If somebody is having construction done, such as one who is building or renovating a home, may he allow the work to continue during Hol Ha’mo’ed, or must he instruct the contractor to suspend the work until after the holiday?
The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 543:2) writes that it is forbidden to allow a non-Jew to do construction on one’s behalf during Hol Ha’mo’ed, even if the worker is contracted for the job, and was not hired for a particular day. As the Mishna Berura (Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, 1839-1933) explains, one might have thought that if the gentile was not hired to work on that day, and is being paid for the project, and it is only for his own convenience that he wants to work during Hol Ha’mo’ed, he should be allowed to do so. After all, he decided on his own, for his own personal interests, to work on Hol Ha’mo’ed, and is not being hired to work specifically then. Nevertheless, the Mishna Berura explains, Halacha forbids allowing the contractor to work, as people who see the construction might suspect the Jew of hiring the worker for that day, in violation of Halacha. Since they do not know that the builder was hired as a contractor, and is paid for the project, as opposed to a daily wage, it is forbidden to have the work done, as this might arouse suspicion.
However, Hacham Ovadia Yosef, in Hazon Ovadia – Hol Ha’mo’ed (p. 201), notes that there is room to allow construction during Hol Ha’mo’ed nowadays, when all construction is done via contracting. Builders are paid for the project, and are not hired on a per-hour or per-day basis, and this is clear and obvious to all. In fact, contractors generally put up signs advertising their services at constructions sites, and thus it is unmistakable that the work is being done on a contracting basis, as opposed to a system of daily wages. Therefore, since there is no reason for suspicion, there is room for leniency. Hacham Ovadia adds that this is especially so in the case of one who is renting a residence while waiting for the construction to be completed. In this case, delaying the construction entails a significant financial loss, and thus there is even more reason to permit the non-Jew to continue working during Hol Ha’mo’ed. This is also the ruling of Rav Meir Mazuz, in his work Ish Masliah.
This ruling applies to synagogues, as well. A community may allow the non-Jewish builders to continue construction during Hol Ha’mo’ed, as long as the prevalent practice in that area is to build by contractors, as opposed to day laborers.
Hacham Ovdia adds that when it comes to a women’s Mikveh, construction or repairs may be performed even by Jewish workers. Since this is an urgent need, and delaying the Mikveh’s construction could result in the violation of Torah prohibitions, it is a Misva to complete the work as soon as possible. Each day sooner that the Mikveh is completed is a Misvah, and it therefore should not be suspended during Hol Ha’mo’ed. And thus when a community’s Mikveh is being built or repaired, the work may be performed even by Jewish laborers.
Summary: One who is doing construction may allow non-Jews to continue working during Hol Ha’mo’ed, since it is obvious that they are hired as contractors and being paid for the entire project, and have not been hired specifically for that day. Construction on a Mikveh may be done during Hol Ha’mo’ed even by Jewish workers.