Melacha on Rosh Chodesh

Melacha/work on Rosh Chodesh:[1]

A. The law and custom:
It is permitted to do work on Rosh Chodesh.[2] Nevertheless, those women that are accustomed to refrain from working are doing a proper custom.[3] [Practically, the widespread custom today amongst women is to refrain from work on Rosh Chodesh. A woman may not be lenient against following this custom.[4] All women must refrain from at least some form of work even if they have not seen this done in their family.[5] The husband may not force his wife to perform any of these forbidden works.[6] This applies even if she did not receive a custom to avoid doing so.[7]]

Is it proper for also men to refrain from work on Rosh Chodesh?[8] It is not customary for men to refrain from work on Rosh Chodesh and those that do so carry no Halachic significance.[9] It therefore does not even require Hataras Nedarim, if a man who was accustomed to refrain from Melacha now desires to do Melacha.[10]

Sparks of Chassidus:[11]

Although Rosh Chodesh is not forbidden in Melacha, nevertheless, it is also not considered by the verse one of the six work days. We find this regarding the gates of Heichal, in which during the six weekdays the gates were closed while on Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh the gates were open. This represents a special Divine light which Rosh Chodesh receives differently than the weekdays. During the week the ray of Chochmah must pass through the Middos in order to reach its destination in Malchus. However on Rosh Chodesh, the ray of Chachmah travels directly to Malchus without any mediums in between. Shabbos however is even a higher level, as on Shabbos the level of Malchus is elevated to Chochmah, and does not need to receive from it.

B. What forms of work are to be avoided?[12]
Those who refrain from doing only some types of work and permit doing other types of work may do in accordance to their custom.[13] However, those women that have a general custom to simply refrain from work are to refrain from all types of work.[14] [Some Poskim[15] rule that all activities that involve much trouble or difficulty are accustomed for women to avoid. Practically, the widespread custom today amongst women is to only refrain from sewing[16], and other clothing related work[17], and laundering clothing.[18] Some Poskim[19] rule that all forms of work [even of sewing and laundry[20]] that are permitted on Chol Hamoed are likewise permitted for women to perform on Rosh Chodesh.]

List of works that are accustomed to be avoided by women on Rosh Chodesh:

  • Sewing
  • Laundry

Q&A

May a woman perform work on the night of Rosh Chodesh?Some Poskim[21] rule that women may perform Melacha at night.[22] Other Poskim[23] rule it is forbidden to perform work even at night. Even according to the lenient opinion, one may only do so in private.[24]

May women perform a charity event that involves sewing on Rosh Chodesh?[25]
No.[26]

May a woman go to work on Rosh Chodesh?[27]
Yes.[28]

If a woman works in someone’s house for a living, may she do their laundry?
Some Poskim[29] rule it is forbidden for a woman to do laundry on Rosh Chodesh even if this is her livelihood.
Other Poskim[30] however rule it is permitted for a woman to do these jobs as part of her livelihood.[31]

If a woman works in sewing may she continue to do so on Rosh Chodesh?
See previous Q&A!

If a woman needs clean clothing to wear on Rosh Chodesh, may she wash it on Rosh Chodesh?[32]
Yes. She may likewise iron it and perform all other necessary activities to the clothing in order to be worn that day.[33]

May a woman turn on a washing machine on Rosh Chodesh?
Some Poskim[34] rule that doing so is allowed.[35] However the widespread custom is to avoid doing so.[36]

May a woman place the laundry in the washing machine and have her husband turn it on?
Many Poskim[37] of today permit the wife to enter the clothing into the washing machine and have her husband turn it on.[38] Nevertheless, there are Poskim[39] that are stringent.

May one send clothing to the dry cleaners on Rosh Chodesh?
Yes.

May a woman hang clothing on a drying rack on Rosh Chodesh?[40]
No.

May a woman place the clothing in a dryer and turn it on?[41]
Yes.

May a single girl do Melacha on Rosh Chodesh?
All women and girls are included in the prohibition.[42] Some[43] however are lenient and rule that a single girl is permitted to do Melacha on Rosh Chodesh. 

C. By a two day Rosh Chodesh, are women to refrain from work on both days?[44]
In months that Rosh Chodesh is two days, the 30th of the previous month and the first of the new month, it is disputed as to whether the accustomed prohibition against Melacha applies on both days of Rosh Chodesh or only on one day. Some Poskim[45] rule a woman is to refrain from Melacha on both days. Other Poskim[46] however rule a woman is only required to refrain from Melacha on one day of Rosh Chodesh, and hence in such a case she is to refrain from Melacha only on the second day.[47] Practically, each person should follow their custom.[48]

____________________________________

[1] 417/1

[2] Michaber ibid; Shabbos 24a; Erechin 10b; Chagiga 18; Moed Katan 18a; Yerushalmi Taanis 1/6

