Shabbat 116 - Eighty-five letters

What is the smallest book in the Torah? - Rabbi Yehudah the Prince says that it is the phrase " When the Ark went forth, Moses said, 'Arise, O God, and scatter your enemies! Let your foes flee before You!'... '" which contains eighty-five letters. If this phrase is indeed a separate book, then the Book of Numbers contains not one but three books - before this phrase, after it, and the phrase itself, and the total number of the books in the Torah is seven.

Accordingly, Rav Huna asked a question, "A Torah scroll where many letters were erased and only eighty-five letters are intact, can it be saved from fire on Shabbat?" There is no doubt that a worn-out scrolls with even less letters deserves respect and cannot be destroyed directly but has to be "buried" in a clean place, and if it decays, it decays. The question is, can it be saved from fire? Rav Chisda answered that it was not permitted, and they started arguments back and forth.

A related question: the side margins of the Torah scroll, may they be saved from fire? Do we say that the scroll that had letters - once the letters have been erased - looses its sanctity and may not be saved, but the margins, which never had letters, are more sanctified and may be saved? Or the other way around, if the letters once were there, then the sanctity persists, but not if they were never there? Here too the views are divided.

Art: John Dawson Watson - Fireside Thoughts