UPS Packages that Arrive on Shabbat May One Open it and Use Its Contents?
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Parsha Halacha – Parshat Yitro
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The Torah portion of Yitro includes the Ten Commandments, the fourth of which is to observe the Shabbat. The reason the Torah gives for observing Shabbat is (Exodus 20:11) “For in six days the L-rd made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it.”
Don’t Strain on Shabbat
In last week’s Torah portion we read, “Let each man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day.” As explained in last week’s article (http://yeshivahcollege.org/
the-shabbat-borders-origins- applications-and-lessons/), this verse is the basis of the law that one may not walk beyond the Shabbat borders outside the city. This is called the Techum Shabbat. In explanation for this law, the Sefer HaChinuch writes (Mitzvah 24), “One of the roots of this commandment is that we should remember and know that the world is created and not primordial, as it is written explicitly about the commandment of Shabbat (Exodus ibid), ‘For in six days the L-rd made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day.’ In order to remember this matter, it is fitting that we rest in one place; meaning to say that we not go to a faraway place, but rather only stroll in a pleasant manner. And the walking of… (the amount allowed by the Torah) does not have much strain to it.”
The 2,000 Year Old Torah
In addition to the reasons given in last week’s article for this mitzvah, I found the following explanation in the Sefer Brit Kehunat Olam by Rabbi Aizik of Koritz, a student of the Maggid of Mezritch (Mamar HaShabbat, Chapter 1).
The Torah, which was given on Shabbat, is a precious treasure which preceded the creation of the world by 2,000 years (Midrash Tehillim 90:4). Staying within the 2,000 amah Shabbat borders symbolizes that we remain within the borders of the Primordial Torah (by keeping its mitzvot) that were given to us on this day.
Shabbat Borders for Objects
The sages established that the rules of not going beyond the Shabbat borders apply not only to people but also to animals and objects. In the words of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (397:3), “Just as on Shabbat and festivals a person is not allowed to walk more than 2000 cubits in any direction from his location (i.e., from the edges of his city) at the commencement of the Shabbat or festival, so too, his articles and animals may not be taken by anyone beyond the 2000 cubits granted to their owner. The rationale is that the Shabbat or festival place of the person’s articles and animals is designated as the location of their owner at the time the Shabbat or festival began.”
Taken Out on Purpose by a Jew
If, on Shabbat a Jew purposefully took an object out of its Shabbat border, no one may use that object in its new location for the duration of Shabbat. If this occurs on Yom Tov when carrying is permitted, one may also not carry such an object for more than four amot (approximately six feet) (Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Mishnah Berurah on 405:9).
This is true even if he did not transgress the prohibition of carrying. For example, on Yom Tov (when one may carry) or on Shabbat if the item was an article of clothing which he wore while walking beyond the Shabbat border of that object. (It is possible that the person has a different Shabbat border than the object, e.g., if he is from a different city or if he made an Eiruv Techumin. As such, it is possible that he may not have transgressed by this walk if not for the fact that he is transporting this object beyond its borders. See O.C. 408.)
Taken Out by a Gentile for Himself
If a gentile takes an object beyond the Shabbat borders, but he did so for himself or another gentile, there are no restrictions on a Jewish person using that object. One may not, however, take the object out of the four amot (approximately six feet) in which it was placed. One may carry it within a house or an eiruv as such a space is considered to be within four amot for halachic purposes. Practically, on Shabbat one may not carry outside a home without an eiruv in any case. The fact that one may not remove it from the four amot is relevant on Yom Tov, though, when carrying is permissible or in a case of an article of clothing that might otherwise be worn outside of the house. That is, if a gentile brought an article of clothing from outside the Techum where the item was when Shabbat began, a Jew may wear it in the new Techum if he stays within his home or within an Eiruv. But he may not wear it beyond such a place. In addition, if an item is brought from outside of its Techum by a gentile for himself or for another gentile on Yom Tov, a Jew may benefit from the item but may not carry it in a way that would be forbidden to carry it on Shabbat (i.e., outside of his home or the Eiruv.)
