MO'ED ḲAṬAN ("Smaller Festival"):
Treatise in the Mishnah, in the Tosefta, and in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. It deals principally with the regulations concerning the semi-feasts, or intermediary festivals, which are termed "mo'ed" and are the days between the first two and the last two days of the feasts of Passover and Sukkot. The treatise receives its name from this designation, with the addition of "Ḳaṭan" to distinguish it from the whole Seder Mo'ed (I. Derenbourg, in "R. E. J." xx. 136 et seq.). In the manuscript of the Mishnah edited by Lowe and in the "'Aruk" of Nathan ben Jehiel, Mo'ed Ḳaṭan is called "Mashkin" from its opening word, signifying "they water, give to drink." In the Mishnah of the Seder Mo'ed it is the eleventh treatise, and is divided into three chapters, which contain twenty-four paragraphs in all.Contents.
Ch. i: What agricultural work may be undertaken on the intermediary festivals (§§ 1-4). In connection with the rule that the irrigating ditches may be repaired if they are injured, it is stated that municipal water-works and canals, as well as public streets, may be put in good condition, and in general any labor necessary for the public welfare may be performed (§ 2b). The treatise contains also regulations for the avoidance of mourning on these days (§ 5); for digging graves and sepulchers and preparing coffins (§ 6); for marriage (§ 7); for sewing (all may sew as usual, except tailors, who must take irregular stitches; § 8); for erecting an oven and a hand-mill (§ 9); for constructing balustrades; and for making repairs (§ 10).
Ch. ii.: Rules for pressing olives or wine and garnering fruit (§§ 1-3), for purchasing houses, slaves, and cattle (§ 4), and for selling fruits, clothes, and utensils (§ 5).
Ch. iii.: Enumeration of the occasions upon which a man may cut his hair and wash his clothes during the intermediary festivals (§§ 1-2); what one may write during these days (documents of all kinds), and what may not be written (e.g., promissory notes, books, etc.; §§ 3-4). The feast-days interrupt a period of mourning and end it altogether; but if the mourning has not yet begun, they are not reckoned as part of it, while the Sabbath, on the contrary, is included in the period of mourning and does not terminate it (§ 5). Enumeration of the feasts which resemble the Sabbath in this respect (§ 6), and the mourning ceremonies observed in the intermediary festivals; with a description of how the women are to sing the dirges on these days (§§ 7-8) and, in connection with this, how the dirges are to be sung at the New Moon, on Ḥanukkah, and on Purim (§ 9).Tosefta and Gemaras.
The Mishnah to this treatise, like its Tosefta, which is divided into two chapters, contains much important matter relating to Jewish social life, such as information regarding furniture and tools, housework and agriculture, public institutions, and mourning customs.
The Gemaras of both Talmuds explain the several mishnayot. In the first chapter the Babylonian Gemara contains also a number of tales, proverbs, and benedictions, which give examples of the picturesque style of the Rabbis. In the third chapter, besides the explanations of the individual mishnayot, the Babylonian Gemara contains detailed regulations concerning the different forms of the Ban and its removal (pp. 15a-17b), as well as narratives of remarkable incidents which took place when certain teachers died or were buried (p. 25a, b), and legends concerning the manner in which death overtook them (p. 28a). Here are also found interesting specimens of dirges and funeral orations delivered in Hebrew and showing traces of paronomasia and rime (p. 25b), besides Raba's citation of examples of wailing songs sung by the hired mourning-women in the vernacular at Shekanẓib (p. 28b).
Especial mention should be made of the enumeration of modifications which had taken place in the course of time in many of the usages connected with mourning and burial (p. 27a, b). All these changes were made for the sake of the poor, who could not afford the luxury of the old customs. The sums expended in the preparation of the body were so large that the relatives often left the corpse unburied because they could not meet the enormous outlay. It was not until after Rabban Gamaliel had been buried in simple linen garments that this custom became general. At a later period simplicity was carried still further, and the cheapest coverings were used for the burial of the dead (p. 27b).