to'ar, regarding which we apply the rule of "ho'il ve-ishtiri," or perhaps food preparation on Yom Tov involves a case of dechiya, like tzitzit, where a prohibition is superseded, rather than uprooted?


            Presumably, this question hinges on the fundamental question as to the status of melekhet okhel nefesh on Yom Tov, if we consider it "hutra" - completely permitted - or dechuya.  A similar question arises in other halakhic contexts, as well, such as Shabbat violations to save a life, and performing the Temple service when most of the nation is tamei (ritually impure).  When the Torah allows one to violate Shabbat to save a life, does this mean that the given activity does not qualify for the status of "melakha" in the context of saving lives, or that in the interest of saving lives the melakha is merely suspended?  If we adopt the first position, the perspective of hutra, then we may expand the heter beyond the specific purposes for which it was introduced.  For example, the Gemara in Masekhet Pesachim (79a) says that according to the position that "hutra tum'a be-tzibur" (we allow the Temple service to take place in a state of tum'a if most of the nation is tamei), tamei vessels may be used even when tahor ones are available.  Similarly, kohanim in a state of tum'a may perform the avoda even if there are kohanim tehorim.  The Ran (Beitza, 9a in the Rif) views melekhet okhel nefesh as hutra on Yom Tov, and therefore, according to Torah law, one may cook on Yom Tov more than he needs for that day itself.  The Ra'avad, as we saw earlier (in presenting the second approach to understanding mi-tokh), does not accept this position.  He presumably sees melekhet okhel nefesh on Yom Tov as dechuya; we must therefore limit the scope of the heter.  Both the Ran and the Ra'avad see the interest of preparing food as the basis of the heter, only the Ra'avad views it as following the model of "asei docheh lo ta'aseh," whereby the concern for Yom Tov celebration overrides the prohibition of melakha.  The Ran, by contrast, believes that given the explicit reference to this heter in the Torah, we cannot see this as a clash between an asei and a lo ta'aseh; rather, the melakha is entirely permitted.  (According to the Shita Mekubetzet, even the Ra'avad ultimately accepts the halakha of mi-tokh, only on the basis of the word "lakhem" - "for you," which implies that we may perform melakha for all our personal needs.)


            According to this explanation, mi-tokh resembles the halakhot permitting melakha on Shabbat for a deathly ill patient and the Temple service in a case of widespread tum'a.  Just as the perspective of hutra regarding saving lives on Shabbat allows the performance of melakha for all the patient's needs, including those that do not involve saving his life, so may one kindle a flame on Yom Tov for purposes other than food preparation.


Understanding Rashi's Position


            As mentioned, even once we determine that mi-tokh means the expansion of the heter of melekhet okhel nefesh, we must establish the boundaries of this expansion.  Earlier, we noted Rashi's position, that a melakha generally involving food preparation is entirely permitted on Yom Tov.  Tosefot here in Ketubot (7a, s.v. "mi-tokh") challenge this view in light of the Gemara's discussion in Pesachim (46b) concerning the preparation of food on Yom Tov for consumption after Yom Tov.  Rav Chisda maintains that doing so renders one liable for punishment (malkot), whereas Rabba disagrees.  The Gemara explains that Rabba bases his lenient position on the principle of "ho'il u-mikle'i lei orchim, chazi lei."  Namely, since unannounced guests could arrive anytime, we may view all food preparation on Yom Tov as performed for the purpose of Yom Tov celebration.  Rav Chisda, however, does not accept this rule, and therefore forbids the preparation of excess food on Yom Tov.  Tosefot note that according to Rashi, regardless of whether or not we accept the notion of "ho'il" we should permit cooking extra food.  After all, Rashi understood mi-tokh as permitting melekhet okhel nefesh entirely - for any purpose!  How may we reconcile Rashi's view with this discussion in Masekhet Pesachim?


            The Ran (Beitza, 6a in the Rif) answers that according to Rashi, we must distinguish between a melakha performed on Yom Tov "she-lo le-tzorekh," for no purpose at all, and a melakha performed specifically for consumption after Yom Tov.


            We can understand this distinction more clearly in light of the Ramban's position discussed earlier.  The Ramban explained that the Torah forbade on Yom Tov only melekhet avoda; melakhot performed for purposes of food consumption are not defined as "melakhot" with respect to the laws of Yom Tov.  Rashi may have felt that the definition of melekhet avoda depends on the circumstances.  We cannot apply absolute definitions.  Cooking, for example, will not always classify as melekhet hana'a.  Generally, of course, halakha permits cooking on Yom Tov; but when one cooks for after Yom Tov, this purpose suffices to define the activity as melekhet avoda and render it forbidden.  Tosefot, who brought the discussion in Pesachim as a challenge against Rashi's view, understood that we deal not with the definition of melakha, but rather with the definition of "tzorekh," for which purposes are these melakhot permitted.  Tosefot therefore could not imagine that a melakha performed for after Yom Tov could be deemed more stringent than a melakha performed for no purpose whatsoever.


