Today’s daf continues the discussion of activities that are permitted or forbidden on Yamim Tovim. As we have learned, activities that are essential for food preparation (e.g. cooking and kneading) are permitted on Yom Tov, even though they are prohibited on. This is based on a passage in Sefer (12:16), which clearly forbids work on the holiday, but permits those activities that are needed to prepare food. Our Gemara suggests that this rule can also be extended to other situations: “Mi-tokh she-hutrah letzorekh, hutrah nami she-lo le-tzorekh” – once a specific activity is permitted on Yom Tov for cooking, we may rule that it is permitted even in situations when the activity is done for reasons other than cooking.
In general, the question of whether certain activities are permitted on Yom Tov – even if they are not directly connected with food preparation – is a disagreement between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel in Massekhet Beitza (daf 12). Both Tosafot and the Rashba point out, however, that even according to Beit Hillel, who permit food preparation activities in other settings, we do not have blanket permission to do those activities. Only if they are necessary for Yom Tov will they be permitted. Furthermore, the Gemara makes it clear that if the activity is not universally perceived as being necessary, it will remain forbidden.
Rav Pappa gives an example of something that not everyone feels is essential for Yom Tov: mugmar. This burning incense was used to perfume clothing or a dwelling-place. A clay or metal vessel held the incense, whose vapor would rise up through holes in the cover, or, in some cases, once the incense was heated, the cover was removed to allow the smoke to rise. Mugmar was only used in wealthy homes, and even in such homes it was a matter of personal taste; this clearly explains Rav Pappa’s presentation of it as a davar she’eino shaveh le-khol nefesh – something that is not universally desired or required.