Accepting Deliveries on Shabbos

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: If a Fedex or UPS delivery person delivers an overnight letter or a package on Shabbos, is it permitted to accept it directly from him?

Discussion: Often a letter or a package sent overnight will contain one or more muktzeh items, such as money, invoices or important documents related to business activity, etc. It is, therefore, forbidden to take the letter or package directly out of the hands of the delivery person. But even in the event that the recipient knows that there are no muktzeh items in the package,152 it is still debatable whether or not the recipient is permitted to take the letter directly out of the delivery man’s hands, and it is strongly recommended that one not do so, for the following reasons:

  • Several poskim are of the opinion that if the package or letter is sealed in a manner which cannot be opened on Shabbos then the package or letter is considered muktzeh, since it is not a utensil and it has no other use.153 Other poskim hold that it is not muktzeh since it can be used as a bookmark.154
  • An overnight letter that was delivered on Shabbos may have been outside of the techum Shabbos before the onset of Shabbos. Although most poskim hold that a letter that came from outside of the techum is not muktzeh,155 others disagree.156
  • When any letter arrives on Shabbos, the recipient should not take it directly from the mailman’s hands. Rather, he should allow the mailman to place the letter in the mailbox or in the house. The Poskim are concerned that if we permit the recipient to accept the letter directly, he may inadvertently do so even before the delivery person has stopped to rest and will thus be completing the melachah of Carrying.157 Possibly, however, if there is an eiruv, one may take the letter directly from the mailman’s hands.158

152. Or if the package contains muktzeh items but also contains non-muktzeh items which are more significant than the muktzeh; see 310:8 for the details of Hilchos Bassis.

153. Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:21-5; 22:5; Rav Y.S. Elyashiv (see Shalmei Yehudah 12, note 21).

154. Shulchan Shlomo 308:4-3; Rav N. Karelitz (Ayil Meshulash, Shtarei Hedyotos, 6:11, note 39).

155. Mishnah Berurah 307:56.

156. Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:21-5; 22-5.

157. Mishnah Berurah 307:56.

158. See Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 307:66 and Mishnah Berurah 346:28.