The Rambam's View


            The Rambam writes in Hilkhot Yom Tov:


"Every melakha for which one is liable [for punishment] on Shabbat, if one performs it on Yom Tov for a purpose other than eating, he receives lashes, with the exception of carrying from one domain to another and kindling - for once these have been permitted for purposes of eating, they are permitted even not for purposes of eating.  One may similarly kindle a flame even not for the purpose of eating… Other melakhot - so long as it involves the purpose of eating, are permitted, such as slaughtering, kneading and the like.  Anything which does not involve the purpose of eating is forbidden, such as writing and weaving… "


            The Rambam's comments deserve independent treatment, which this context does not allow.  We will briefly mention in general terms two primary possibilities as to how to understand this passage.


            When the Rambam speaks of "for the purpose of eating" and "not for the purpose of eating," does he refer to the individual's intent as he performs the given melakha, or the general character of the melakha?


            The Maggid Mishna understood that the Rambam speaks of the melakhot in general, regardless of the specific subjective purpose underlying the given action.  He claims that the Rambam here establishes three different categories:


1.     Melakhot which by nature involve food preparation, such as cooking and shechita, are not forbidden at all on Yom Tov.

2.     Melakhot that have no connection whatsoever to food preparation, such as writing and tying knots, apply in all cases on Yom Tov, just as on Shabbat.

3.     Carrying and kindling are melakhot which only periodically involve food preparation.  Through the halakha of mi-tokh we permit the performance of these melakhot for other purposes, besides that of okhel nefesh.


According to this reading, an important principle emerges from the Rambam's comments: we must distinguish between those melakhot which we allow through the halakha of mi-tokh, whose permissibility will be restricted, and those which do not require mi-tokh, regarding which no prohibition applies whatsoever.


            Earlier we saw the view of the Ramban, that melakhot defined as melekhet avoda were never included in the prohibitions of Yom Tov.  We noted, however, that according to the Ramban, the definition of a given melakha depends on the person's intent.  If he performs it for purposes of food preparation, we consider the melakha a melakha of okhel nefesh; if he performs it for some other purpose, the melakha is defined as melekhet avoda.  According to the Maggid Mishneh's reading of the Rambam, we will classify certain melakhot as "melakhot of eating" even if in a given situation the individual performs them for purposes other than food preparation.


            Alternatively, we may interpret the Rambam's expression "for the purpose of eating" to refer to individual actions.  Thus, regardless of which melakha a person performs, if it is done for purposes of eating it is permissible; otherwise it is forbidden.  The halakha of mi-tokh, however, singles out the two melakhot of carrying and kindling as exceptions to the rule, and they are thus permitted regardless of the purpose.  We can point to either verses in the Torah or the nature of these two melakhot as the source of their distinction in this respect.  The melakha of carrying never causes any change in the actual object, and hav'ara is, by definition, a destructive act; the preparation of food occurs not through the actual kindling of the flame, but rather as a result of the warmth created by the kindling.  It stands to reason, then, that specifically regarding these two melakhot the heter for purposes of food preparation contains within it a blanket heter, as well.


            In conclusion, we will briefly mention the comments of the Or Zarua (754), who views mi-tokh as encompassing two distinct halakhot.  The first relates to the issue of malkot for violating the prohibitions of Yom Tov.  The Or Zarua claims that any prohibition which halakha suspends under certain circumstances is seen as an "issur kalush" - a "weak" prohibition; hence, one who violates it - even when it does apply - is not liable for malkot.  The Or Zarua compares this theory to the aforementioned halakha of "ho'il u-mikle'i lei orchim."  Apparently, he understood that this provision does not stem from the fact that one's excess cooking can be seen as preparation for Yom Tov; after all, no guests have arrived and the individual has no guests in mind.  Rather, the fact that halakha would allow one to cook were he to expect guests transforms this performance into an "issur kalush," for which one is not liable for malkot.  The second component of mi-tokh, he claims, expands the heter of okhel nefesh to include all personal needs - as the Yerei'im understood the halakha.  One could view these two halakhot as two distinct, unrelated components of mi-tokh.  Alternatively, however, we may interpret the Or Zarua as indicating a relationship between these two elements.  Namely, the fact that we view the prohibition as an "issur kalush" allows us to expand our definition of "okhel nefesh" to permit other needs, besides food preparation; a "weak prohibition" may perhaps become permitted even through a "weak purpose," beyond the narrow definition of "tzorekh okhel nefesh."


Sources for next week's shiur:


1.     7a - "Amar Rabbi Chelbo… tza'ara le-yenuka"

2.     Tosefot - 7b, s.v. "ve-hu"

3.     Ritva - 7b, s.v. "amar Rabbi Yehuda"

4.     Rambam, Hilkhot Ishut 10:1-10, Hilkhot Berakhot 2:9-10




1.     What function is served by the seven berakhot recited at the chupa ceremony?

2.     When are sheva berakhot recited during the week of celebration following the wedding?

3.     Which berakhot are added when "panim chadashot" arrive?


4.     Who or what is considered "panim chadashot," and why do we add these berakhot when they arrive?