Through Thick and Thin - Shabbat 42
Today’s page is, unfortunately, one of the thinner ones. In English translation, one can tell how detailed the halakhic wrangling is by the relative sizes of the Talmud text and its commentators – the more contentious the issue, the more later commentators like Rashi or the Tosafists had to say on the subject. Thus the more surrounding commentary was created for that particular page, and less original Talmud text could fit there. The pages we have found most interesting have been those anecdotal or ethical texts that have had less commentary and more original material.
A central issue in today’s page, continuing the discussion of “indirectly heated materials on Shabbat” is how to handle water that has been boiling on a stove – for example, Beit Shammai [the house/school of Shammai] claims that one may pour hot water into cold (thus cooling it), while one may not pour cool water into hot (thus heating it). Beit Hillel, on the other hand, would allow one to pour hot into cool or cool into hot. The Talmud clarifies that this permission applied only to a drink, but not to something as substantial as a bath. Then it debates if a basin is more like a bath or a cup. Since pouring into another container is one more step removed, the rabbis are more permissive here than they were with indirectly-heated ovens. In short, this is not likely to be a legal debate that will shape global ethical behavior. But tomorrow’s promises to be much more interesting. . .
Rabbi Adam Chalom