1. Q. If melachos are necessary for Yom Tov but not for food or other personal needs are they allowed?
A. They are allowed but only if they do not involve skilled or heavy work, and you did not deliberately wait until Chol Hamoed to do them. If a melacha will probably be needed over Yom Tov but not definitely, it is also allowed. Also there has to be a need, not just a whim. If the melacha is done in public, it should be clear that it is for the purpose of Yom Tov. If the melacha is purely to benefit a non-Jew, it is not allowed unless this would cause a chillul Hashem.
2. Q. So there is no problem washing the floors or vacuuming the carpet?
A. Correct, assuming you do it usually at least once a week or when it’s necessary.
3. Q. And changing a light bulb?
A. Also permitted, if it’s needed.
4. Q. And spraying insecticide on wasps which are troubling us?
A. Yes. These are good examples of melachos which are not allowed on Yom Tov but are allowed on Chol Hamoed if they are needed and are not skilled jobs.
5. Q. We have a new picture of the grandchildren. May we hang it on the wall?
A. That’s really nice and I wish you much nachas but the issue of knocking in a nail in a wall to hang up a picture is controversial. Is it a Yom Tov need or not? Does it make enough of a difference to the beauty of the house to permit it? Whether a picture adds to the beauty of a house is subjective. In a house where there are already twenty pictures on the wall, it is doubtful whether one more will make a difference. If there is a bare wall and you suddenly obtain a beautiful new picture, it could make a difference. So if this is your first picture of your grandchildren and you can’t just put the picture on a sideboard for now, and you’re like most grandparents who get a lot of joy looking at their grandchildren, you can put it up.
6. Q. Does the same apply to putting up pictures in the Succah?
A. Putting up nice pictures in a Succah fulfills the mitzvah of zeh keili v’anveihu – beautifying a mitzvah and is definitely allowed. Making decorations is also allowed as long as they aren’t on a professional standard.
7. Q. What about ironing?
A. If it wasn’t deliberately left until Chol Hamoed, normal domestic ironing to remove creases from clothes which are needed on Yom Tov, is allowed. Pleating is regarded as a skilled job and is not allowed.
8. Q. My kids love baking even though we don’t need any more cakes. Can they bake?
A. Seeing that they enjoy baking it is considered a Yom Tov need and permitted. It is better that their cakes be eaten during Yom Tov. The same applies to children writing and drawing because they enjoy it.
9. Q. Is there any question in going to fetch Bubby and Zeidy in the car?
A.There are some questions about driving a car if there is no need, but to fetch old people is certainly allowed.
10. Q. What is the halacha about driving a short, perfectly walkable, distance?
A. Fortunately for the less active amongst us, Rav Moshe Feinstein said that today we are used to going even short distances by car even if we could walk, so it’s considered a “need.”
Having said that, I would still encourage people to consider the fact that doing melachos on Chol Hamoed even if, strictly speaking, they are allowed, takes away from the Yom Tov atmosphere. It may be worth making the effort to walk and it may be very enjoyable, especially if we walk with our family. The very fact that we have made the effort to do something differently from a weekday helps us feel more yomtovdik.
11. Q. According to what you have said, we shouldn’t use a lift if it’s not necessary. Is that so?
A. Good point. To go up a few floors in a lift instead of walking is allowed. Someone who is old or weak can certainly use a lift, even to go up or down a single floor. But for a healthy person to take a lift to go up one floor or to walk down a few floors is not a problem, so in these cases it is not allowed. If he is carrying something heavy, it will be allowed.
12. Q. What happens if the car breaks down?
A. Repairing a car is probably a maaseh uman which is only permitted for food, other personal needs and to avoid a loss. Therefore if a journey is important and you’ll have to hire a car, repairing the car would be permitted to save you the loss of money. If use of the car would just be helpful, but not strictly necessary, only a simple repair like changing a tyre would be allowed.
13. Q. Is fixing a flat tyre is a skilled job?
A. Fixing a car tyre is a skilled job but fixing a bicycle tyre is not.
14. Q. I think my smartphone needs a service. I can’t ask my rav because he says I shouldn’t have one in the first place. So what do I do?
A. If your rav says you shouldn’t have a smartphone, how can I give you any leniency to so that you can use it? However in case someone is reading this whose rav has allowed him to use a smartphone or a laptop or desktop computer for parnoso purposes with suitable filters, I can give an answer. First of all there has to be a Yom Tov need. Browsing the internet, even on permitted sites, is not a need unless you are so hooked that you can’t manage without the internet, in which case you certainly shouldn’t have it. But as we have learned, even if there is a need, only a non-professional job would be allowed. If not using your computer would cause you a loss, for instance you need it for work and you can’t take time off as discussed in the next chapter you could fix it, even if it required a skilled job.
15. Q. Unfortunately, my cousins know nothing about Judaism and are therefore totally unobservant. May I invite them over to my Succah during Chol Hamoed and cook a meal for them?
A. Although we said that we may not do a melacha for a non-Jew on Chol Hamoed and a Jew who has totally rejected the Torah has the same halacha as a non-Jew for this purpose, seeing that your cousins have clearly never had a Jewish education, you may do melachos for them if necessary. You are probably hoping that you can use this invitation to introduce them to the beauty of the Torah and therefore it is certainly permitted. Hatzlacha.
The whole sefer, Do You Know Hilchos Chol Hamoed? is available your local sefarim shop.