Study and Distraction - Shabbat 3
Today’s page continues the discussion of the boundaries between public and private. If a hand may transport an object from public to private, as the Mishnah example says it can, does that mean the hand has an intermediate status between public and private? And if one picks up something and moves it from one realm to another, may one put it down again until the end of Shabbat? Must it be done unknowingly to be exempt? Much of the debate revolves around four categories of rabbinic law: liable [khayav] or exempt [patur] for a sin offering for doing X, and X being permitted [mutar] or forbidden [asur] to do. In fact, for rabbinic decisions some actions can be exempt from sin offerings but still forbidden to do – we would say, strongly recommended against.
The most interesting piece of the page is a short anecdote that gives us insight into the creative process of the Talmud itself. Rab asks Rabbi a question about a case like the above, which Rabbi answers correctly, but Rab is admonished by Rabbi Hiyya – when a rabbi is studying one tractate, don’t distract him with questions about another! Because rabbinic teachings in this period were based on memory and oral recitation, this makes sense. To read behind the admonishment, when Rab asked his question and Rabbi gave his answer to this situation, they were actually discussing something totally different. This tangential comment was remembered and passed down as part of the teachings on Shabbat, even though it was thought of in the course of studying something else.
Rabbi Adam Chalom