Belaboring The Point
‘Since It Is Permitted When Necessary,
It Is Permitted Even When Not Necessary’
The Torah states in regards to Yom Tov, “No work may be done on them except for what is necessary for a person to eat” (Shemos 12:16). This passuk implies that only melachos necessary for preparing food may be performed. Nonetheless, our Sages had a tradition that the melachos generally necessary for preparing food may be performed even for other purposes.
For example, it is often necessary to carry through a reshus harabim to bring food home. One may, therefore, also carry other items – such as a child, lulav or Sefer Torah – through a reshus harabbim, even though these items are not necessary for preparing food (Shulchan Aruch 518:1, Mishnah Berurah s.k. 1).
The Gemara explains this leniency with the enigmatic expression: “Since they were permitted for the sake of ochel nefesh, they were permitted even not for the sake of ochel nefesh.” What is the meaning of this explanation? What is the logic behind it?
Compared To Metzorah?
We find a similar leniency in Yevamos 7b: “Since it was permitted (overriding one prohibition), it was permitted (overriding other prohibitions as well).” The Gemara there explains that a person who is ritually impure may not enter the Beis HaMikdash. A person afflicted with tzaraas, however, must stretch his hands and feet into the Beis HaMikdash in order to receive the treatment necessary to purify him. The Torah, therefore, permits him to do so. The Gemara then adds that if a metzorah also had a different form of impurity – for example, he was also a zav – he may still reach his hands and feet into the Beis HaMikdash. Since his purification process overrides the prohibition against a metzorah entering the Beis HaMikdash, it also overrides the prohibition against a zav entering.
A Matter Of Compelling Need
On closer examination, the leniency discussed in our sugya is entirely unrelated to the Gemara regarding the metzorah (although the Imrei Moshe does compare them, see Maleches Yom Tov, ch. 5). There, the metzorah must extend his hands and feet into the Beis HaMikdash to receive his treatment. This obligation overrides any possible halachic objection. Although he is also a zav, he must still receive treatment, and therefore it is necessary to override the prohibition against letting a zav enter the Beis HaMikdash. That is to say, the reason we allowed an ordinary metzorah to enter applies equally to a metzorah who is also a zav.
Our case is very different. The reason the Torah allows carrying on Yom Tov is to enable us to prepare food. This reason does not apply to carrying a child, lulav, or Sefer Torah. Why, then, is it permitted to carry these things?
The Ramban in his commentary on Vayikra 23:7 notes that the passuk forbidding work on Shabbos uses the expression, “On the seventh day… you may not do any work (melacha)” (Vayikra 23:3). However, the passuk forbidding work on Yom Tov uses a slightly different expression, “You may not do any laborious work (meleches avoda)” (ibid, 23:7).
He explains that the melachos necessary for ochel nefesh are not “laborious work.” Laborious work that is forbidden on Yom Tov includes planting, harvesting, digging, and the like.
According to the Ramban’s explanation, preparing food is not the reason why the Torah permitted cooking, carrying, etc. Rather, they are permitted because they aren’t laborious. That’s why they’re also permitted for other purposes (see Chasam Sofer on our sugya; Minchas Asher, Shemos 19).