According to the Torah, melacha isn't permitted on Yom Tov days except for what is needed for food. I read that certain laws, like carrying, don't apply on these days because they are loosened for food preparation... and if for food, then also for anything else that is needed for the holiday.

How is this leap derived, from 'food' to 'things needed for celebrating the day'?

What makes the question more interesting is that I think one couldn't take a different perspective of the halachic process for him or herself as an individual (and treat the day like Shabbos, except for preparing food) because it would interfere with lighting candles as the community is obliged to.

  • Pretty much, the Hachamim received a tradition that some Melachot (לִישָׁה, אֲפִיָּה, שְׁחִיטָה וּבִשּׁוּל. וְהוֹצָאָה וְהַבְעָרָה ) are Mutar לְצֹרֶךְ אֹכֶל נֶפֶשׁ because they are included in the meaning of לְצֹרֶךְ אֹכֶל נֶפֶשׁ.(from the Kisur Shulhan Aruch). Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 16:40
  • halachipedia.com/… footnote one gives the sources you might be asking for
    – rosends
    Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 16:41
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    Thanks, I did find some interesting things. But nothing to answer the question of why, when the Torah says that you can't work except what is needed to eat, that can possibly be more broadly applied to things not needed for food.
    – Annelise
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 2:29
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    I did read somewhere that it is understood that the commandment about eating also includes other things needed for the Yom Tov. But the fact that this seems to derive from a principle (Mitoch) rather than simply tradition, and that there were debates between Shammai and Hillel about it... does that negate this idea? I don't know much about the halachic process so I don't know what to do with this question.
    – Annelise
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 2:31
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    כיון דאמרי מתוך שהותרה הוצאה לצורך הותרה נמי שלא לצורך הכא נמי מתוך שהותרה הבערה לצורך הותרה נמי שלא לצורך: Reb@DoubleAA Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 4:12

3 Answers 3


The principle here is termed by the Gemara (Beitzah 12a, Kesubos 7a) as מתוך שהותרה לצורץ הותרה נמי שלא לצורך - since it was permitted for the purpose [of food preparation] it is also permitted without [food] purpose. You are right that it is not entirely clear how the Sages learned this rule from the verse (Exodus 12:16) which appears to only permit food-related activity: וּבַיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם כָּל מְלָאכָה לֹא יֵעָשֶׂה בָהֶם אַךְ אֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל לְכָל נֶפֶשׁ הוּא לְבַדּוֹ יֵעָשֶׂה לָכֶם

Several possible explanations can be given for how to understand this principle:

  1. R. Isaac "Ohr Zarua" (Responsa, no. 754) asks your question, and quotes from Rabbeinu Yeshayah (one of the Tosafists) that the Sages learned this rule from the extra word "לכם" at the end of the verse above. Rebbi Yehudah (Beitzah 28b) believes that this word expands the work that the Torah permits to work that is only indirectly related to food preparation, and while the majority of the Sages do not agree with his view, it is likely that they (and us) still use this same word to at least expand the permission to מתוך שהותרה לצורך etc.

  2. A more theoretical solution is provided by the Shittah Mekubetzes (to Kesubos 7a). He understands that when the Torah allows food-preparing activity, it does not mean to say "Yom Tov is exactly like Shabbat, but you can do melacha to prepare food," but rather that "most of the melachot which are prohibited on Shabbat are also prohibited on Yom Tov, but not those that are related to food preparation." In other words, the Torah means to say that those activities which are food-preparation-related are simply not prohibited at all on Yom Tov. Ramban (in his commentary to Lev. 23:7) seems to express a similar view, saying that the Torah never prohibited all melacha on Yom Tov-only those activities which are melechet avodah, but not food preparation melacha.

  3. R. Eliezer of Metz in his Sefer Yere'im (no. 104) explains that the Sages understood אוכל נפש as not being literally limited to food, but to any hana'ah, personal benefit. In many cases (e.g. Pesachim 21b) the Sages say explicitly that when the Torah refers to "food" or "eating", that is merely a way to refer to physical benefit in a general sense.

  4. Several later commentators (such as the Turei Even to Megillah 18 in the Avnei Miluim and Sefer Meleches Yom Tov no. 5) understand this concept to be related to another Talmudic idea, מתוך דאשתרי אשתרי, once something has been permitted, it is permitted. This is used by the Sages to explain, for example, why a kohen is permitted to a "beautiful captive woman" (see Deut. 21:10-14) even though he is normally prohibited from marrying a women who converted after the age of three. (Kiddushin 21b) The idea here is that once the Torah permits something that should otherwise be prohibited, that permission is absolute.

It should be noted that carrying, which you mention in your question, might be a special case. Rashba (Beitza 12a) explains that carrying is not one of the classic thirty-nine melachot of Shabbat, but is learned from its own special source that it is prohibited on Shabbat--but it was never a true melacha, and therefore is not applicable to Yom Tov at all.