Taken Out by a Gentile for a Jew
If, however, the gentile brought the item out of its Shabbat border specifically for a Jew, that Jew may not use it for the duration of Shabbat. In addition, after Shabbat ends, he must wait the length of time that it took the gentile to bring him the object. (In Halachic terminology this is called Bichdei Sheya’aseh, which means the length of time to do it.) In addition, none of the household members of this person may use the object. This is a decree lest the Jew ask the gentile to do this for him in the future (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 325:11). (Such a request is forbidden as a Jew may not ask a gentile to do forbidden Shabbat labor on his behalf on Shabbat.) His household members are included in this prohibition as it is considered as if he brought it for them as well. Shulchan Aruch HaRav 401:1 and 515:15
May Others Use it?
On the other hand, other Jews for whom the object was not brought may use the object. Since the object wasn’t brought for them, we are not concerned that it will lead them to ask the gentile to bring it for them in the future. This is different than the law where a biblical labor was done by a gentile for a Jew in which case no Jew may benefit from it on Shabbat. (For example, if a gentile turned on a light for a Jew, no one may benefit from that light. But see O.C. 276 that there are exceptions to this rule.) The reason for the difference is that the laws of Techum Shabbat are of Rabbinic origin (according to most opinions), and the sages were not strict regarding people for whom this labor was not done. In addition, even according to the opinion that the laws of Techum Shabbat are of Biblical origin, these laws differ from other Shabbat laws in that they apply to each person on an individual basis, i.e., depending on where each person was when Shabbat began and whether or not he made an Eruv Techumin. As such, the sages also differentiated, in terms of benefitting from items brought from beyond the Techum, between a person for whom the gentile brought the item and others for whom it was not brought (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 515:14).
If two similar items were brought from outside the Techum by gentiles for two different Jewish people, these people may not switch the items with each other (ibid 325:12).
If one is unsure if the item was brought from outside the Techum but is sure that the gentile brought it for him, one may not benefit from that item on Shabbat or Yom Tov. Although this is a doubt about a Rabbinic prohibition, we are strict about this as it is a davar sheyesh lo matirin – something which will become permissible at a later time (after Shabbat).
Although normally the rabbis were lenient regarding a doubtful Rabbinic violation, they were strict if the prohibition involved is one which will be relaxed at a later time.
If, however, this question arose on the second day of Yom Tov, one may be lenient and use the item. The reason for this is that the second day of Yom Tov was originally kept due to a doubt as to which day was really Yom Tov. As such, it is considered to be a double doubt (s’fek s’feika), and one may be lenient even though it is a davar sheyesh lo matirin (ibid 16).
Brought by Ship
An item that was on a ship at sea when Shabbat commenced and arrived to a port on Shabbat does not have the above mentioned limitations of an item that is brought from outside of the Techum. This is because the rules of Techum Shabbat do not apply to a ship at sea as it is more than 10 tefachim (handbreadths) from the sea bed (ibid 325:11).
Brought by Truck
On the other hand, if an item was transported by truck beyond the Shabbat borders (Techum Shabbat), all of the above mentioned rules apply. Although the truck may be more than 10 tefachim off of the floor, since this is the usual mode of transport, the rules of Techumin apply (Mishnah Berurah in the Biur Halacha on 404:1 D.H Ve’ein).
Shipping for Delivery on Shabbat
When ordering online, one should not choose a delivery date which will necessarily cause the shipping company to transport the item on Shabbat. For example, on Friday one may not order for next-day delivery unless the item is close by so that it could possibly be delivered (during normal delivery hours) before Shabbat. (This may be permitted under extenuating circumstances. One should consult one’s Rav.)
Packages that Arrive on Shabbat
If a package arrives on Shabbat which one did not specifically order to arrive on Shabbat, there are several issues to address as to whether or not one may use the contents of the package. For example, if a pair of shoes or other articles of clothing were delivered on Shabbat, may one wear those items on Shabbat?
In order to answer this question, several issues must be addressed:
May one open the package on Shabbat, and if so, how?
May one benefit from an item that was transported on their behalf on Shabbat?
Was the item beyond the Shabbat border when Shabbat began? And if it was, may one benefit from an item that was transported on one’s behalf from outside the Shabbat border on Shabbat?
