Parshas Yisro includes the Aseres HaDibros, the fourth of which is to observe Shabbos. The reason the Torah gives for observing Shabbos 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.”
Don’t Strain on Shabbos
In Parshas Beshalach we read, “Let each man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day.” As explained in my weekly article, this passuk is the basis of the law that one may not walk beyond the Shabbos borders outside the city. This is called the Techum Shabbos. In explanation for this law, the Sefer HaChinuch writes (Mitzvah 24), “One of the roots of this mitzvah is that we should remember and know that the world is created and not primordial… 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.”
Shabbos Borders for Objects
The Chachomim established that the rules of not going beyond the Shabbos borders apply not only to people but also to objects. In the words of the Alter Rebbe (397:3), “Just as on Shabbos 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 Shabbos 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 Shabbos or festival place of the person’s articles and animals is designated as the location of their owner at the time the Shabbos or festival began.”
Taken Out by a Gentile for a Jew
If a gentile brought an item out of its Techum Shabbos specifically for a Jew, that Jew may not use it for the duration of Shabbos. In addition, after Shabbos 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 (Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch 325:11). (Such a request is forbidden as a Jew may not ask a gentile to do forbidden Shabbos labor on his behalf on Shabbos.) His household members are included in this prohibition as it is considered as if he brought it for them as well.
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 Shabbos 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 Shabbos). 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.
Shipping for Delivery on Shabbos
When ordering online, one should not choose a delivery date which will necessarily cause the shipping company to transport the item on Shabbos. 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 Shabbos. (This may be permitted under extenuating circumstances. One should consult one’s Rav.)
Packages that Arrive on Shabbos
If a package arrives on Shabbos which one did not specifically order to arrive on Shabbos, 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 Shabbos, may one wear those items on Shabbos?
In order to answer this question, several issues must be addressed:
- May one open the package on Shabbos, and if so, how?
- May one benefit from an item that was transported on their behalf on Shabbos?
- Was the item beyond the Shabbos border when Shabbos began? And if it was, may one benefit from an item that was transported on one’s behalf from outside the Shabbos border on Shabbos?
Let us address these issues one at a time:
May One Open a Box that is Sealed with Tape on Shabbos?
According to the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch (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 Shabbos if it contains a food item or other item that one needs for consumption or for one’s bodily needs on Shabbos. In pressing circumstances, one may hint to a gentile that he needs the item and have the gentile open the package “on his own.” (See The 39 Melachos, Vol 4, pg. 834 with footnotes.)
May One Benefit from an Item Transported on One’s Behalf on Shabbos?
Aside from the techum issue, if one lives in an area without an Eiruv, one may not use an item delivered to them on Shabbos as they would be benefitting from the forbidden Shabbos labor done by the delivery person – that of transporting from one domain to the other. Nevertheless, one need not wait until after Shabbos 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 Shabbos. (If the Jew really wanted to use it right after Shabbos, he could have walked to the location of the item right before Shabbos was over [Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch 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 Shabbos 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. [See the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch 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 Shabbos which was outside the Techum when Shabbos began, both he and his household members would not be allowed to benefit from that item on Shabbos.
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. (See Piskei Teshuvot, Shabbos vol. 2, 307:20.)
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 Shabbos or Yom Tov (assuming it can be opened in a permissible way). If one specifically ordered the item to arrive on Shabbos one should discuss this with their rabbi. If it’s an article of clothing one may not wear it while walking outside of the Eiruv
One who lives outside of an Eiruv may not use a package that arrives on Shabbos.
On Yom Tov. Please note that on Yom Tov, in a place with no Eiruv, one may not take any item that came from beyond the Techum, out of his house. (See the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch 401:1 and 515:15)
Please note that, obviously, one may not sign for a package on Shabbos. One also may not instruct a gentile to do so in his behalf. One may, however, allow him to do so if he offers.
In addition, if the package contains or may contain items that are muktzah on Shabbos, it should not he moved or opened.
Remember the Upcoming Shabbos
It is a mitzvah to remember and prepare for the upcoming Shabbos during the week. We derive the spiritual power to do this from the previous Shabbos 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 Shabbos. 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.)