RECENT DAF YOMI COLUMNS by Adam Kirsh at Tablet Magazine:
Writing last week about the Talmud’s rule that you cannot extinguish a fire on Shabbat, I noted that presumably an exception must be made for saving human life. I didn’t have to wait long to see how the rabbis approached this question, since it turned out to be one of the major themes of this week’s Daf Yomi reading. When it comes to sick people, women in childbirth, and even suffering animals, the rabbis make clear in Shabbat 128b, the usually strict rules of Shabbat observance can be relaxed or even violated.
That praise of Shabbat, typically, comes in the course of a technical discussion about a new area of Shabbat law. What kinds of things can be saved from a fire on Shabbat? This is the main subject of Chapter 16, which proceeds on the assumption—never explicitly stated—that it is forbidden to extinguish a fire on Shabbat, since that is one of the 39 melachot. Presumably the law makes an exception for saving human life, always a chief Talmudic value, but the issue doesn’t come up directly. Instead, the chapter begins with a mishnah about something almost as crucial: Is it permitted to put out a fire in order to save “sacred writings”?
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.