Let us address these issues one at a time:
May One Open a Box that is Sealed with Tape on Shabbat?
According to the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (314:16 and 340:17), one may cut through the tape that is sealing a box shut. The reason for this is that the law of ripping (kore’ah) only applies to an item that is comprised of many items stuck or woven together such as textiles but not to items which are made of one mass like paper or plastic. One must be careful, however, not to rip in a measured way or to create a usable utensil through the act of ripping. Additionally, one may not rip the tape off from the box.
According to the Mishnah Berurah (Biu’r Halacha 340:13 D.H Ein Shovrin), however, the rules of kore’ah do apply to such items. Despite this, one may rip open a box on Shabbat if it contains a food item or other item that one needs for consumption or for one’s bodily needs on Shabbat. In pressing circumstances, one may hint to a gentile that he needs the item and have the gentile open the package “on his own.”Rabbi Dovid Ribiat in The 39 Melachos, Vol 4, pg. 834. See footnotes 58 and 59 for his sources
May One Benefit from an Item Transported on One’s Behalf on Shabbat?
Aside from the techum issue, if one lives in an area without an Eiruv, one may not use an item delivered to them on Shabbat as they would be benefitting from the forbidden Shabbat labor done by the delivery person – that of transporting from one domain to the other. Nevertheless, one need not wait until after Shabbat to benefit from the item (Bichdei Sheya’aseh) as the benefit of using it immediately is considered negligible and will not lead a Jew to ask a gentile to carry for him on Shabbat. (If the Jew really wanted to use it right after Shabbat, he could have walked to the location of the item right before Shabbat was over [Shulchan Aruch HaRav 325:22].)
On the other hand, if one lives in a city with an Eiruv, it would seem that there is no prohibition to benefit from the item despite the fact that it was transported on Shabbat by a truck. This is because the truck driver has many deliveries to make and isn’t driving specifically for the Jew. Although he may drive several blocks for the Jew, this benefit isn’t significant since one could have walked those blocks himself (in theory). [See Shulchan Aruch HaRav 276:9 and 325:16.]
May One Benefit from an Item Transported from Outside the Techum?
Based on the above discussion, it would seem that if one received a package on Shabbat which was outside the Techum when Shabbat began, both he and his household members would not be allowed to benefit from that item on Shabbat.
In practice, however, if one lives within an Eiruv, one may use such an item. (See above regarding opening the box.) The reason for this is that, nowadays, the shipping companies do not travel or transport for individual people. Rather they transport a large quantity of items, mostly for non-Jewish people. Their “labor,” i.e., the transport of goods, is therefore not considered to be for the sake of the Jew, and thus the Jew may benefit from it. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, it may not be taken out of one’s house (if there is no Eiruv) or out of the Eiruv even if one wears it or if it is Yom Tov. Piskei Teshuvot, Shabbat vol. 2, 307:20
(Rabbi Avrohom Tzvi Wosner of Monsey, New York, told me that one may be lenient in this regard if one is unsure as to whether or not the package was within the Techum Shabbat when Shabbat began.)
If one lives outside of an Eiruv, however, one may not use the item because the specific transfer of this package from the public to the private domain was done by the delivery person specifically for the Jew.
One who lives within an Eiruv, may use a package that happened to arrive on Shabbat or Yom Tov (assuming it can be opened in a permissible way). If one specifically ordered the item to arrive on Shabbat one should discuss this with their rabbi.
One who lives outside of an Eiruv may not use a package that arrives on Shabbat.
Remember the Upcoming Shabbat
It is a mitzvah to remember and prepare for the upcoming Shabbat during the week. See Rashi and Ramban on Exodus 20:8 and O.C. 242.
We derive the spiritual power to do this from the previous Shabbat which infused our entire week with holiness.
Similarly, during the long days of exile it is proper to remember the upcoming Messianic Era which is called the eternal Shabbat. Doing so will enable us to endure the hardships of the exile, knowing that this special time is around the corner and that we should be preparing for it appropriately. From the Sicha of 11 Sivan 5784. Printed in Yein Malchut on Sefer Zemanim, Siman 36
May We Experience the Ultimate Shabbat Speedily in Our Days!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!