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

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

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 Law Regarding a Woman Who Forgets to Recite the Blessings of the Torah

We have explained in the previous Halacha that if one forgets to recites the Blessings of the Torah and only realizes this after one has concluded Shacharit prayers, one may no longer recite these blessings, for one has already fulfilled his obligation with the “Ahavat Olam” blessing rec......

Read Halacha


The Order for Lighting Shabbat and Chanukah Candles

There is a disagreement among the Rishonim as to the order of lighting Shabbat and Chanukah candles on Erev Shabbat Chanukah. The Ba’al Halachot Gedolot (commonly referred to as “Behag”) is of the opinion that Chanukah candles must be lit before Shabbat candles because women cu......

Read Halacha

Washing Dishes on Shabbat Night and Pouring Water on Dirty Dishes

Question: Upon the conclusion of the Shabbat night meal, may one immediately wash the dishes for the Shabbat day meal or should this only be done during the day closer to the start of the meal? Also, is it permissible to pour water onto soiled dishes (which one no longer needs for Shabbat) so that i......

Read Halacha

The Law Regarding One Who Forgets to Recite the Morning Blessings

The Morning Blessings (“Birkot Ha’Shachar”) are the blessings recited every morning beginning from the “Elohai Neshama” blessing until the end of the Blessings of the Torah. Both men and women must recite these blessings, as we have discussed in the laws of the Morning ......

Read Halacha

Question: May one recite the Amida prayer in front of a curtain (covering the Aron Kodesh) which is adorned with various designs?

Answer: The Rambam writes in one of his responses (Freiman edition, Chapter 20): “It is incorrect to pray in front of garments with designs on them, even if the designs are not protruding. We usually close our eyes when it happens that we must pray in front of a wall or garment adorned with de......

Read Halacha