Shailah of the Week

A Package of Food Arrived On Shabbat – Can I Eat It?

Rabbi Eli Gersten December 22, 2020

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Written by Rabbis Eli Gersten, Yaakov Luban and Moshe Zywica of the Orthodox Union


A package of food arrived on Shabbat. The recipient did not specifically request the day. Can it be eaten on Shabbat?


The Mishnah Berurah rules that one may not read a letter that was delivered on Shabbat from outside the techum, because it is prohibited to benefit from a melacha done on Shabbat. Sh’mirat Shabbat K’Hilchata (31:24) quotes Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, that food packages that arrive on Shabbat through the mail system (outside of Israel) may be eaten on Shabbat. He explains that since the mailman is delivering mail to the non-Jews in the neighborhood in any event, there is no additional melacha being performed on behalf of the Jewish recipients. (It is clear that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach interprets the Mishnah Berurah as referring to a private mail delivery for one individual, whereas general mail systems nowadays operate with mailmen that service entire communities.)



A food package that is delivered through the normal mail system can be consumed even if it arrives on Shabbat. However, a delivery of a food package that arrives via a truck that drives down the road specifically to deliver to an individual home cannot be consumed on Shabbat.


For example, the U.S. postal service delivers mail to my home every day. Even if I have no mail, the mailman will walk past my house to deliver mail to everyone else on my block. Since the mailman is going anyways to deliver mail on his route, there is no “amira l’akum” to have him deliver to my house as well, since he is going there anyways. However, other delivery services cannot be expected to walk past my house unless they are delivering a package specifically to me.


Some people live in large apartment buildings where there are UPS, Fedex, or Amazon deliveries every single day. For them these would be the same as the postal service. But if one lives on a quiet block, it would not be the same.