[Avodah] Is there a permissible way to make tea with a tea bag on Shabbos?

Prof. L. Levine llevine at stevens.edu
Tue Jul 5 05:34:52 PDT 2022

>From today's OU Kosher Halacha Yomis

Q. Is there a permissible way to make tea with a tea bag on Shabbos?

A. It is certainly forbidden to place a tea bag on Shabbos into a kli rishon (a utensil that was on the fire), or to pour hot water on a tea bag from a kli rishon (e.g., from an urn or tea kettle), since this will cook the tea. Furthermore, the Mishnah Berurah (318:39) writes that tea leaves should be categorized as kalei ha’bishul (items that can cook easily). If so, placing them in a kli sheini (secondary vessel – such as water poured into a cup from a kettle) would be a Torah prohibition. The Aruch Hashulchan (318:28) writes that one may not even place tea leaves into a kli shlishi. Although the Mishnah Berurah does not clearly state that a tea bag may not be placed in a kli shlishi, he infers that is so; he writes that tea may not be prepared on Shabbos, and he does not offer kli shlishi as an option, as he does in other instances.  Many poskim, including Rav Elyashiv (Shvus Yitzchok – Bishul 29:7) and Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (1:57), write that one should be strict, as this involves the possibility of a Torah prohibition.

However, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe OC 4:74, Bishul 15) writes that he does not believe  that tea is kalei ha’bishul, and even if it were, he is not convinced that anything can be cooked in a kli shlishi. Some point out that the Pri Megadim (Aishel Avrohom 318:35) is seemingly lenient to allow placing tea into a kli shlishi, however, others read the Pri Megadim in a way that does not allow for this leniency. There are great poskim who line up on both sides of this disagreement, and everyone is encouraged to discuss this question with their own rabbi. [Note, there is also the issue of “borer and mishamer” that was discussed in previous halachos].

Professor Yitzchok Levine

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