Understanding the Yom Tov Prohibition of Molid

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By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times

The head of a match is made of sulfur, glass powder, phosphorus and an oxidizing agent. When the match is struck on Yom Tov two things happen:
• The first thing that happens is the friction caused by the glass powder rubbing together produces enough heat to turn a very small amount of the red phosphorus into white phosphorus, which catches fire in air. This heat starts a chemical reaction that uses the oxidizing agent to produce oxygen gas. The heat and oxygen gas then cause the sulfur to burst into flame, which then causes the wood of the match to catch on fire.

• The second thing that happens is the Rabbinic prohibition of Molid is violated.

What is Molid exactly, and what does it involve? May we melt ice on Shabbos and Yom Tov to drink its water? May we also make ice? To many readers, Molid has always been a difficult area of halacha to get a grip upon. Hopefully, this article will help us get a deeper understanding of it.

DEFINITION

The prohibition is understood to mean creating a new entity on Shabbos or Yom Tov, or making a creative and substantive change to an existing item on Shabbos or Yom Tov.

SOURCE

The Gemorah in Baitzah 33b tells us that the Rabbis forbade creating a fire on Yom Tov because of the prohibition of Molid – creating something new. It is unclear from the Gemorah, however, under which category or sub-category of Malacha the Rabbis placed this prohibition.

WHICH PROHIBITION IS IT?

Rashi explains that the prohibition of Molid is because “one who creates a new entity – it is close to making a new malacha.” The Ramban has a similar explanation. We will see, however, that there is another Gemorah in Meseches Shabbos in which other Rishonim give us an entirely different understanding of the prohibition
The nature of the prohibition is not insignificant. How so?
A brief background is necessary here.

There are some prohibitions that, when discussing the preparations of food or a universal need, became permitted -for example, havarah, kindling, is permitted to prepare food. Some of these prohibitions were made permitted for other needs as well – not just for food. Thus, when smoking was not considered detrimental to health – it was permitted to light a cigarette as well – even though it was not for food. This concept is called “mitoch shehutrah l’tzorech hutrah nami shelo l’tzoech.”

Getting back to the nature of the prohibition of Molid. If the prohibition is one of Makeh b’Patish then we do not implement the notion of “mitoch” – which thus would cause more things to be forbidden.

MELTING SNOW, HAIL, ICE, AND CHICKEN

In order to understand the halachos of melting these four items, some background is necessary.
The Gemorah in Shabbos (51b) states: “It is forbidden to actively melt snow or hail so that the water will flow out, but it is permitted to place it in a bowl and there is no problem.”

THREE EXPLANATIONS TO WHY NOT TO MELT ICE

There are three explanations to this Gemorah that are found in the Rishonim.

1] Rashi and the Ramban explain this Gemorah in accordance with the prohibition of Molid – because it appears as if you are making a new thing.
2] The Rambam (Shabbos 21:13) and Rashba hold that the prohibition of melting snow is on account of the prohibition of squeezing fruit – snow turns to water and a person may thus come to squeeze fruits.
3] The Sefer HaTrumah (Rav Boruch Ben Yitzchak a Baalei Tosfos, Siman 235) holds that it is on account of Nolad – or Muktzah.

The third opinion, the Sefer HaTrumah, forbids placing chicken or meat with coagulated fat next to a flame on Shabbos or Yom Tov because of the prohibition of Nolad. The other two opinions would permit it. [There is also a fourth opinion, that of Rav Shlomo of Chelm, author of the Shulchan Atzei Shittim (Dash), who suggests that the prohibition of Molid is a Rabbinic form of Makeh b’Patish.]

TWO READINGS OF THE SEFER HATERUMAH

The simple reading of the Sefer HaTerumah is that it is forbidden because of Muktzah. This is the manner in which the Ramban and Rashba read the Sefer HaTerumah. There is a second way in which to read the Sefer HaTerumah. The Rosh (4:13) understands his words to mean that it is forbidden to make the Nolad – in other words to actively create the Nolad, but not because of Muktzah. This would make the Sefer HaTerumah almost like Rashi’s understanding. The Sefer HaTerumah would forbid placing the fat next to the fire on account of the active placing. If the fat just melted on its own, it would be permitted.

SHULCHAN ARUCH’S AND RAMAH’S OPINIONS

To which opinion does the Shulchan Aruch, who permits placing the coagulated fat next to the fire, hold? The Mishna Brurah (320:33) cites both the reason of Rashi and that of the Rambam. The Ramah (318:16), however, who forbids it, seems to hold like the Sefer HaTerumah. He writes, however, that if there is a great need – one can be lenient.

