The Gemara tells a story about Rabbi Oshaya’s daughter-in-law who went to the public baths (which were situated outside the 2,000 ama boundary around the city) on Friday afternoon. She apparently lost track of time, and had not left as Shabbat was approaching. When Rabbi Oshaya’s wife realized what was happening, she quickly arranged an eiruv tehumim on her behalf – whose boundaries reached to the bath house – so that she would be allowed to return home even after Shabbat began.
When this story got around, it caused some disagreement. Rabbi Hiyya said that it was forbidden. Rabbi Yishmael the son of Rabbi Yosei responded “You Babylonian! Why are you so stringent regarding the laws of eiruvin? Don’t you know that we look to be as lenient as possible with regard to these halakhot?”
And a dilemma was raised before the Sages: Did the mother-in-law establish the eiruv for her daughter-in-law with the mother-in-law’s food, and Rabbi Hiyya prohibited it because she did not confer possession to her, i.e., she merely prepared the eiruv but did not confer possession of the food, and an eiruv of this kind is not effective? Or perhaps she established the eiruv for her with the daughter-in-law’s own food, but the eiruv was invalid because it was prepared without her knowledge?
One of the amoraim was charged with presenting this question on his next trip to Israel to Rav Ya’akov bar Idi who lived near Sulama d’Tzur (the Ladder of Tyre), even though it meant that he would need to detour in order to ask the question. When he did so, Rav Ya’akov bar Idi explained that the problem was that Rabbi Oshaya’s wife had not transferred ownership properly to her daughter-in-law through an agent as is necessary.
This map shows the two paths that could be taken from Babylon to Israel. Traveling through Damascus, the shortest route would be via the Golan and south to the Lower Galili. Alternatively, one could travel from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast, down to Acre and across the country to Tiberias. In order to reach Sulama d’Tzur the longer path had to be taken.
(For a discussion of the geographic placement of Sulama d’Tzur, see Eiruvin 22).