In "Ethics from Sinai", his brilliant, three-volume treatise on Pirkei Avot, Reb Irving M. Bunim Z”TL writes the following in his commentary to Perek VI, Mishnah 7:
“So the Talmud tells how Shemayah and Avtaylon found Hillel one Sabbath morning atop the skylight of their beis midrash, covered by over five feet of snow. They removed the snow, brought him down to the fire, warmed him and restored his health and spirit. Had his life not been at stake, their actions would thus have been a dreadful violation of the Sabbath.”
The footnote for this passage indicates that the source of it is Yoma 35b.
I am at a loss to see what would be the desecration of Shabbat had this not have been a matter of pikuach nefesh. Obviously if Shemayah and Avtaylon and/or others had made a fire to warm Hillel, it would be a clear Shabbat violation. But the passage does not indicate that. Indeed, it seems to imply that the fire was already burning.
Perhaps Reb Bunim extracted only a portion of this incident from Yoma 35b. But there exists more at that source which reveals the “dreadful violation” that he cites.
I would be very grateful for any insight on this issue. Am I missing something in the words of Reb Bunim? If so, what is the Shabbat violation? Or is there additional language at Yoma 35b that shows the Shabbat desecration?
MANY THANKS for any assistance. (posting from Israel)