Resting on Shabbat and Yom Tov

  • Rav Michael Rosensweig
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Understanding the Practice and Meaning of Halakha
Yeshivat Har Etzion


Shiur #12: RESTING ON SHABBAT AND YOM TOV

Based on a shiur by Rav Michael Rosensweig*

The relationship between Shabbat and Yom Tov is a very broad topic. In this lecture, we shall try to deal with one aspect of this issue: the relationship between the positive commandment to rest on Shabbat and the parallel mitzva regarding Yom Tov. As we shall see below, this question touches upon the broader issue - the relationship between Shabbat and Yom Tov.

THE MITZVA OF RESTING ON SHABBAT AND YOM TOV

As an introduction to the discussion, we must clarify whether there exists a positive commandment to rest, both with respect to Shabbat and with respect to Yom Tov. Two talmudic passages in tractate Shabbat deal with this question. The Gemara (114b) deals with the scope of the mitzva of resting on Shabbat against the backdrop of the prohibition to trim vegetables, a rabbinic prohibition that is permitted on Yom Kippur (for the meal with which one will break the fast):

Rav Huna said, and some say Rabbi Abba said in the name of Rav Huna: If Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat, the trimming of vegetables is forbidden. Rav Mana said: It was taught: How do we know that if Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat, the trimming of vegetables is forbidden? Because it is said: "Shabbaton" - this means shevut [= resting]. Now, in respect of what [is it stated]? If we say: In respect of [forbidden] labor — surely it is written: "You shall not do any work"! Hence, it must surely refer to the trimming of vegetables; this proves it.

Rabbi Chiyya bar Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: If Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat, the trimming of vegetables is permitted. An objection was raised: How do we know that if Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat, the trimming of vegetables is forbidden? Because it is said: "Shabbaton" - this means shevut [= resting]. Now, in respect of what [is it stated]? If we say: In respect of [forbidden] labor — surely it is written: "You shall not do any work"! Hence, it must surely refer to the trimming of vegetables. No, in truth it refers to actual work, but [it is stated] to [show that] one violates an affirmative and a negative injunction.

We see from this Gemara that there is a dispute regarding the scope of the positive commandment to rest on Shabbat. Is the mitzva connected only to biblically forbidden forms of work, or perhaps it applies also to the trimming of vegetables and other rabbinic prohibitions. In any event, according to both opinions, there clearly exists a positive commandment to rest on Shabbat.

The second passage dealing with this question is found in Shabbat 24b, but there the discussion is different. The Mishna there states:

One may not kindle [the Shabbat and festival lamp] with oil of burning [= oil of defiled teruma] on Yom Tov.

The Gemara there explains why this is forbidden:

What is the reason? Because sacred [commodities] may not be burnt on Yom Tov. From where do we know this? Chizkiya said, and so the school of Chizkiya taught: Scripture says: "And you shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; but that which remains of it until the morning [you shall burn with fire]." Now [the second] "until the morning" need not be stated. What then is the teaching of "until the morning"? Scripture comes to appoint the second morning for its burning.

Abaye said: Scripture says: "The burnt-offering of the Sabbath [shall be burnt] on its Sabbath," but not the burnt-offering of weekdays on Shabbat, nor the burnt-offering of weekdays on Yom Tov.

Rava said: Scripture says: ["No manner of work shall be done on them, save that which every man must eat,] that only may be done of you." "That" - but not its preliminaries; "only" - but not circumcision out of its proper time, which might [otherwise] be inferred a minori.

Rav Ashi said: "On the first day shall be a solemn rest" [Shabbaton] is an affirmative precept: thus there is an affirmative and a negative precept in respect of Yom Tov, and an affirmative precept cannot supersede a negative and an affirmative precept.

The Gemara cites four opinions, three of which make no mention of a positive commandment to rest on Yom Tov. Only Rav Ashi mentions such a commandment.

The Tosafot (s.v., havi lei yom tov) raise an objection:

You might ask: The Amoraim above, who maintain that Yom Tov involves only a negative precept, let them learn from here that an affirmative precept does not supercede a negative precept!... Perhaps this cannot be learned from here, for he can do it [= burn the sacred commodities] after Yom Tov.

