In the previous chapter of Moed Katan, we learned different reasons that a person might be allowed to engage in work on Hol HaMoed, among them the idea of davar ha-aved – when the individual would suffer a financial loss if the work was not performed at a specific time. In the second perek, which begins on today’s daf, the Gemara investigates when the rule of davar ha-aved should be applied. One question is how we define davar ha-aved. Is every case of financial loss enough to allow work on Hol HaMoed, or does the loss need to be a significant one? Furthermore, if a person creates a situation whereby he must work on Hol HaMoed or else he will suffer a loss, do we permit the work based on the fact that it is a davar ha-aved, or do we penalize him for his behavior?
Two other reasons for permitting work on Hol HaMoed are discussed in this perek:
- If a person is working for the community, and not for himself;
- If a person is destitute and will not have anything to eat unless he works.
The first Mishna in the perek offers a case of davar ha-aved that would permit agricultural work on Hol HaMoed. According to Rabbi Yehuda, a person who has already “turned his olives” but was unable to complete pressing the olives into oil (either because of some accident or because his workers did not appear as promised) is permitted to set the olive press and remove the first oil, which will minimize his losses, but he has to leave the rest until after the holiday. Rabbi Yose permits such a person to complete the work in its entirety.
After the olive harvest, the olives are usually very hard and need to be softened before the oil can be removed. To accomplish this, the newly harvested fruit is first collected in a pile, where the olives become warm and soft. The reasoning behind “turning the olives” is that they will become ruined if they get too hot, so it is necessary to occasionally turn them over. When they are sufficiently softened, they need to be processed, or else the harvest may go to waste.