Shabbat 44 - A new lamp, but not the old one

A new clean lamp may be handled on Shabbat. Since one can use it for something else, like storing objects, it is not considered, "muktzeh," or set aside. However, once it has been used, it becomes dirty, and one cannot store anything in it. True, it is usable as a lamp, but kindling it is exactly what is prohibited on Shabbat. It follows then that a used lamp may not be handled on Shabbat.

The above is the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah, who takes the concept of muktzeh very expansively. Rabbi Shimon, however, permits all lamps to be moved on Shabbat,  except for the one that is actually burning on Shabbat - lest he extinguish the flame.

Rabbi Meir's is an in-between opinion: if the lamp was burning when Shabbat started on Friday night, it remains muktzeh even when the flame goes out, and should not be handled the whole day. Rabbi Elazar the son of Rabbi Shimon takes the opinion of his father further, and he permits carrying a lamp that is actually burning. One just have to be careful not to extinguish it.

How could there be such a difference of opinions on the laws of muktzeh? When the law was formulated by the Sages, it was unambiguous! Even the eventual loss in the learning capacity over the generations could not explain such a variety?! - True, and when the law was initially formulated, it was the most strict version. However, it was not accepted by the majority of the people, and was later repealed, and the argument is how far did this process reach.

Art: Gerrit Dou - A young woman with a lamp