Both according to the Tosafot's question and according to their answer, it is clear that they understood that most of the Amoraim (those who argue with Rav Ashi) maintain that there is no positive commandment to rest on Yom Tov, and that regarding Yom Tov there is only a negative commandment. Indeed, this is also the opinion of Tosafot in Beitza 8b. There the Gemara cites the position of Rava, that a positive commandment does not supercede a negative commandment, and Tosafot (s.v., sof sof) note that regarding Yom Tov there is only a negative commandment:

One can say that the Gemara works hard to reconcile the words of Rava with the normative Halakha, that Tom Tov involves [both] a positive and a negative commandment, even though Rava himself did not maintain this position.

It should be noted that while it would appear from the Gemara that the mitzva of resting on Shabbat and Yom Tov are absolutely independent of each other, and that there is no connection between the two, there are, however, a number of Acharonim who understood that they parallel each other. We shall cite two examples:

1) Maharatz Chajes writes in Shabbat 114b that the two opinions in the Gemara regarding the trimming of vegetables disagree about the scope of the mitzva of resting on Shabbat. According to one opinion, this mitzva relates exclusively to the biblically forbidden labors, whereas according to the second opinion, even one who violates a rabbinic prohibition, also violates the positive precept of Shabbaton. Maharatz Chajes continues by drawing a connection between this disagreement and the dispute regarding burning sacred commodities on Yom Tov. It is clear that he understands that all the Amoraim agree that there is a positive mitzva to rest on Yom Tov, and that they disagree only about the scope of the mitzva.

2) Maharam Lublin maintains that even with respect to Shabbat, there is an opinion according to which there is no positive commandment to rest. Similarly, the Semak (Sefer Mitzvot Katan) makes no mention of a positive commandment to rest, both with respect to Shabbat and with respect to Yom Tov.

Even if we say that there is a difference between Shabbat and Yom Tov, we must still clarify whether this difference reflects some fundamental distinction between the two days, or perhaps it stems from some non-essential difference between them. An example of the second possibility may be found among those Acharonim who maintain the positive commandment of Shabbaton relates only to those prohibitions the violation of which is punishable by excision [karet] (Yefe Einayim, and others]. According to this position, the fact that there is no mitzva of Shabbaton on Yom Tov does not reflect a basic difference between Shabbat and Yom Tov. Rather, it stems from the severity of the prohibitions on the two days: on Shabbat, some of the forbidden labors are punishable by karet, whereas on Yom Tov, those same labors are punishable by flogging. The plain sense of the Gemara, however, implies that there is an essential difference between Shabbat and Yom Tov.

Following this introduction, we must now deal with two central questions:

1. Why do so many Amoraim maintain that there is a mitzva of Shabbaton regarding Shabbat, but not regarding Yom Tov?

2. According to the Halakha, there is a positive commandment to rest both on Shabbat andon Yom Tov. Are these two mitzvot different in nature?

THE PROHIBITION OF LABOR ON SHABBAT AND YOM TOV

The biblical passage dealing with the festivals in Parashat Emor (Vayikra 23:1-5) is formulated in a strange fashion:

And the Lord spoke to Moshe, saying, Speak to the children of Yisrael, and say to them, The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy gatherings, these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is the sabbath of solemn rest, a holy gathering; you shall do no work: it is a sabbath to the Lord in all your dwellings.

These are the feasts of the Lord, holy gatherings, which you shall proclaim in their seasons. On the fourteenth day of the first month towards evening is the Lord's passover.

Following the Torah's command regarding Shabbat, there appears a new heading, as if the passage were starting from the beginning. This formulation is not clear: If Shabbat is included among the feast days, why was the additional heading necessary?

It may be possible to explain that the prohibitions regarding labor on Shabbat and Yom Tov are different in nature. The essence of Shabbat is to serve as a reminder about the Creation. The prohibition of labor comes to remind us that following the six days of Creation, God rested on the seventh day. According to this, it is clear why a Shabbat desecrator is subject to such a severe punishment - for through his actions, he denies the Creation of the world. In contrast, the idea underlying the prohibition of labor on Yom Tov is less clear. Each of the festivals has its own unique significance; it is therefore difficult to assume that the prohibition of labor (which applies equally to all of the festivals) is connected to this unique meaning? Why, then, is labor forbidden on Yom Tov?