[3] Michaber 417/1; Yerushalmi Taanis 1/6; Explanation of Megillah 22a

The reason: A number of reasons are recorded behind this custom:

  1. The reason why specifically women refrain from doing work on Rosh Chodesh is because the women did not want to participate in the sin of the golden calf and hence abstained from giving their jewelry to their husbands. For this reason Hashem gave them as a reward this festival of Rosh Chodesh, that they would guard it more than the men. [Pirkei Derebbe Eliezer 44; Shivlei Haleker 169; Tur 417; M”A 417/2; Taz 417/1; Levush 417/1; M”B 417/3; See Daas Zekeinim Vayakhel 32 that originally only Rosh Chodesh Nissan was given to them as a holiday]
  2. Some explain that the three festivals correspond to the three forefathers while the 12 months correspond to the 12 tribes. Now, when the 12 tribes sinned by the golden calf, the Holiday was taken away from them and given to their wives. [Tur ibid in name of his brother Reb Yehuda; Mateh Moshe 531; See Beis Yosef ibid; Taz 417/1; P”M 417 M”Z 1; Machatzis Hashekel; Likkut Dinei Rosh Chodesh 3 footnote 10]
  3. Alternatively, the reason is because women have a similarity to the moon, as just like they immerse and return to their husband monthly, so too the moon is renewed monthly. [Or Zarua; Darkei Moshe 417/1]
  4. Alternatively, the reason is because women are rooted in Malchus which has an elevation on Rosh Chodesh. [Shaar Hakavanos p. 76; Ben Ish Chaiy Vayikra 2; Kaf Hachaim 417/27]

[4] M”A 417/3 that “one may not be lenient with them at all”; Biur Halacha 417 ”Vahanashim Nohagos”; See also Admur 468/9; Seemingly this would apply even according to the Michaber who merely claims it is a “good custom” and not an obligation, as once they accepted this good custom upon themselves it now has the status of a vow.

[5] Biur Halacha 417 ”Vahanashim Nohagos” based on many Rishonim [Shibuley Haleket; Or Zarua; Rokeiach; Eshkol; Abudarham]

The reason and other opinions: Regarding whether all women must accept the custom to refrain from work on Rosh Chodesh, from the Michaber ibid it is clearly implied that only if one already has accepted this custom then they should continue, however there is no obligation to do so, and certainly one who has never accepted this custom has no obligation to now accept it upon themselves. However the Biur Halacha ibid brings a list of Rishonim that imply this is an aged old custom of women, and hence every woman today is obligated to follow the aged old custom just like any other Minhag Yisrael. He concludes that all women must at least keep the custom to refrain from some types of works. While one who was accustomed from young to refrain from all types of works must keep to their custom

[6] M”A 417/3; Bach 417; Elya Raba 417/4; Kneses Hagedola 417; P”M 417 M”Z 1; Kaf Hachaim 417/31; See Machatzis Hashekel on M”A ibid

[7] Olas Shabbos 417; Elya Raba 417/5; Ben Ish Chaiy Vayikra 2; Kaf Hachaim 417/31

[8] Peri Chadash 417; Divrei Yosef 45; Birkeiy Yosef 417/4; Shaareiy Teshuvah 417/3; M”B 417/2; See Kaf Hachaim 417/28

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that it is proper even for men not to do Melacha on Rosh Chodesh, being it is a day of festival for the moon which is compared to the Jewish people, and one is thus not to nullify this custom. [Seder Hayom Kerias Sefer Torah; Chida in Yosef Ometz 6; Shiyurei Bracha 417-retracting his previous ruling] Some Poskim rule they are to avoid performing heavy Melachos. [Mordechai Megillah 806, brought in Beis Yosef 417; Levush 417; Turei Even Megillah 22b; See Likkut Dinei Rosh Chodesh 3 footnote 18] There are some Leviim accustomed not to do work on Rosh Chodesh as they too did not participate in the sin of the golden calf. [See Orchos Chaim 417]

[9] The reason: It is considered a Minhag Borus [custom of ignorance] for a man to do so. [Peri Chadash 417; Divrei Yosef 45; Birkeiy Yosef 417/4; Shaareiy Teshuvah 417/3; See Kaf Hachaim 417/28] As anyone who does a matter in which they are exempt is called a Hedyot. [Birkeiy Yosef ibid]

[10] Peri Chadash; Divrei Yosef 45; Birkeiy Yosef 417/4

Other opinions: See Poskim ibid who rule that it is a proper custom even for men to avoid work and hence they require Hataras Nedarim. [Seder Hayom ibid]

[11] Likkutei Torah Vezos Haberacha 96

[12] Rama 417/1

[13] Rama ibid; Biur Halacha 417 ”Vahanashim Nohagos” explains that the exact forms of work that women refrained from performing varied according  to families and communities and hence there was never a set custom.

Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule that those women who are accustomed to avoid doing Melacha are to avoid all forms of Melacha and they cannot say they will refrain from some activities and perform others. [Rabbeinu Yerucham brought in Kaf Hachaim 417/30]

[14] M”A 417/3; Kneses Hagedola 417

[15] Or Letziyon 3/1-1; However see Elya Raba 417/5 and Olas Shabbos 417 [brought in Kaf Hachaim 417/32] that even the light Melachas are forbidden and not just the difficult one’s.

[16] Tashbatz 3/244 brought in Shaareiy Teshuvah 417 regarding weaving; Sheivet Halevy 6/50 in name of Daas Torah that so is the custom today regarding all forms of sewing, including mending clothing that require fixing; See Ashel Avraham Butchach that justifies those women who tie parts of clothing together as this type of knot is Melachas Hedyot and is hence permitted even on Chol Hamoed.

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is permitted for a woman to sew on Rosh Chodesh and the prohibition is only against weaving clothing. [Tashbatz 3/244; Shaareiy Teshuvah 417] The Machazik Bracha 417/2 concludes that each woman is to follow her custom, and so also brings Kaf Hachaim 417/30

[17] For example it is forbidden for a woman to weave clothing. [Tashbatz 3/244; Shaareiy Teshuvah 417] Likewise, all other clothing related work is abstained from on this day. [Nisivei Am 417 that so is the Jerusalem custom]

[18] Or Letziyon 3/1-1; Nisivei Am ibid that so is the Jerusalem custom

The reason: Some write the reason for avoiding these specific actions is because they involve effort and toil and the custom of woman was to avoid all toil related work on Rosh Chodesh. [Or Letziyon ibid]

A woman who did not receive the custom to refrain from laundering on Rosh Chodesh: If a woman was brought up in a home that her mother did laundry on Rosh Chodesh then she may follow this custom so long as her mother accustomed to refrain from at least some work on Rosh Chodesh, such as sewing and the like. [Based on Rama ibid and Biur Halacha ibid that one is not obligated to be more stringent than their personal custom so long as they refrain from some work]

[19] Ashel Avraham Butchach Tinyana 417; Hence all [clothing related] work that is Melachas Uman is forbidden, while those jobs that are Melachas Hedyot are permitted.

[20] Meaning that even those activities that women refrain from doing on Rosh Chodesh may be done if they are allowed on Chol Hamoed.

[21] Yaavetz in Mur Uketzia 417, brought in Biur Halacha 417 “Minhag Tov”

[22] The reason: As the custom was only to prohibit public work. [ibid]

[23] See Biur Halacha ibid that he does not know if the custom is like his opinion

[24] Shevet Halevi 6/50

[25] Shevet Halevi 6/50

[26] See there that Rav Wozner was asked regarding a charity event in which the women would mend clothing on Rosh Chodesh in exchange for payment and the proceeds would go to charity. The Rav replied in the letter that doing so is forbidden.

[27] Or Letziyon 3/1-1; See Aruch Hashulchan 417/10

[28] As the women never accepted upon themselves to avoid working a job on Rosh Chodesh. [ibid]

[29] See Beis Yosef 417 [brought in Kaf Hachaim 417/30] that it there is room to say that it was specifically doing these activities for money which women refrained from, while avoiding doing so at home is an extension of the original custom.

[30] Aruch Hashulchan 417/10

[31] The reason: As the women never accepted upon themselves to avoid work to the point that they will lose their livelihood. [ibid]

[32] Ashel Avraham Butchach 417 Tinyana

[33] The reason: As certainly the work on Rosh Chodesh is not more stringent than the work on Chol Hamoed. [ibid]

[34] Or Letziyon 3/1-1

[35] The reason: As the custom was only to refrain from doing actual labor, while simply pressing a button does not involve any real work. [ibid] However see Elya Raba 417/5 and Olas Shabbos 417 [brought in Kaf Hachaim 417/32] that even the light Melachas are forbidden and not just the difficult one’s.

[36] Heard from Rav Asher Lemel Hakohen

[37] Or Letziyon 1/1; Poskim of today mentioned in the footnotes in Mishneh Berurah Oz Vihadar 417; Heard from Rav Asher Lemel Hakohen

[38] The reason: As it does not involve any actual laundering on the woman’s part.

[39] Mishneh Berurah Oz Vehadar in name of Rav Nissim Gerelitz

[40] Or Letziyon 3/1-1

[41] Or Letziyon 3/1-1

[42] Orchos Chaim 417; See Machatzis Hashekel 417 that even the maidservant is included in the prohibition just like ones wife.

[43] Heard from Rav Asher Lemel Hakohen and other Rabbanim

[44] M”B 417/4

[45] Rokeiach brought in Beis Yosef 417; Or Letziyon 3/1-1

[46] Shivlei Haleket brought in Beis Yosef 417; Peri Chadash 417

[47] Peri Chadash 417; M”B ibid

[48] P”M 417 M”Z 1; M”B 417/4; See Admur 468

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