QUESTION: The Mishnah (147a) states that it is permitted for two or more
people to carry a wet towel. One person, though, may not carry a wet towel.
We are afraid that he will forget it is Shabbos and squeeze it out since
there is no one there to remind him not to.
Rebbi Shimon (in the Beraisa) argues and permits even one person to carry a
wet towel. To demonstrate that Rebbi also maintains that one person may
carry a wet towel, the Gemara records an incident in which Rebbi states
that when he was a Talmid of Rebbi Shimon, "We used to carry the towel to a
spring where we would wash" and carry the towel back afterwards.
How does this prove that Rebbi maintains that one person may carry a towel?
Rebbi said, "*We* used to carry the towel...!" Contrary to the point that
the Gemara is trying to prove, Rebbi's statement seems to demonstrate that
it is only permitted to carry a towel when one carries it *with* someone
ANSWER: TOSFOS (DH d'Tanya) explains that when Rebbi said, "'We' used to
carry back the towel," he meant that *each Talmid* took a turn to accompany
Rebbi Shimon to the spring, and when the turn of each Talmid came, that
individual would carry back the towel by himself. (It would certainly not
have been respectful to carry it together *with* the Rebbi). "We" means
that all of the Talmidim carried back the towel, each one by himself when
his turn came. (It seems from the words of Tosfos that those who argue with
Rebbi Shimon maintain that it is not sufficient for one person to carry the
towel *accompanied* by someone else. Instead, *both* people must be holding
the towel together.)
How does the Gemara know to interpret Rebbi's statement "We" as meaning
"When each one's turn came?"
(a) Tosfos explains that it was not proper etiquette for more than one
Talmid to go with the master when he went to wash.
(b) The RITVA explains that if two or more Talmidim would have carried back
the towel together, it would have been a disgrace to Rebbi Shimon (who
maintained that one person may carry it by himself).
(c) The RITVA adds that since Rebbi made a point of relating this conduct
of the Talmidim, he must be teaching us something with it. It must be that
he meant they carried the towel individually, and he is teaching us that he
agrees to the ruling of Rebbi Shimon.