MELTING ICE

The Mishna Brurah (320:35) rules that according to the Ramah’s ruling ideally like the Sefer HaTerumah, it would be forbidden to melt ice near a fire or in the sun. One may only melt it in a full cup and allow it to happen by itself. Sefardim, of course, may rely on the Shulchan Aruch’s lenient ruling.
What about in an empty cup? Well this depends upon the how the Mishna Brurah reads the Sefer HaTerumah, which, believe it or not, is a debate between Rav Vosner zatzal and Rav Neuwirth zatzal. Rav Vosner writes (Shaivet HaLevi 7:40) that the Mishna Brurah reads the Sefer HaTerumah like the Rosh. It would thus be permitted to let the ice melt on its own. Rav Neuwirth writes (SSK 10:3 note 7) that the Mishna Brurah reads the Sefer HaTerumah like the Ramban and Rashba and would be forbidden because of Nolad Muktzah in all cases. It is this author’s opinion that there is certainly room to hold like Rav Vosner zatzal.

MAKING ICE

Making ice cubes on Shabbos or Yom Tov would be permitted according to the Rambam, teh Ramban and Rashba as well. It would be forbidden according to the Sefer HaTerumah. Ashkenazic Jews follow the Ramah who says that if there is a great need one can be lenient.

PERFUMING A GARMENT

The Ramah (511:4) rules that it is forbidden to spray perfume (and thus deodorant as well) upon a garment in order to give it a good smell. This is based upon the Gemorah (Baitzah 23a) and the prohibition is because of Molid. The Ramah (658:2) rules that this is forbidden even when there is no intent to give the garment a good smell. he thus forbids placing an esrog in a garment – even apparently when there is no intent to introduce a pleasant smell. This is one of those rare instances, however, when his cousin the Maharshal is more lenient than the Ramah. The Maharshal writes (YSS 2:34) that when there is no intent there is no prohibition.

FRAGRANCE ON A PERSON

The Mishna Brurah does rule, however, that it is permitted to create a new fragrance upon a person (MB 128:23). Thus, applying deodorant would be permitted on Shabbos and Yom Tov. It is interesting to note, however, that not every Posaik is lenient in this matter. The Ben Ish Chai (Responsa Rav Pe’alim 2:51) is stringent as was the TaZ (seemingly in 511:8). Thus, some Sfardim may be more stringent in this area.

FRAGRANCE INTO FOOD ITEMS

There is a debate among the Poskim as to whether there is a prohibition of introducing a new fragrance into food items. It seems that during the times of the TaZ some people would place a perfume into the water that the Kohanim used to wash their hands before Birkas Kohanim. The TaZ (511:8) forbade this practice.

FRAGRANCE IN THE AIR

There is no prohibition in introducing a new fragrance into the air. Thus it would be permitted to spray air freshener in the air. This is clear from the Gemorah in Baitzah 22b.

FOOD

While there is a prohibition of introducing a fragrance into food because of Molid according to many Poskim, the prohibition of Molid itself is permitted to make food. Thus, there would be no problem of melting frozen soup on Yom Tov in a pot, even though this would be forbidden on Shabbos on account of Molid.

SOAP

It is forbidden to use a solid bar of soap for washing the body on account of the prohibition of Molid (See Ramah 326:10 regarding the prohibition on Shabbos). The Ramah equates it to purposefully melting snow.

ELECTRICITY

Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky (Achiezer Vol. IV #6) writes that the use of electricity on Yom Tov falls under the category of Molid. The putting together of these elements gives form to electricity. The Bais Yitzchok (YD Vol. II #31 in the Hashmatos) rules similarly. It should be noted, however, that other Poskim (Rav Moshe Feinstein, the Chazon Ish) rule that electricity is a biblically forbidden prohibition.

BENEFITING FROM MOLID

May one benefit from the electricity (according to those Poskim who hold it is only a problem of Molid), or other Molid, after the fact? Although the Taz writes to be stringent, the Mishna Brurah(Siman 502) rules leniently (See also SSK 13:8).

CONCLUSIONS

Hopefully, we have clarified some of the Torah issues involved in idea of Molid. May we enter the upcoming Yom Tov with a greater appreciation of our holy Torah as we prepare for Kabalas HaTorah.
The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com