As we have learned (daf 95), a borrower will not be obligated to pay damages for an animal as long as the owner is with him. Furthermore we learned that this rule applies only if the owner was hired before the animal was borrowed or if both relationships were created simultaneously. If, however, the animal was borrowed first and the owner was only hired later on, then the borrower will be held liable for anything that happens to the animal, even if the owner is working for the borrower at that point in time.
Based on this teaching, Rava has a suggestion for borrowers. Rava recommends that a borrower who does not want to be fully responsible to the owner for anything that happens to the animal should ask the owner to pour a glass of water for him. If he takes possession of the animal while the owner is pouring the water, it will be considered she’ilah ba-be’alim (borrowing while the owner is working for him) and the borrower will not be obligated by the normal laws of borrowing. Rava further suggests that a smart owner will respond by saying “first let us complete our business transaction, and them I will pour for you.” By doing this, the borrower is fully obligated to the owner.
One of the questions raised by the commentaries regarding this law is that it appears to be obvious. Why does Rava need to teach it to us?
One answer that is offered suggests that it was not novel, but rather practical advice being offered by Rava for the benefit of borrowers, who could use this simple method to save themselves from being responsible for ones – accidents that cannot be controlled. The Ritva suggests that the Gemara brings it to teach that even a minimal act of work like pouring water is considered to be a case of she’ilah ba-be’alim.