  • I like that you cited multiple sources that address somewhat different aspects of this topic. Even after reading your summary, I still have some trouble understanding how and why they arrived at this principle, though the 2nd explanation seems the most "logical" to me. Carrying is still quite puzzling, and I prob. need to view the source to get a better idea. Chazak Ve'ematz.
    – DanF
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 16:14
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    @DanF in many ways this question touches upon a much larger issue of Chazal's methods of derivation for their principles. Carrying is especially complex though; Tosfos to the first page of Maseches Shabbat show that the Sages needed three separate sources for the prohibition, and at least in some respects it is not under the general category of "melacha" as defined by the Torah Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 17:29

This is one way of explaining why melachos that are performed which are associated to food, but not actually for the sake food (- called שלא לצורך -) are permitted, when for the common need of mankind.

The Beis Yosef in Orach Chaim 495* explains according to the Rosh and Tur (amongst other rishonim):
Really all Melachos related to food for that day which are explicitly permitted in Shemos (12,16), are Muttar min Hatorah in all cases as long as for the sake of that day of Yom Tov. We know this from the Passuk "Do not light a fire on the day of Shabbos" (shemos 35,3) only on Shabbos its prohibited. This implies on Yom tov it is permitted since fire is generally for the sake of cooking food so it does not contradict the possuk about Ochel Nefesh (Shemos 12,16) rather it broadens the allowance of lighting fire for anything that is needed for that day on Yomtov e.g heating (miderabanan light a fire from an existing flame because of Nolad). Likewise we would say the same of carrying which is needed for food that it is permitted for everything needed that day. Since there was only a Heter in the Torah for Melachos related to food. However unrelated Melachos to food e.g writing,building, demolishing,weaving, are completely forbidden min HaTorah on Yomtov as they are not similar to lighting a fire which is related to food. But Melachos like Ritual slaughter,baking among others which are related to preparation of food even when done not for the sake of food are not Prohibited from the Torah rather only Rabbinically, as only melachos which EVERYONE needs for that day and are related to food preparation are permitted Miderabanan.
However There are some Melachos which are entirely forbidden miderabbanan even though they are related to food and everyone needs for that day: like harvesting, grinding and threshing/squezing. This is because if these were permitted, then someone would harvest his entire field or thresh his entire granary for personal gain (not only for the sake of Yomtov meals)through the principal of marbeh beshiurim (source:beitza 17a: A woman may fill the whole pot with meat to cook, even though she only needs one portion)and miss out on the Essence of Yom tov to gladden With Hashem.

*ונראה טעם לשנים אלו ההוצאה לפי שאף היא באוכל ומשקה ואע"פ שהיא בדברים אחרים אמרינן מתוך והבערה אע"פ שאינה באוכלין ומשקין כתיב לא תבערו אש בכל מושבותיכם ביום השבת בשבת הוא דאסור הא בי"ט שרי ודרשו כן לפי שביום השבת מיותר הוא דהא בשבת מיירי קרא לעיל מיניה וביום השביעי וגו' אבל שאר מלאכות שאינן לצורך אכילה כגון כתיבה והריסה ואריגה ובניין אפילו עשאן לאכילה לוקה ושאר מלאכות שהן באכילה כגון שחיטה ואפייה אפי' עשאן שלא לאכילה אינו לוקה כמו שיתבאר בפ' זה שאם בישל לעו"ג או לצורך חולה אינו לוקה עכ"ל:...
קצירה וטחינה ובצירה וסחיטה אע"פ שהן אוכל נפש אסרום חכמים ופר"י הטעם לפי שאדם רגיל לקצור שדהו ולבצור כרמו כאחד ולדרוך כל ענביו ולטחון הרבה ביחד וחשו חכמים שאם היו מתירין בי"ט היה קוצר כל שדהו ובוצר כל כרמו ודורך כל ענביו וימנע משמחת י"ט. וכן צידה אסרו שפעמים שתעלה במצודתו דגים הרבה. ובירושלמי מסמיך להו כולהו אקראי

  • Both you and @Matt had very good answers, and it was tough to decide who to award the bounty to. I may place an additional bounty, anyway, as I like both answers.
    – DanF
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 16:10
  • @DanF I found those answers to be useful too and upvoted them as well. I hope you find my answer helpful too. :) Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 20:06

Beis Shammai says: "We do not carry a child, a lulav, or a sefer Torah, to the public domain (on Yom Tov) ; but Beis Hillel allows this.

The Gemara explains that Beis Hillel holds of the idea: "mitoch" which means that "since it (carrying) was permitted for food needs, it was also permitted for any non-food need as well."

Beis Shammai would reject the "mitoch" principle (at least as far as Beis Hillel applies it here).

  • See Talmud Beitzah 12a.

