The question is asked in Halacha whether it is permissible to subscribe to a newspaper or periodical that is delivered to a person’s house on Shabbat or Yom Tov. This is a question that was discussed by many poskim throughout the generations. Most recently, the Be’er Moshe, the Rabbi of Debritsin in his Responsa (Vol. 6:66) rules that this is clearly a major Halachic problem. It is prohibited for a non-Jew to perform melacha for a Jew on Shabbat, at the request of the Jew. When one subscribes to a newspaper, he is directing them to deliver the paper seven days a week. That constitutes a direct instruction to deliver the paper on Shabbat. The Be’er Moshe discusses the fact that the publisher prints extra newspapers regardless of how many subscriptions there are. Therefore, they are not printing on Shabbat specifically for the Jewish subscriber. Nevertheless, while the printing may not be clearly problematic, the delivery certainly is. The fact that the delivery boy is going out of his way to the Jew’s address at the request of the Jew is a problem. Even though the paper is delivered the rest of the week, it is still prohibited. He continues to wonder why the Rabbis are not speaking about this problem. Everyone mistakenly thinks that it is okay. He bemoans this fact and says he was once walking to shul on Shabbat and saw a religious man in his pajamas open his front door and bring in the newspaper. He probably went back to bed and read the newspaper, not realizing that this is clearly a violation of Shabbat. One might ask what the difference is between a newspaper subscription and delivery of mail on Shabbat. The answer is that the Jew does not instruct the postal worker to come on Shabbat. He is doing it on his own. However, when it comes to a newspaper, the Jew tells him to come on Shabbat. The only way to allow a subscription that comes on Shabbat would be to make a condition with the company and say that he is not interested in delivery on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. If they decide to send it anyway, that’s their business.
Summary: It is prohibited to have a newspaper subscription which is delivered on Shabbat, unless one stipulates to the publisher that he does not want delivery on Shabbat and Jewish Holidays.
By Rabbi Eli Mansour
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