Halakhot of Yom Tob


Table of Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Prohibited and Permitted Work and Activities
  3. Candlelighting, Kiddush, and Habdalah
  4. General halakhot
  5. Prayers

I. OVERVIEW

There are six days of Yom Tob each year from the Torah:

Yom Kippur (Tishri 10) is not counted amongst Yamim Tobim as it is not a celebratory day. Each Yom Tob commemorates and celebrates a different significant feature regarding the Jewish Nation's essence and reality and has profound implications for the life of each individual. Pesah commemorates the Almighty's redemption of the Jewish People and its entry into His service via the Exodus from Egypt; Shabuot, the Giving of the Torah and the establishment of the Covenant on Har Sinai; Rosh Hashanah, Divine kingship and human accountability; Succot, the Al-mighty's ongoing protection and providence.

In the Diaspora (outside Israel) there are twelve Yom Tob days each year: the first two and last two days of Pesah, two days Shabuot, two days Rosh Hashanah, the first two days of Succot and two days Shemini Aseret.

The reason we observe two days Yom Tob in the Diaspora follows: In Mishnaic times there often was a doubt in lands outside Israel as to which of two possible days was declared Rosh Hodesh, as a lunar month is 29 1/2 days. The Bet Din awaited witnesses to testify to the New Moon's appearance. If witnesses didn't arrive when expected, the following day was declared Rosh Hodesh. Communications being what they were, the doubt outside Israel was not always resolved by the time the holiday arrived. Not to violate the holiday's sanctity, they observed two days. The two day observance was retained even in later Talmudic times, when a fixed calendar was used and there was no doubt, out of concern that things may return to their confusion. Although modern communications make such confusion inconceivable, established legislation of the High Court (Sanhedrin) cannot be annulled without reconvening another High Court, which has not been done these many centuries. Hopefully, we will merit its speedy reestablishment.

II. PROHIBITED AND PERMITTED WORK AND ACTIVITIES

Work and activities prohibited on Shabbat, whether from the Torah or rabbinical, are prohibited on Yom Tob with certain major exceptions. Writing, building, weaving, buying and selling, etc. are prohibited. The Torah permits work of "Okhel Nefesh", actions on foodstuff for eating purposes of the day. Thus, kneading, baking, cooking, shehita and salting meat, are permitted.

Actions that are part of the overall system of "Okhel Nefesh", but from whose results one does not generally eat the day they are performed, such as harvesting, threshing, grinding and hunting, are prohibited.

Using fire and carrying are permitted. Since these are so pervasively intertwined with "Okhel Nefesh" they are permitted in and of themselves, even if not specifically done for eating, provided they are done for some benefit that will be derived during the day. Thus, heating water with which to wash one's face, arms and legs is permitted.

Generating a new fire, however, is prohibited, even if done for the purpose of preparing food. The permissibility of using fire requires a pre-existing fire. This halakha is clear from the Talmud, Rambam and Shulhan Arukh. Hakham Obadiah Yosef writes that this prohibition includes striking a match. He acknowledges that several substantial rabbis of recent past generations considered a match as equivalent to containing fire in its tip. However, he states, this is not the view of the overwhelming majority of great rabbis and those accustomed to striking matches on Yom Tob should discontinue doing so.

One may turn on a gas range which has a pilot light as this doesn't involve generating a new fire but extending an extant fire. Many of the new gas ranges create a new fire when turned on and are the equivalent of striking a match.

Wheeling a carriage, playing ball, riding a bicycle and roller skating are permitted on Yom Tob. Of course, if something breaks it is prohibited to repair it on Yom Tob just as on Shabbat. "Mukseh" applies to Yom Tob as Shabbat; thus, although carrying is permitted on Yom Tob, carrying or moving money, etc. is prohibited.

Cooking on one day of Yom Tob for another day, whether the second day is a weekday, another Yom Tob or Shabbat, is prohibited. This applies to all permissible melakhot of Yom Tob. However, it is permitted to cook during the day for the upcoming evening meal if the meal will be started before nightfall. (This is common on Shabuot when we pray arbit of the second day early).

