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Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, "An Analysis of Darchei HaLimud Centering on a Cup of Tea"

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, May 1999

Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL, 60659



An Analysis of Darchei HaLimud (Methodologies of Talmud Study) Centering on a Cup of Tea

I am attempting to define the differences between the

major classical Darchei Halimud in the 19th-20th century Yeshiva

world, focusing on a well known jest. This is an albeit

light-hearted, but hopefully illustrative example.

In Brisk they would mockingly say that in Telshe one would

klerr (analyze) the following chakira (problem):

What makes tea sweet, is it the sugar or the spoon


Now, the truth is that in Telshe, there were two derachim,

that of Reb Chaim Rabinovitz (Reb Chaim Telzer) and that of Reb

Yosef Leib Bloch & Reb Shimon Shkop. This chakira captures the

hallmark of the former (Reb Chaim Telzer’s) derech – Contingencies –

but not the latter, which we’ll explore later.

Let us now go through how the various darchei halimud

would approach this important conundrum:

Brisker Derech: Intrinsic Categorization and Definition – There

are two (tzvei) dinim in sweetening tea: The cheftza (substance),

i.e., the sugar; and the pe’ula (activity), i.e., the stirring

with the spoon. Everyone knows that Lipton is the “Brisk” tea

bacause it has a double (tzvei dinim) tea bag.

Poilisher Derech: Brilliant Novelty (pilpul) – Neither. It is the

tea itself, as the heichi timtsei (sine qua non – medium) for

making the tea sweet,which makes the tea sweet, for if there was

no tea, there would be no sweet tea either.

The Rogatchover’s Derech: Combination of the Two Previous Derachim

There are three dinim in sweetening the tea: The cheftza, the

peu’la and the niph’al (the impacted entity), i.e., the tea


Hungarian Derech: Extrinsic Resolution – Since wine is sweet and

it is not stirred, it follows that the stirring is not what makes

the tea sweet, but the sugar.

Reb Yosef Leib & Reb Shimon’s Derech: Abstraction to an Essence –

It is the Hitztarfus (Fusion) of tea molecules and sugar molecules

that makes the tea sweet.

Sephardi Derech: Uncomplicated Grasp – The Sephardi would walk

away from the argument that the six Ashkenazim were engaged in

over the tea shaking his head in disbelief about how silly these

Ashkenazim were – obviously the sugar stirred into the tea is what

makes the tea sweet!

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