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!