||Tratate Mo'ad Katan is the 11th tractate in the Mishnah order of Mo'ed, concerned mainly with hol 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 hol 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 hol 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 hol ha-mo'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 under given circumstances may be allowed on hol 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 hol 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, Hanukkah, 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 the 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.
Daniel Bomberg, the son of an Antwerp merchant, can be referred to as the father of the printed Babylonian Talmud. Indeed, among his many accomplishments are the first printing of Babylonian Talmud (1520-23) and the Jerusalem Talmud (1522-23, a beautiful copy in this auction), the first Mikra’ot Gedolot (1515-17), the first Alfas (1522), the first Kariate printed book (1528-29). Why the Christian (Calvinist) Bomberg printed Hebrew books is a subject of many bibliographers’ articles. He was associated with Felice da Prato, an apostate who subsequently became a friar, who influenced him to print Hebrew books. Israel Mehlman assumes that proselytism played a role in the process, albeit a small one. The activities of Bomberg on behalf of the Jewish community were not limited by printing. The British Jewish historian, Cecil Roth, writes that Bomberg helped Marranos find refuge in Turkey. He is recorded as having fought for and obtained certain rights for his Jewish workers denied other Venetian Jews. For a detailed, in-depth review of the Bomberg Talmud see Printing the Talmud, Prof. Marvin J. Heller, Im Hasefer, Brooklyn, 1992, pages 135-182. For all his righteousness Bomberg nevertheless appears to have plagiarized much of the text for his Talmud from the Gershom Soncino tractates. Soncino complains in his Mikhlol that the Venetian printers copied his editions (Heller p. 145). Support for his complaint can be found in the errors Bomberg duplicated from Soncino tractates.
Ephraim Dienard best describes the rarity of the tractates in the late 19th and early 20th century (Atikos Yehudah p. 42): “I doubt the existence of greater than three complete sets in the world. The tractates utilized in yeshivot were torn and lost. Especially rare to find are complete volumes of the following tractates: Berakhot, Bezah, Sabbath, Chagigah, Gittin, Kiddushin, Ketubbot, the three Bavaos. The majority of tractates in Jewish Theological Seminary (New York), Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati), University of California in San Francisco, Library of Congress are of my doing, complete ones not to be found.” Needless to say conditions have not improved in the 21st century, the Holocaust and Jewish perils have only added to the scarcity of these volumes.