QUESTION: ... send a letter or a package on Friday with
deliver it on Shabbos?
DISCUSSION: Amirah l'akum, giving instructions to a non-Jew to do
action which would be forbidden for a Jew to do on Shabbos, is prohibited.
(1)It makes no difference whether the Jew's command is given on Shabbos or
before Shabbos. Accordingly, it should be forbidden to instruct a non-Jew
to deliver an overnight package on Shabbos, since there are several
prohibitions involved in delivering mail on Shabbos.(2)
When necessary, however, there is room for leniency. There are some poskim
(3)who hold that only a direct command to a non-Jew is forbidden.
Instructing a non-Jew to instruct another non-Jew - amirah l'amirah - is
permitted. Not all poskim agree with this leniency. Mishnah Berurah(4 )
rules that one can rely on this view only to avoid a major financial loss
(hefsed gadol). Other poskim(5)rule that one may rely on this view only in
a case of great need (tzorech gadol). It follows, therefore, that one is
permitted to send an overnight letter to be delivered on Shabbos in case
of great loss or great need, since the command to deliver the item is not
given directly to the delivery man but to another non-Jew.(6)
There are several other arguments for permitting one to have a letter
delivered on Shabbos:
Firstly, the Chasam Sofer(7)rules that even those who prohibit
instructing a non-Jew to instruct another non-Jew would permit it if the
Jew's instructions were given before Shabbos.(8)
Secondly, some poskim(9)hold that if the second non-Jew does not know
that he is doing a melachah for a Jew, then it is clearly permitted for
the Jew to instruct a non-Jew to tell another non-Jew to do a melachah.
Thirdly, some poskim(10 )argue that mailmen do not work for the
but for the government [or a private company] Postal Service, which has an
interest in mail being delivered. They are not delivering the mail because
the Jew asked them to do so, but because they are employees of the
Service. They are not considered, therefore, as doing something for the
Jew. Mail delivery is similar to garbage collection in which the garbage
men are not working for the homeowner but for the city government.(11)
All these reasons are sufficient to permit a letter to be sent with
instructions to deliver it on Shabbos, even when the situation is not
necessarily one of averting a major loss or filling a great need.
Obviously, if there is no need or urgency, one should not rely on the
When a 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 reason for this is
that we do not want the Jew to inadvertently carry the letter into the
house, an act which may be Biblically forbidden.(13)Possibly, therefore,
if there is an eiruv, one may take the letter directly from the mailman's
hands,(14)Some poskim maintain that even though the letter or package
originated outside the techum Shabbos, it is not muktzeh(15)-unless it
contains a muktzeh item, such as money, bills, important documents, etc.
QUESTION: ... brush one's teeth, with or without toothpaste?
DISCUSSION: The consensus of contemporary poskim is that it is
to use toothpaste on Shabbos(16). Their main concern is that applying
toothpaste to the teeth or the brush could result in a transgression of
the prohibited Shabbos Labor of Memareiach, smoothing.
Brushing without toothpaste is permitted,(17)provided that the
following conditions are met:
Use a toothbrush that is designated for Shabbos use only.(18)Some
require that the Shabbos toothbrush also look different from the weekday
one, e.g., be of a different color or style.(19)
Use a soft brush so as not to irritate the gums and cause bleeding.
[People with extremely sensitive gums who bleed whenever they brush their
teeth may not use a toothbrush at all.]
To avoid the prohibition of Sechitah, squeezing, a dry toothbrush
be used. It is, however, permitted to rinse the mouth with cold water
first and then use the toothbrush.(20)
The toothbrush should not be rinsed off after it is used unless it is
going to be used again on that same Shabbos.(21)
QUESTION: ... make guacamole (a semi-liquid dip made from mashed
lemon juice, dressing or mayonnaise)?
DISCUSSION: Making an avocado dip might entail a violation of the
forbidden Shabbos Labor of Tochen, Grinding. In order to avoid Tochen
according to all opinions, one should mash the avocado with the handle of
a fork, spoon or knife immediately before the avocado dip is to be eaten.
(22)To better understand why this is recommended, we must first list three
points of dispute among the authorities:
There is a dispute among the poskim as to whether or not mashing is
There is a dispute among the poskim whether or not grinding food
immediately before it will be eaten is permitted.(24)
There is a dispute among the poskim whether or not it is permitted to
grind in an abnormal manner, i.e., using the handle of a knife, fork or
Therefore, in order to satisfy all of the views, it is advisable to mash
an avocado in an abnormal manner and to do so right before the meal. But
clearly, one may rely on the authorities who allow even normal grinding
right before a meal or abnormal grinding even not immediately prior to a
The lemon juice, dressing or mayonnaise may be poured onto the mashed
avocado and mixed with it. There is no question of transgressing Lishah,
Kneading, since kneading is only prohibited when liquid is used to create
a single mass from loose particles, which is not the case here.