When we examine the biblical passage dealing with the Festivals cited above, we see that the Torah refers to Shabbat, as it does to the rest of the Festivals, as a "holy gathering" [mikra kodesh]. Shabbat is mentioned several times in the book of Shemot, but the first time that it is called a "holy gathering" is in Parashat Emor. Upon examination of the passage dealing with the Festivals, it seems that the designation "holy gathering" is the reason for the prohibition of labor on Yom Tov: "It shall be a holy gathering for you" ... You shall do no servile work."

It seems, then, that the prohibition of labor on Shabbat stems from God's resting on the seventh day, as a remembrance of the Creation. But once Israel was commanded about Shabbat, Shabbat became the first "holy day" given to the people of Israel, and therefore the model and archetype for the other "holy days." The Torah commands us about Shabbat at the beginning of the passage dealing with the Festivals, because it is Shabbat that teaches us what the Festivals should look like, even though there is a huge difference between them. The purpose of the prohibition of labor on Yom Tov is to give the day the character of a "holy day," similar to Shabbat.

Thus, it is possible that the mitzvot of Shabbaton on Shabbat and Yom Tov are different in nature, just like the prohibitions of labor on these two days are different in nature. On Shabbat, it may be possible to distinguish between the positive commandment and the prohibition in accordance with the distinction proposed above: The prohibitions of Shabbat stem from the fact that it is a remembrance of Creation, whereas the mitzva of Shabbaton has as its objective the fashioning of Shabbat as a "holy day." On Yom Tov, on the other hand, the mitzva of Shabbaton is superfluous, for the days of Yom Tov are not a remembrance of Creation, and the prohibitions of labor fashion the day as a "holy day."

THE NATURE OF THE MITZVA OF SHABBATON

As mentioned above, the halakhic authorities have ruled that the mitzva of Shabbaton applies also to Yom Tov, and not only to Shabbat. According to what we have said above, that on Yom Tov, it is only necessary to characterize the day as a "holy day," we shall see that - in contrast to Shabbat, in which the positive and negative commandments have different and independent objectives (establishing the nature of the day; remembrance of Creation), on Yom Tov, the positive and negative commandments have the same objective (establishing the nature of the day).

THE SOURCE OF THE MITZVA OF SHABBATON

As for the source of the mitzva of Shabbaton on Shabbat, the Rishonim disagree. Most Rishonim rule in accordance with the plain sense of the Gemara, that the mitzva is derived from the word "Shabbaton." The Rambam, on the other hand, in his Sefer ha-Mitzvot and in the Mishne Torah brings the verse "Tishbot." In addition to these two opinions, there are also other views (Ushmartem et ha-Shabbat; and others).

What is the source of the mitzva of Shabbaton on Yom Tov? According to the plain sense of the Gemara, it seems that the source that teaches us the mitzva of Shabbaton on Shabbat also teaches us the mitzva of Shabbaton on Yom Tov. The Rambam, however, distinguishes between the two sources in Hilkhot Yom Tov 1:2:

Whenever one abstains from servile work on one of these days, he fulfills a positive commandment, for when Scripture uses the expression, "A solemn rest [Shabbaton]" (Vayikra 23:39), in reference to them, it means rest from work.

According to the Rambam, the mitzva of Shabbaton on Shabbat is learned from the word "Tishbot," whereas the mitzva of Shabbaton on Yom Tov is learned from the word "Shabbaton." It stands to reason that, according to the Rambam, the positive commandment on Shabbat focuses on man's obligation - "Tishbot" - whereas the positive commandment on Yom Tov focuses on establishing the nature of the day - "Shabbaton."

the source of the positive commandment on shabbat and Yom tov

the distinction between the two positive commandments also finds expression in the Rambam's Sefer ha-Mitzvot. In all the mitzvot connected to Yom Tov, the Rambam brings the expression "holy gatherings" [mikra'ei kodesh] as the source of the positive commandment.[1] Citing this expression raises two difficulties: First of all, why does the Rambam prefer the expression, "holy gathering," to the word, "Shabbaton"? And second, if for some reason the Rambam prefers the expression "holy gatherings," why doesn't he bring it as the source for the positive commandment regarding Shabbat? It should be noted that the very same expression is brought by the Rambam as the source for the prohibition of labor on Yom Tov; this suffices to teach us about the essential connection between the two.

