I did a search in Tanac"h for the term יום טוב (along with any prefixes to the term)

The term appears a few times in Esther, esp. in the 2nd to last chapter. One example is:

Esther 9:19:

עַל־כֵּ֞ן הַיְּהוּדִ֣ים הפרוזים [הַפְּרָזִ֗ים] הַיֹּשְׁבִים֮ בְּעָרֵ֣י הַפְּרָזוֹת֒ עֹשִׂ֗ים אֵ֠ת י֣וֹם אַרְבָּעָ֤ה עָשָׂר֙ לְחֹ֣דֶשׁ אֲדָ֔ר שִׂמְחָ֥ה וּמִשְׁתֶּ֖ה וְי֣וֹם ט֑וֹב וּמִשְׁל֥וֹחַ מָנ֖וֹת אִ֥ישׁ לְרֵעֵֽהוּ׃

Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwell in the unwalled towns, make the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another.

I also found an example in I Samuel 25:8:

שְׁאַ֨ל אֶת־נְעָרֶ֜יךָ וְיַגִּ֣ידוּ לָ֗ךְ וְיִמְצְא֨וּ הַנְּעָרִ֥ים חֵן֙ בְּעֵינֶ֔יךָ כִּֽי־עַל־י֥וֹם ט֖וֹב בָּ֑נוּ תְּנָה־נָּ֗א אֵת֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר תִּמְצָ֤א יָֽדְךָ֙ לַעֲבָדֶ֔יךָ וּלְבִנְךָ֖ לְדָוִֽד׃

Ask your young men, and they will tell you; wherefore let the young men find favour in your eyes; for we come on a good day; give, please, whatsoever comes to your hand, to your servants, and to your son David.’

Does the term יום טוב always imply a day of prohibition from work (prohibition against Melacha)? People wish each other "Good Yom Tov" on days such as Pesach, Shavu'ot and Sucot, but not during Hol Hamo'ed. I don't hear this expression used on Shabbat even though work is prohibited. On the other hand, on Purim, work is permitted, but I also don't hear the expression "Good Yom Tov" being used. And, for Purim, Esther calls it a Yom Tov, but people are working.

So, there seems to be a dichotomy. On the one hand, Shabbat which has a work prohibition is not called a יום טוב , but Purim which is called a יום טוב has work allowed. What's going on?

Also, does the term in Samuel also refer to a holiday of some type, or is this being used a general term meaning "a propitious day"?

  • 1
    The second time in Esther it doesn't say Yom Tov. Just the first time they didn't do Melacha. See 9:22 which is the description of the command of a future holiday.
    – Double AA
    Aug 21, 2015 at 18:39
  • Actually, יום טוב is mentioned TWICE. In 8:17 and 9:19. You are correct, about the verse that you listed, that it is eliminated. But, I'm still curious if the original term meant "prohibition from work" and how they determined that's its meaning? It's not apparent from the literal meaning of the words.
    – DanF
    Aug 21, 2015 at 18:49
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    @DoubleAA machlockes in Megillah IIRC. Some hold that there is an issur melacha.
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 21, 2015 at 19:07
  • @mevaqesh You're thinking of 5b hebrewbooks.org/shas.aspx?mesechta=11&daf=5b&format=pdf
    – Double AA
    Aug 21, 2015 at 19:09
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    I've heard that at first Esther asked for a full yom tov with issue melacha, but all she was able to get out of anshei knesses hagedola was a holiday with no issur melacha. Hence the change from the first to second time purim it's mentioned in Esther.
    – andrewmh20
    Mar 20, 2016 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but... The Maharal in an exposition of Eruv Tavshilin describes the status of the 3 different tiers of days as paralleling the 3 different stages of human history. Chol, the regular work-week days, parallel olam hazeh, this world where we toil toward an ultimate reward. Shabbath, the day of rest, parallels olam haba when one reaps one's rewards and there is no longer any work (and thus no longer the ability to earn any more merit). Yom Tov is the bridge between the two, where m'lecheth ochel nefesh, that work that is itself directed toward the enjoyments of the day, is allowed, but no other toil. This is paralleled by the messianic age which is the transition between Olam Hazeh and Olam Haba, which is without the suffering of this world, but in which mi shetarach b'erev shabbos... - those who prepared already in this world, can continue to acquire merit for the world to come (the idea allegorized by eruv tavshilin). This concept of "yom tov" - a good day, involves the general prohibition of melocho, but retains the direct work that results in the final oneg. I believe it is not only a concept of the moadim (and would have as well been for Purim had the masses accepted it) but also for the bringer of a personal korban on the day he brings it.

  • This is a good "drash" type answer, but, it's not entirely what I'm seeking. I get what you're saying about Purim, but I'd have to see why the people rejected it. The fact that they did reject it, places a different current definition of this term, anyway. And, you have the usage in Shmu'el which needs an explanation. I'm placing a bounty on this one. If you can improve the answer, it may be awarded the bounty :-)
    – DanF
    Feb 9, 2018 at 15:00

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