Halacha for Monday 20 Av 5780 August 10 2020

Some Detailed Laws Regarding the Mitzvah of Making a Railing

Approximately two years ago, we have discussed the general parameters of the verse, “And you shall make a railing for your roof and you shall not place blood in your home.” This refers to building a gate or fence around the roof of one’s home so that one does not fall off of it. This is indeed a Torah commandment.

A Positive and Negative Commandment
One who does not build a railing around one’s roof transgresses a negative Torah commandment, besides for nullifying a positive Torah commandment, as the verse states, “And you shall not place blood in your home.”

Walking on a Roof that Does Not Have a Railing
The Poskim discuss whether or not it is permissible to go up to a roof that has no railing around it. We find no mention in the words of the Rishonim or Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch about such a prohibition, as they only discuss the Mitzvah to affix such a railing. Indeed, Hagaon Harav Betzalel Stern zt”l discussed this in his Responsa Betzel Ha’Kessef and provides several sources that prove that there is no such prohibition as long as one takes great care walking around on the roof. The Yalkut Yosef (Sova Semachot, Volume 1) rules likewise.

Residential Properties
The Torah only obligates one to install a railing on the roof of a “home,” i.e. a property that is used for continuous residential purposes, such as homes, buildings, hotels, and the like. However, properties used for storage and the like where people do not reside do not require railings around their roofs. Similarly, roofs of barns and the like do not require a railing around them.

Occasional Usage
The Torah only obligates one to install a railing around roofs that are used occasionally, such as if one stores things on the roof. However, slanted roofs do not require a railing around them since these roofs are not used at all and even when people climb up there infrequently, it is only to fix the tiles to prevent water from leaking into the house. This is indeed the prevalent Jewish custom all over the world.

The Rashba writes in one of his responses that the prevalent custom in Spain was not install railings around their roofs because they are not meant for use and people only go up there to fix it and plaster it. The Aruch Ha’Shulchan (quoted by the Yalkut Yosef) likewise writes that slanted roofs that are unfit for use do not require a railing.

Nevertheless, level roofs, especially when used for hanging clothing, storage, and the like, require a railing according to Halacha.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Sucking On a Fruit

Question: If one sucks on an orange or a grapefruit but does not chew it with one’s teeth, must one recite the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” like on other fruits or should one recite the “Shehakol” blessing like one would when drinking other fruit juices? Answer: Indeed,......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Precedence Regarding Blessings (Continued)

In the previous Halacha we have explained that there are instances that priority is given to recite a blessing upon a certain food over another because of the innate significance of the given food, for instance, because it is a fruit that belongs to the Seven Species of fruits that the Land of Israe......

Read Halacha

Making Toast on a Hotplate on Shabbat

Question: May one place a pita or a slice of bread on a hotplate on Shabbat in order to turn it into hard and crunchy toast? Answer: There are two prohibitions we must discuss with regards to our question of making toast on Shabbat out of bread that was already baked before Shabbat. The first ......

Read Halacha

Precedence Regarding the Order of Blessings (Continued)

Summary of the Laws Explained Thus Far In the previous Halachot we have explained that there is an order of priority regarding blessings, sometimes because of the innate importance of the food and sometimes due to the importance of the blessing. Priority of “Boreh Peri Ha’etz”......

Read Halacha


The Laws of the Blessing on Fruits

In the previous Halachot we have explained that there is an order of priority regarding blessings. Thus, if one wishes to partake of apples and dates, one must recite the blessing on the dates, for they are one of the Seven Species. Precedence Regarding Blessing-Only Preferable Maran Ha’Be......

Read Halacha

Sitting on Food Items

Question: Is it correct that one may not sit on top of a box containing food or beverages? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (50b) states that it is forbidden to act in a degrading manner towards food. Thus, one may not, for instance, use a piece of cake to wipe up a drink that spilled on t......

Read Halacha

Salting Cucumbers on Shabbat

Question: Is it correct that one may not put salt on cucumbers on Shabbat? Answer: The root of this question lies in the fact that with regards to many Torah laws, we rule that “pickling is tantamount to cooking” meaning that a pickled food is considered like a cooked food. Thus, just......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Precedence Regarding Blessings

On the night of Tu Bishvat, which will fall out this coming Wednesday night, it is customary to eat a variety of fruits. We shall therefore learn the proper order of the Blessings of Enjoyment during the coming days. We should point out that these laws are fairly simple but we will need to discus......

Read Halacha