When Yom Tob falls on Friday, it is necessary to prepare an Erub Tabshilin from before Yom Tob to permit cooking on Friday for Shabbat. The erub, comprising a cooked item, is designated part of the Shabbat meal; thus, preparation for the Shabbat meal is considered to have been begun before the onset of Yom Tob. It is usual to use a hard boiled egg and a loaf of bread (or matzoh) for the erub. A berakha `Al Misvat Erub' is recited. The erub cannot be eaten before Shabbat or before the conclusion of cooking on Friday for Shabbat. When Yom Tob is Thursday and Friday, the erub only permits cooking on Friday.

Although today we use a fixed calendar and know that the first day of Yom Tob is the Torah holiday and the second day is derabanan, both days are treated equally except for the following few exceptions:

The first two exceptions do not apply to Rosh Hashanah.

III. CANDLE LIGHTING, KIDDUSH AND HABDALA

Candles (or oil) are lit for Yom Tob, customarily by the woman of the home just as for Shabbat, with a berakha - Lehadlik Ner Shel Yom Tob. Shehehiyanu should not be recited at this time as it will be recited in kiddush. In the case of Yom Tob, if candles were not lit before the beginning of the holiday, they may be lit in the evening, since the use of fire is permitted.

The evening kiddush of Yom Tob always begins with the berakha on wine, followed by a berakha that includes mention of the particular Yom Tob. If it is also Shabbat, the holiday kiddush is still recited with mention of Shabbat included in the second berakha. On the last two nights of Pesah these are the only two berakhot. On the other ten Yamim Tobim, shehehiyanu is also recited. On Succot, if one is eating in a succah, Lesheb Basuccah is attached to the kiddush.

When Yom Tob falls on Saturday night, kiddush includes habdala. The first two berakhot are recited as usual for Yom Tob, followed by the berakha for fire (on a candle) and the berakha of habdala. If it is a Yom Tob requiring shehehiyanu, this berakha is recited fifth. Fragrant spices are not included in habdala on a holiday.

At the conclusion of Yom Tob, even between Yom Tob and Hol Hamoed, habdala is recited except when Shabbat immediately follows Yom Tob, in which case only Friday night kiddush is recited. In habdala at the comclusion of Yom Tob only two berakhot are recited- on wine and the standard habdala berakha.

IV. GENERAL halakhot

It is a requirement to honor and enjoy Yom Tob just as Shabbat. There is an additional misvah regarding Yom Tob to be happy. One must make special efforts and preparations to fulfill these misvot properly. Families eat together and guests are invited. In our happiness we are required to remember the lonely and needy and share our blessings with them. It is incumbent on all to invite them to participate in our festive meals.

Yom Tob breaks "shib`a" for one "sitting" in mourning for a family member including sitting for father or mother. This applies only if the mourner sat at least a short time before the onset of the holiday. Yom Kippur also accomplishes this. If someone passed away on the holiday, the seven day mourning period does not begin until after the conclusion of the complete holiday, including Hol Hamoed. Until then, only restricted, private mourning is permitted. The second day of Yom Tob which concludes the holiday, being derabanan, counts as day one.

V. PRAYERS

A special amida for each prayer is recited reflecting the holiday. If one mistakenly prayed a weekday amida without mentioning the holiday he must repeat, reciting the Yom Tob amida. Musaf is recited. Tefillin are not donned on Yom Tob. A special psalm connected to the theme of the day is recited for each Yom Tob, evening and morning.

Hallel is recited except on Rosh Hashanah. On the first two days of Pesah, Shabuot, and all nine days of Succot-Shemini Asseret, it is complete Hallel with a berakha; the later days of Pesah it is recited without a berakha.

Special holiday portions are read from two Sifre Torah. There are at least five olim plus maftir on Yom Tob. The Torah is not read at minha (unless the holiday falls on Shabbat, in which case the Torah is read for Shabbat).

Yaale Veyabo is recited in bircat hamazon. If one concluded bircat hamazon and realized he didn't recite it, he does not repeat, except on the first night of Pesah and the first night of Succot in the succah, as on these two occasions the requirement to eat a kazayit matzoh or bread is from the Torah. If one realized he didn't recite Yaale Veyabo after concluding the third berakha but before beginning the fourth, he should make the relevant insertion as found in the mahzor.