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Mo'ed Katan

MO'ED KATAN (Heb. מוֹעֵד קָטָן; "small festival"), 11th tractate in the Mishnah order of Mo'ed, concerned mainly with *ḥol ha-mo'ed ("the intermediate days of the festivals of *Passover and *Sukkot"). The original name of this tractate seems to have been Mo'ed (TJ, MK, 2:5, 81b), and in fact, throughout this tractate, the intermediate days are referred to as Mo'ed and not as ḥol ha-mo'ed. To distinguish the tractate *Mo'ed from the mishnaic order of that name, the former was sometimes referred to as Mashkin (Lev. R. 34:4), its opening word. The present designation, Mo'ed Katan, prevailed to distinguish the tractate from its order.

While the Scripture does not explicitly forbid work on ḥol ha-mo'ed, Leviticus 23:37, speaking of the daily festival sacrifices, includes the intermediate days of the festival in the term "holy convocation" and on account of this ḥol hamo'ed is considered as semi-festival, days on which certain kinds of work (and as a rule all unnecessary work) are forbidden. Chapter 1 of the tractate discusses a great variety of activities (e.g., agriculture, burial, marriage, sowing, repairs) which in certain circumstances may be allowed on ḥol ha-mo'ed.

Chapter 2 speaks of further kinds of work (e.g., pressing olives, or finishing the manufacture of wine, and gathering fruits, etc.) which are allowed if they are urgent; the general rule is that no work which should have been done before the festival or could be postponed until after the festival may be done on ḥol ha-mo'ed. Chapter 3 speaks of the conditions under which shaving, washing clothes, drawing up of documents and other scribal activity are allowed; it then discusses the manner in which mourning customs are observed on Sabbath and festivals, including New Moon, Ḥanukkah, and Purim. The tractate ends on a note of comfort by quoting Isaiah 25:8: "He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces." The Gemara in Chapter 3 explains the connection between the laws of the intermediate days and those of mourning. In that context, the Babylonian Gemara discusses details or burial and mourning customs and records several interesting funeral orations and dirges, and deals with the laws of excommunication. There is also a Gemara in the Jerusalem Talmud. In the Tosefta the material of the tractate is divided into two chapters, and like the Mishnah contains many details which reflect life and conditions during the tannaitic period. An English translation and introduction by H.M. Lazarus is to be found in the Soncino Talmud translation (1938).


H.M. Reinhold, Tal Ḥayyim… al Massekhet Mo'ed Katan… (Lvov, 1866); Ḥ. Albeck, Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, 2 (1958), 371–3.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.