Working on Chol HaMoed
Am I allowed to work on Chol HaMo’ed? Because of the High Holidays and Sukkot, I am almost entirely out of vacation time.
The Aish Rabbi Replies
Chol HaMo’ed is really an underrated time. It is really a part of the holiday in which many of the aspects of the holiday’s celebration apply – as well as many of its restrictions. Most types of labor are forbidden (whether at work or at home), except some types of activity required for the needs of the holiday or to avoid loss.
Generally speaking, you should not go to work on Chol HaMo’ed. The very basic rule is that we should not work even though we will earn less money as a result of it, but we can work to avoid an actual loss money or if our work involves providing for people's holiday needs. Below are some of the situations which would permit work.
(1) If you provide a service needed for the holiday itself, such as running a bakery or driving a taxi (see Shulchan Aruch O.C. 533:1).
(2) If taking off would cause a significant loss or the possible loss of your job. This could include losing regular customers or clients because of your delayed absence or upsetting your boss for the same reason. This very possibly applies if you’ve run out of vacation time, so that missing Chol HaMo’ed would be viewed by your employer as a dereliction of your duties (apart from the loss the missed time would cause from your basic salary; Shemirat Shabbat K’Hilchatah, 67:11,14). (It’s best not to use up your vacation time in the summer, thereby forcing you to work on Chol HaMo’ed. But many authorities do permit this if the summer is a much more convenient vacation time for you and your family. See Chol HaMo’ed / Zichron Shlomo, p. 62, Shemirat Shabbat K’Hilchatah 67:(47).)
(3) A poor person who can’t afford basic necessities may work on Chol HaMo’ed (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 542:2).