The lemon juice may also be squeezed from a fresh lemon, since there is no
question of Sechitah, Squeezing, when the juice of a fruit is squeezed
directly into a solid food(27) - as long as most of the juice is absorbed
by the food.(28)It is forbidden, however, to squeeze juice out of a lemon
into an empty dish and then add the avocado to it.
1 This is a Rabbinic prohibition. A minority opinion considers this
a Biblical prohibition; see Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 243:7.
2 If the overnight mail is delivered to the house together with the
of the mail, it is permitted to be sent, since the mailman is not doing a
special melachah for the Jew; see Chelkas Yaakov 1:65. But usually,
overnight mail is delivered separately from the regular mail.
3 Chavos Yair 53.
4 307:24, quoting the Sefer ha-Chayim.
5 Responsa M'harsham 2:136, quoting the Shvus Yaakov 2:42.
6 M'harsham, ibid. and in Da'as Torah 247:1; Az Nidberu 3:36.
7 O.C. 60.
8 See Beiur Halachah 307:2, who quotes this Chasam Sofer and
from the Rashba it seems that this is not so, that even during the week it
is prohibited. But see Zichron Yosef 97 (quoted in Machazeh Eliyahu 37)
who explains that there is no contradiction between the Rashba and the
ruling of the Chasam Sofer.
9 Mishneh Sachir 73 quoting M'harshag. See also Chasam Sofer C.M.
10 Pri Megadim 247:3 according to the explanation of Machazeh
11 Possibly, this argument could be advanced to include employees
private company as well.
12 See Minchas Yitzchak 6:18, who is hesitant about permitting
although the author says that many people are lenient.
13 Mishnah Berurah 307:56.
14 See Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 307:66.
15 Mishnah Berurah, ibid. and Beiur Halachah who explains that
letter is not a keli and therefore subject to the prohibition of muktzeh,
it is nevertheless permitted to carry since one can use a letter to cover
a bottle (or as a bookmark). Harav S.Z. Auerbach (printed responsum in
Sefer Tiltulei Shabbos, pg. 13) rules that even nowadays one can rely on
this. Igros Moshe O.C. 5:21-5; 22:5 does not agree with this leniency.
Harav Y.S. Elyashiv is also hesitant about this (see Shalmei Yehudah 12,
16 Igros Moshe O.C. 1:112; Seridei Eish 2:28; Minchas Yitzchak
Shevet ha-Levi 5:45; Tzitz Eliezer 7:30. [While a minority opinion permits
using toothpaste - see Ketzos ha-Shulchan (Badei ha-Shulchan 138:31),
Yabia Omer 4:28 and Nefesh ha-Rav, pg. 168 - it is universally accepted
not to do so.]
17 See Minchas Shelomo 2:35:3.
18 Based on Mishnah Berurah 327:10.
19 Minchas Yitzchak 3:50.
20 Igros Moshe, ibid.; Shevet ha-Levi, ibid.
21 Igros Moshe, ibid.
22 For a halachic definition of what "immediately" means, see pgs.
23 Igros Moshe (O.C. 4:74, Tochen 2) and Yechaveh Da'as 5:27 rule
mashing is not synonymous with grinding; grinding is only when an item is
ground into tiny particles, like flour, not when it is mashed into one [or
several] large - albeit very soft - piece. Chazon Ish (O.C. 57) strongly
disagrees and maintains that mashing is a more serious transgression than
24 Mishnah Berurah 321:45 quotes both views and does not object to
who follow the lenient opinion. Many other poskim also rule leniently (see
Pri Megadim, Shulchan Aruch Harav, Aruch ha-Shulchan and Igros Moshe
ibid.), while Chazon Ish (O.C. 57) disagrees and prohibits grinding and
mashing even when done immediately before the meal. See also Kitzur
Shulchan Aruch 80:21 who rules stringently.
25 Many poskim, including Mishnah Berurah (321:25), Chazon Ish
and Igros Moshe (O.C. 4:74, Tochen 2), rule leniently on this issue. But
several others maintain that grinding abnormally is only permitted when
done immediately prior to the meal; (Kaf ha-Chayim 321:37, quoting Olas
Shabbos; Aruch ha-Shulchan 321:12; Eglei Tal, Tochen 30, 5).
26 It is difficult, however, to rely on the argument that mashing
grinding, since Igros Moshe himself seems to rely on this argument only
when the mashing is done right before the meal. See also Shevet ha-Levi
7:92 who disproves Igros Moshe's ruling from Rabbeinu Chananel.