Rashi in his comments on Beitzah 3a and Eiruvin 39b, (and this is how the Rosh and Ramban understand Rashi as well) shows that he would hold the following rule:

Any melachah that could have been performed before Yom Tov to the same quality effect, may not be done on Yom Tov itself. This is an issur d'Oraisa (a Torah prohibition and not merely Rabbinic.)

Also, the continuing subject in Beitzah 12a eventually explains that we only say Beis Hillel's application of "Mitoch" in 3 additional cases besides the melachah of baking/cooking:

1) Shechitah - slaughtering an animal

2) Havarah - lighting a fire (from a pre-existing flame)

3) Hotza'ah - carrying

Otherwise, we do not apply the rule of "mitoch".

The simple reasoning is :

Cooking is the one melachah that (almost) never requires one to have done it before Yom tov. This is because freshly cooked food is always considered tastier than yesterday's reheated fare. So, the Torah would not ask a person to avoid cooking on Yom Tov and make the food before the holiday, because such a thing would not taste as good. (True on shabbos we must prepare the food beforehand, but that's why Yom Tov is special. :) )

Slaughter too is always allowed on Yom Tov (certain Rabbinical restrictions apply) and for the same reason. Fresh meat is better. Freshly slaughtered and cooked right away is just awesome compared to defrosted burgers reheated from two days ago!

Lighting your cooking fire is obviously done on Yom Tov because its the thing that makes the fresh cooking happen! If you did it all beforehand (besides your pilot light), there would be times you will need to raise the flame anyway once you get down to cooking.

Carrying for food also happens on Yom Tov and could not be done beforehand. If you need to make fresh cakes to bring to your friend's house for the party, you can only bake them right before the meal, and so you must carry on Yom Tov.

All of the other 39 melachos usually could be done before Yom Tov with the same quality effect. (Sure you can dream up some what if's, but the overall idea of any other melachah is that it can technically be done beforehand.)

(BTW, even if you "could have done it before" there are ways of still doing it sometimes and in many cases on Yom Tov , but that is only through special (allowance) heter and is not applicable to all works, and is not the subject of the OP.)

An example of what could be done before Yom tov would be Trapping a deer. The meat is just as good if you trapped the deer last week or on Yom Tov. So, Trapping on Yom Tov is forbidden, even if you are trapping it for the need of food on yom Tov! However, the slaughter must be done on Yom Tov for fresh meat.

So, in conclusion:

35 of the 39 melachas may be done ONLY for direct food purposes on Yom Tov (if they couldn't be done beforehand). They therefore do not qualify for "mitoch" of Beis Hillel and absolutely may not be done for non-food needs of Yom Tov.

example: Grinding may be done on Yom Tov if the food will lose some of its quality by doing it before Yom Tov (otherwise you should have done it before.) --- grating apples --- chopping onions into fine little pieces.

So, one may not apply "Mitoch" to grinding. Ex.: crushing metal into shavings for an arts and crafts project would be forbidden on Yom Tov because it has nothing to do with food preperation (or enjoyment of the body) and therefore cannot be allowed.

4 of the 39 melachas may be done on Yom Tov in just about all cases as long as it is for a Yom Tov need of some kind, (is for a Jewish person, and is something most people need) even if not for food preparation. The reason is Beis Hillel's "Mitoch". Once they were permitted for food needs on Yom Tov, they were permitted for any Yom Tov need. Example: carrying a book.

The reasoning behind this, is that since these 4 were so needed for food prep. on Yom Tov, Hashem granted them complete heter. That is how to explain the statement of Beis Hillel. Since they were permitted for direct and constant food needs, they were permitted for non-food needs of Yom Tov as well.

The Beis Yosef however, says that Mitoch allows you to do these melachas for no reason at all. (not just for a bona fide Yom Tov need). (see details S.A. O.C. 518)

The way to explain this is that since these four works are so key to enjoying food directly, Hashem simply cancelled them outright, as opposed to the other 35.

One more point: Since the three melachas of baking/cooking, slaughter, and lighting, have very little use other than for food or physical benefit, the only melachah we tend to hear about under the "mitoch" principle is only carrying (even though the other 3 are granted "mitoch"). That's why it seems carrying is always the one given the leap of food to non-food activities. Carrying is the one melachah exclusively that a "mitoch" grant will allow a colorful and large amount of non-food needs to be done on Yom Tov.

As far as the OP's assumption that a stricter view of lighting candles couldn't work; ... this is not an issue. The questions of melachah here are Biblical. Lighting candles for Shabbos or Yom Tov (especially on second day Yom Tov) is a Rabbinical obligation, so it would move aside. You could even have your lights burning with more fuel from before Shabbos or Yom Tov for all 2-3 days in advance. But we don't have to because of "Mitoch" -- Beis Hillel. Lighting from a pre existing flame is always permitted on the 6 Yom Tovs.

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