The Rambam also makes another distinction between Shabbat and Yom Tov. In Hilkhot Shabbat 1:1, the Rambam formulates the positive and negative commandments as follows:

Abstention from work on the seventh day of the week is a positive commandment, for Scripture says: "But on the seventh day you shall rest [tishbot]" (Shemot 23:12; 34:21). Consequently, whosoever does work on the seventh day disregards a positive commandment and also transgresses a negative commandment, for Scripture says: "You shall not do any manner of work" (Shemot 20:10; Devarim 5:14).

The Rambam mentions only that the performance of work constitutes a violation of the command to rest, but he says nothing about how one fulfills the mitzva in a positive sense. In contrast, the Rambam opens Hilkhot Yom Tov (1:2) as follows:

Whenever one abstains from servile work on one of these days, he fulfills a positive commandment, for when Scripture uses the expression, "A solemn rest [Shabbaton]" (Vayikra 23:39), in reference to them, it means rest from work. Whenever one does any work on one of these days that is not essential to the preparation of food for eating - for example, if he builds, demolishes, weaves, or does anything similar - he disregards a positive commandment and transgresses a negative commandment, for Scripture says: "You shall do no manner of servile work" (Vayikra 23:7, etc.); and again: "No manner of work shall be done on them" (Shemot 12:16).

It is clearly evident that the Rambam added a positive dimension to the mitzva of Shabbaton on Yom Tov. A similar distinction appears also in the Semag (Sefer Mitzvot ha-Gado): Regarding Shabbat, he maintains an absolute separation between the positive and negative commandments, whereas regarding the Festivals, the two realms are intermingled: the negative commandment is mentioned in the framework of the positive, and vice versa. These formulations point to the fact that on Yom Tov, in contrast to Shabbat, there is a close connection between the positive and negative commandments, and they do not constitute separate mitzvot.

The Acharonim note that there is an internal contradiction in the words of the Rambam regarding the mitzva of Shabbaton: In chapter 1 of Hilkhot Shabbat, the mitzva applies only to the labors forbidden by biblical law, whereas in chapter 21, it applies also to that which is prohibited by rabbinic decree:

When Scripture says: "But on the seventh day you shall rest" (Shemot 23:12), it implies that one must refrain also from doing things which are not actual work. Such activities, prohibited by the Sages on the ground that they conflict with the spirit of the Sabbath rest, are many...

The Rambam may have wished to open Hilkhot Shabbat with the primary obligating factor of Shabbat - the forbidden labors - and so the positive commandment is mentioned only in passing, as an additional mitzva applying to the forbidden labors. On Yom Tov, in contrast, the relationship between the positive and negative commandments is just the opposite: the prohibitions of labor are designed to advance the objective of the positive commandment, and therefore, the Rambam began with the positive commandment.

According to this explanation, it is possible to understand the various sources brought by the Rambam and the Semag for the positive commandment regarding Shabbat and Yom Tov: The verse, "holy gatherings" [mikra'ei kodesh], relates to the nature of the day, and therefore, it is brought in connection with Yom Tov, whereas the verse, "Tishbot," relates only to the performance of labor, and therefore, it is brought as the source of the mitzva of resting on Shabbat.

THE LAWS OF SHABBATON

The mitzva of Shabbaton on Shabbat and the parallel mitzva on Yom Tov may be different not only in nature, but also in substance. The Rambam writes in his Sefer ha-Mitzvot (positive commandment 154):

By this injunction, we are commanded to rest on Shabbat. It is contained in His words: "On the seventh day you shall rest" (Shemot 34:21), and is repeated several times; the Exalted One tells us that to rest from all labor is an obligation applying to us, to our cattle, and to our servants.

The Rambam explicitly states that mitzva of Shabbaton on Shabbat applies also to one's cattle and servants. Regarding Yom Tov, however, there is no mention of such a law. It would appear that according to the Rambam, such a law does not exist. How are we to understand this difference?

It is possible that the obligation to rest pertaining to one's servants and cattle only applies when the prohibition to perform labor serves as a "remembrance of Creation." Any act that can be attributed to a person, including the actions of his cattle and servants - impairs the absolute rest required for "remembrance of Creation." On Yom Tov, however, the positive commandment of Shabbaton relates to the atmosphere of resting from work, and this atmosphere can only be created by the actions of man himself.

