Halacha for Wednesday 26 Iyar 5780 May 20 2020

An After-Blessing After Drinking Tea or Coffee-An Incident Involving Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l

In the previous Halacha we have discussed the basic laws of reciting an after-blessing after drinking a beverage in that as long as has drunk a Revi’it (approximately 81 cc or 2.8 fluid ounces) of the beverage in one shot (in a continuous manner without interruption between gulps), one recites the “Boreh Nefashot” blessing after drinking the beverage. However, if one drinks less than a Revi’it or if one drinks a Revi’it of the beverage slowly, in several sips, one does not recite any after-blessing.

Based on the above, it would seem clear that if one drinks a Revi’it of hot tea or coffee in one shot, such as when the tea or coffee cools off and this becomes possible, one should certainly recite an after-blessing after drinking just like any other beverage.

Nevertheless, this is not so simple, for we have explained above that the amount one must drink in order to become obligated to recite an after-blessing is contingent upon the way most people drink the given beverage. Since most people do not drink coffee cold (we are not discussing iced coffee at this point), Hagaon Chida writes that this persons actions “are voided by the actions of most of humanity” and one will not recite any after-blessing at all, for this is not the normal manner in which most people enjoy tea or coffee. Although this is subject to a disagreement among the Poskim, many Acharonim concur with the opinion of Maran Ha’Chida and write that the custom some have of allowing their tea or coffee to cool off so that they can drink a Revi’it of it in one shot and recite an after-blessing is an improper custom, for they have gained nothing by doing so and this blessing is a possible blessing in vain.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l delves deeply into this manner as well and rules in accordance with the opinion of Hagaon Chida that if one drinks (black) coffee in one shot, one should not recite an after-blessing, for this is not the usual way to drink coffee. Nevertheless, with regards to tea which many people allow to cool off so they can drink it quickly to quench their thirst, one cannot claim that this is not the way most people drink tea; thus, if one’s tea has cooled off and one has drunk a Revi’it of the tea in one shot, one should recite an after-blessing.

It seems that the same would apply to coffee with some milk mixed into it and has cooled off somewhat in that since many people drink coffee quickly in such a manner since it is not so hot, if one drinks a Revi’it of the coffee in one shot, one should recite an after-blessing after drinking. Nevertheless, if one adds only a small amount of milk such that the coffee is still hot and can only be sipped slowly and one has drunk the entire coffee in this manner (as opposed to drinking a Revi’it in one shot towards the end of the cup once it has significantly cooled off), one will not recite an after-blessing in this manner.

Let us now relate an amazing story related to this issue: Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l would walk every day from his home to the Yeshiva where he taught. For many years, he would pass on his way a Café which would serve coffee to people seated on tables outside alongside the sidewalk. Hagaon Harav Auerbach paid attention that whenever someone was served coffee, he was also served a glass of cold water along with it. (This was done because this is how coffee is served in many elegant coffee houses around the world, especially in France.)

One day many years later, a son-in-law of Hagaon Harav Auerbach, Hagaon Harav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg Shlit”a, began discussing the subject matter we are currently dealing with (reciting an after-blessing after drinking coffee) with his teacher, Hagaon Harav Auerbach. After analyzing the subject in great detail, Hagaon Harav Auerbach exclaimed, “Look at what a nice custom they have in the Café I pass on my way to the Yeshiva every day. Because they are concerned with the opinion of the Poskim that one must recite an after-blessing after drinking coffee, they also serve a glass of cold water so that the customers can recite an after-blessing according to all opinions!”

Indeed, Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was known to be extremely keen and not naïve at all; however, because of his tremendous righteousness, love of his fellow Jew, and the Torah which he constantly toiled in, he genuinely could not think of any other reason for why one would serve a glass of cold water along with coffee besides for the fact that the Café owner was concerned with the opinion of the Poskim that one must recite an after-blessing after drinking coffee!

Based on this incident with Hagaon Harav Auerbach zt”l we can infer that of one wishes to act stringently in accordance with all opinions, one should drink a Revi’it of water (in one shot) along with one’s coffee in which case one may recite an after-blessing according to all opinions and in this way, one shall truly be blessed.

Summary: If one drinks a Revi’it of coffee with milk or tea which have cooled off in one shot, one should recite an after-blessing of “Boreh Nefashot Rabbot” after drinking. However, if one drinks a very hot beverage or black coffee (which is not usually drunk cold), even if one drinks a Revi’it in one shot, since most people do not drink in this manner, one should not recite an after-blessing after drinking.

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