What is the case of a burning thrown object?

The mishnah in Shabbos (102a) states that if one throws an object on Shabbos, forgetting that it's Shabbos, and it never reaches its intended target, he is not liable. One of the examples given is an object which is burned before it lands.

What is the case? If it's on fire before he throws it, it should be a life-and-death situation for which one is not liable - even for intentionally breaking Shabbos, and certainly if he forgot that it was Shabbos.

If it was on fire after he let go of it, then still, what is the case? Regardless of if the fire was from someone who knew it was Shabbos, someone who didn't know it was Shabbos, a fire that was conveniently placed there, or a random cow that was running wild because it was on fire, if the object is extremely air resistant, there's no chance that it could have been thrown (you try throwing a flat sheet of paper). If the object is able to be thrown, from as far as I'm able to tell, assuming the objet is able to be burned, it will always hit the ground before it finishes burning.

So what is the case of the Mishnah where someone throws something and it's burned before it hits the ground?

• ⚡ Lightning strike! ⚡ – Double AA Jan 15 '18 at 21:03
• "If it's on fire before he throws it, it should be a life-and-death situation for which one is not liable" I don't understand this. What is the danger here? – Double AA Jan 15 '18 at 21:04
• @DoubleAA ...that it will set him on fire? – DonielF Jan 15 '18 at 21:04
• Is it really Pikuach Nefesh to hold a burning object in your hand? You'll just get wounded a bit. And does he really need to throw it into a different domain? – Double AA Jan 15 '18 at 21:05
• Maybe someone threw a bird over the head of Yonasan ben Uziel. – msh210 Jan 15 '18 at 21:35

1 Answer

The answer is that it doesn't matter what the case is exactly. The Talmud is not responsible to provide an exact scenario.

However! It's your lucky day, because the Talmud (ibid.) provides a perfect scenario for you! Here it is:

אמר רבה הזרק ונחה בפי הכלב או בפי הכבשן חייב והאנן ותנן קלטה אחר או קלטה הכלב או שנשרפה פטור התם דלא מכוין הכא דקא מכוין

The case is, if you throw the item into a furnace! So there you have it.

• I do disagree with your opening line, though. All the time the Gemara says היכי דמי. – DonielF Jan 16 '18 at 2:05
• Thanks for the vote. I stand by my statement, I believe היכי דמי is asked when there can be a follow up question (as in your case, where you attempted to show a real problem with any case being possible...) – heshy Jan 16 '18 at 2:11