Wednesday, Feb 1, 2023

Yevamos 43: Not That Cup of Tea 

On this daf, we find a leniency permitted in honor of Shabbos.

There was once a talmid chochom who had exhausted himself with his intense Torah study. He decided to travel far into Czarist Russia to rest up for a while. During his first Shabbos away from home, he saw something very disturbing. People would put tea leaves into a cup and pour scalding hot water from a kli rishon into the cup. He couldn’t believe his eyes. “Do you know that what you did just now is a chiyuv sekilah if done b’meizid in front of witnesses after being warned?”

No one could explain what was behind this practice, but they told him that it was a fairly common custom they had learned from their fathers before them.

Before he left, someone claimed that the factories where this particular type of tea was produced would pour boiling water on them during production. Therefore, it was permitted to pour water on them from a kli rishon on Shabbos, since we hold that there is no bishul after bishul has already taken place.

This talmid chochom did his utmost to check how European tea was processed, but he couldn’t get a clear enough idea. He consulted with the Binyon Tzion, a great posek of that time, telling him the entire story. The Binyon Tzion said, “You were certainly correct to worry. Tea leaves are not cooked before they are marketed. Clearly, it is forbidden to pour hot water on them unless one cooks them before Shabbos. Unfortunately, many G-d-fearing people do not realize this and unknowingly transgress Shabbos. It is a mitzvah to show them the error of their ways.

“You were incorrect when you said that pouring hot water on a cup of tea leaves on Shabbos could be a chiyuv sekilah, however. The minimum measurement for which one is chayiv sekilah for cooking is the size of a grogros. The amount of tea leaves cooked by this water is surely less than that, so at least they do not violate this most serious transgression” (Shu”t Binyon Tzion, siman 17).

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