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Pesachim 11


QUESTION: The Gemara cites a Mishnah in Maseches Shabbos (29b) which says that according to the Chachamim, it is prohibited to place a reed or other receptacle containing oil with a hole in it above a burning flame in order for the oil to drip into the lamp on Shabbos. The Chachamim feared that a person might be tempted to take oil from it on Shabbos, transgressing an Isur d'Oraisa. What Melachah will he perform by removing oil from the container? RASHI explains that he will be performing the Melachah of Mechabeh, extinguishing a flame.

What does Rashi mean? How is one extinguishing the flame in the lamp by removing oil from a container which is dripping into the lamp? If it is because one is indirectly causing the flame in the lamp to go out sooner ("Geram Kibuy"), there is no reason to prohibit it, because we rule like the Rabanan (Shabbos 120a) who permit Geram Kibuy! (ROSH, Beitzah 2:17)


(a) The ROSH answers that this is not permitted like every other case of Geram Kibuy, because this act of Geram Kibuy is more severe than others. A normal case of Geram Kibuy involves placing earthenware pots full of water around a fire so that the water will extinguish the fire when the pots burst. That type of Geram Kibuy is permitted. Here, though, one is causing the fire to go out by removing its very fuel -- the oil. Removing the fire's fuel is a more direct act of extinguishing than placing something in the fire's path which will put out the fire. This act is indeed forbidden because of Mechabeh although it only causes the fire to go out sooner.

(b) TOSFOS (Beitzah 22a, DH veha'Mistapek) does not accept this logic and writes that one who removes oil from an oil lamp is not Chayav. He maintains that removing the fuel of a fire is a normal Geram Kibuy and is permitted. For this reason, he permits cutting (with a flame, so as not to make a Kli) the bottom half of a candle that is lit. Why, then, is it forbidden to take out oil from an oil lamp? Tosfos explains that at the very moment that one takes out oil from a lamp that is burning, in some small way the flame becomes smaller or weaker and one is Chayav for extinguishing.

According to Tosfos, why should it be forbidden to take oil from the container dripping into the lamp? The container itself is not burning; it merely holds the oil which drips into the lamp that is burning. How can removing its oil possibly affect the fire?

The TIFERES SHMUEL (on the Rosh in Beitzah) explains that according to Tosfos, the fear is that one will remove *all* of the oil from the receptacle. By removing all of the oil, it will *immediately* stop dripping into the lamp, and thus the flame will be affected immediately. However, this is difficult to understand, because even when one removes all of the oil, one does not weaken the flame itself. One merely prevents the oil from being *added* to the lamp and strengthening the flame. Stopping the drip cannot lessen the existing fire in any measure.

Perhaps the Gemara is referring to a case where the oil in the receptacle drips directly into the oil lamp in such a way that there is a steady stream of oil (or an elongated drop of oil) bridging the two. When one removes oil, he might draw back that stream of oil minutely and lessen the amount of oil that supplies the flame in the lamp. This would effectively be the same as removing oil directly from the oil lamp itself, which, according to Tosfos, causes the flame to weaken.


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