Avodah Zarah 57 - Postponed Ruling about Wine

There was an incident in Nahardea in which a Jew and an idolater trod together wine belonging to a Jew. The hands of the idolater did not touch the wine, but his feet obviously did, and Shmuel postponed his ruling on the case until three festivals have passed. Why? It was customary for scholars to assemble at the academy on Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, and Shmuel waited to find a scholar who would know of a ruling that supported the decision he wanted to render. What could his decision have been?

There were three opinions on the matter, as follows: if an idol worshipper inserted his hand or foot to measure the wine, obviously not to make a libation, the majority says that it is prohibited for consumption but can be sold; Rabbi Nathan forbids if for benefit if it was touched by hand, but not by foot; Rabbi Shimon allows it for consumption.

If Shmuel wanted to rule as majority, he did not need any support. He could not rule it forbidden like Rabbi Nathan - because Rabbi Nathan never forbade it when touched by foot. It must therefore be that Shmuel wanted to rule it allowed for consumption like Rabbi Shimon, but needed additional support for this minority opinion.

Art: John Rogers Herbert - "The Wine That Maketh Glad The Heart Of Man" Psalm 104