By Rabbi Chaim Chazzan
I’m aware that certain forms of writing are prohibited on chol hamoed. Is it permitted to type on electronic devices, such as to send a text message or to compose an email?
There are different categories of writing which have different halachos. A) ‘Massei uman’ which includes Hebrew blocked lettering or writing that requires special attention, such as calligraphy. The halacha is that such writing is permitted only in 1) a situation where refraining from writing will cause a substantial loss (dovor ho’ovud). 2) Where it is the sake of the public on chol hamoed. B) ‘Massei hedyet’ includes Hebrew cursive script. If it is for the sake of chol hamoed or for the sake of the public it is permitted to write without a shinuy, however the custom is to still make a minor shinuy. The din regarding Latin letters is subject to dispute among poskim.
Writing on an electronic screen is not considered writing and therefore it is permitted to type on a computer on chol hamoed.
However, complicated computer work is prohibited as a form of mleches uman – work generally done by a skilled craftsman, which is prohibited on chol hamoed.
Printing out from a computer however, according to many poskim poses a halachic problem on chol hamoed and therefore should be avoided as much as possible even for the sake of chol hamoed, unless it is a dovor ho’ovud or tzorchei rabim. Among the halachic issues involved in printing is an unresolved debate among poskim whether we determine whether something is a masei uman by the actual act involved or the result of the act. The computer command to print is not a masei uman so if we go by the act it would be permitted, but the results – the printed pages are surely a work that would require skill for a person to produce, hence if we go by the results it would be prohibited.
שו”ע ריש סי’ תקמ”ה ונו”כ, שו”ת שבט הקהתי ח”א סי’ קסח, חול המועד כהלכתו פרק ו סעיף צח ובהערות שם.
Reprinted with permission from Lmaan Yishmeu – a project of Mercaz Anash. To see more articles visit Mercazanash.com