It may be possible to go even further. The Rishonim disagree about a person who violates a Shabbat prohibition forbidden by rabbinic law, whether or not he also violates the positive biblical commandment of Shabbaton. As we have already noted, the Rambam seems to contradict himself on this matter: In chapter 1, he mentions only biblical prohibitions, whereas in chapter 21, he mentions also rabbinic prohibitions. The Sefer ha-Chinukh distinguishes between Shabbat and Yom Tov: The mitzva of Shabbaton on Shabbat includes also rabbinic prohibitions, whereas the mitzva of Shabbaton on Yom Tov is limited to the biblical laws. Again, we may connect this difference to the distinction suggested above: On Shabbat the prohibitions of labor stand apart from the positive commandment, and therefore the dimension of "holy day" must come to expression through additional mitzvot which are not forbidden by Torah law. On Yom Tov, in contrast, the purpose of the prohibition of labor is to establish the day as a "holy day," and so it is not necessary to add more prohibitions to the positive commandment.

LABORS RELATING TO FOOD

In light of this distinction, it is possible to explain the Rambam's formulation in his Sefer ha-Mitzvot. The Rambam (commandment 167) writes:

You must know that the same law applies to each of the six [Festival] days on which we are enjoined to rest, and none of them is subject to a restriction which does not apply to the others. We are also permitted to prepare food on each of them. Hence the same regulations regarding rest apply to all the festivals... However, the injunction to rest on Shabbat and on Yom Kippur is also this very rest, with many additions, for on these two days preparing food is not permitted.

The Rambam states here explicitly that the mitzva of Shabbaton on Shabbat includes "many additions" to the mitzva of Shabbaton on Yom Tov. He may be referring to the differences that we mentioned: the rest of one's servants and cattle, and the rabbinic decrees. To these differences, the Rambam adds an additional difference: labors connected to the preparation of food, which are permitted on Yom Tov, but forbidden on Shabbat. One might have thought that this difference relates to the prohibitions regarding labor. Why then does the Rambam mention it within the context of the positive commandment of Shabbaton? It seems that the allowance to prepare food on Yom Tov stems from the fact that the purpose of the prohibition of labor is to establish the nature of the day. Since the labors involved in food-preparation add to the atmosphere of the day, rather than impair it, they are permitted on Yom Tov, even though they are forbidden on Shabbat. On Shabbat, on which the prohibition of work must be absolute ("as a remembrance of Creation"), one may not even engage in work involving the preparation of food.

A WOMAN'S OBLIGATION REGARDING THE POSITIVE COMMANDMENT OF SHABBATON

Let us conclude with yet another practical ramification of the distinction between Shabbat and Yom Tov. The Rishonim disagree whether women are obligated in the positive commandment to rest on Yom Tov, or perhaps they are exempt, because it is a mitzva determined by time. The Tosafot in tractate Kiddushin maintain that women are indeed exempt from this mitzva. The author of the Chinukh disagrees and maintains that women are obligated in the mitzva.

What is the law regarding Shabbat? Are women obligated in the positive commandment to rest on Shabbat? The Rishonim do not discuss this question. The Minchat Chinukh argues that even the Tosafot would agree that women are obligated to rest on Shabbat, whereas the Mishnat Avraham mentions a position that is diametrically opposed. We may explain this dispute in light of what we said above. The Minchat Chinukh maintains that on Shabbat the positive commandment is more central, because it constitutes a separate mitzva, apart from the prohibition, and it is difficult to assume that women should be exempt from fulfilling this important aspect. In contrast, on Yom Tov the objective of defining the nature of the day is already fulfilled by way of the negative precept, and so women may be released from fulfilling a positive commandment. On the other hand, the Mishnat Avraham seems to have emphasized the fact that on Yom Tov the main mitzva is the positive commandment, and even the negative commandment - its objective is the positive commandment, and therefore women are certainly obligated in the mitzva of resting on Yom Tov. On Shabbat, in contrast, the central mitzva is the negative commandment, and therefore women might be exempt from the positive commandment.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] For example, positive commandments 149 and 167. The sole exception is the mitzva relating to Rosh Hashana. The Semag, however, cites the same verse in relation to Rosh Hashana.

(Tby David Strauss)

*This lecture was delivered in the Yeshiva in 5761. This summary of the lecture was not reviewed by Rav Rosensweig.