Question: [Tuesday, 12th Adar 2, 5782]
I usually always do laundry on Thursday on behalf of Shabbos. Am I allowed to do so this Thursday even though it will be Purim?
In my opinion, this may not be done. All laundry should be done before Purim, or after Purim, and not on Purim itself. However, in Jerusalem which keeps Purim on the 15th, which is Friday, they may launder all clothing needed for Shabbos.
Explanation: Mordechai had originally instituted a decree against doing work on Purim similar to other Holidays, although this decree was not accepted and hence has no legal status. [The Megillah first states “Yimei Mishteh Vesimcha Veyom Tov” which implies they accepted upon themselves not to do Melacha. Nevertheless, in truth this was not accepted, as is seen from the continuation which states “Laasos Osam Yimei Mishteh Vesimcha” and the word Yom Tov is omitted.] Thus, from the letter of the law, it is permitted to do work on Purim. However, the accepted custom is to refrain from work on Purim and one who does work on Purim will not see blessing from that work.
Now, the definition of work is any action which takes a lot of one’s attention. Thus, those matters which can be done without much concentration, are permitted to be done. Nevertheless, even when doing such actions, one is to beware not to involve himself in them for a lengthy period of time, in order so he does not nullify the Mitzvah of rejoicing on Purim. Accordingly, the Poskim rule that women are not to do laundry on Purim [and the same would apply to men]. Nonetheless, this restriction of laundry on Purim was written by the Poskim in times prior to washing machines, when all laundry was hand washed and was certainly a great work. However, today that it is done in a washing machine, perhaps it should be permitted, and so conclude some Rabbanim of today. However, in my opinion, in truth even today this restriction should apply today, being that even today’s form of laundry takes some time and mental energy and responsibility, and is not the mere act of pressing a button. You need to collect all the laundry from the home, select it and separate it for the various sets of wash, make sure to take it out from the washing machine, and either hang to dry or place in a dryer, remove and fold, and hence certainly this is a big job, as every women is aware of, and hence I don’t see any reason why today we should be more lenient, even though it is true that it is not as difficult as in previous times. This should be no different then Rosh Chodesh, in which even today women are accustomed to not do laundry, and so indeed rule other Rabbanim of today, including Harav Mordechai Eliyahu and Piskeiy Teshuvos, that it is forbidden to do laundry on Purim.
However, all Mitzvah related activities may be done on Purim, and hence perhaps one can argue that one may do laundry on Thursday which is Purim for the sake of Shabbos clothing. On the other hand, perhaps this allowance only applies if the mitzvah is needed to be done then and hence since laundry can also be done before Thursday or Thursday night-Friday therefore it should not be done on Purim even for the sake of Shabbos. However, in Jerusalem which keeps Purim on the 15th, which is Friday, they may launder all clothing needed for Shabbos being that it is for the sake of a Mitzvah which cannot be pushed off.
Sources: See regarding the restriction against doing work on Purim: Michaber and Rama 696:1 [Michaber brings that there are some communities which are accustomed not to do Melacha, and the Rama concludes that this is the accepted custom in all places today]; Megillah 5b; Beis Yosef; Levush; Kneses Hagedola 696:2; M”B 696:1; Kaf Hachaim 696:1, 7; See Torah Or Megillah Chayav Inish Lebesumei 2; Sichas Purim 5718; See regarding the definition of Melacha: M”A 696:4; Beis Yosef in name of Orchos Chaim; Mateh Moshe 1016; Chayeh Adam 154:34; Siddur Yaavetz; M”B 696:6; Kaf Hachaim 696:13; See regarding not doing laundry on Purim: Ben Ish Chaiy Tetzaveh 1:21; Piskeiy Teshuvos 696:1; Mikraeiy Kodesh Purim 14 footnote 2; See regarding work for the sake of a Mitzvah on Purim: Rama 696:1