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

Lighting the Chanukah Candles

The Mitzvah of Lighting Chanukah Candles There is a Mitzvah to light Chanukah candles throughout all eight nights of Chanukah (beginning from next Thursday night). The Sephardic custom is to light one set of Chanukah candles per house. The Ashkenazi custom, however, is that every member of the hous......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Women Regarding the “Melaveh Malka” Meal

In the previous Halacha we have explained that one should put forth an effort to eat The fourth Shabbat meal, which is also known as the “Melaveh Malka” meal, which is held on Motza’ei Shabbat to escort out the Shabbat Queen and to retain blessing for the rest of the meals of the w......

Read Halacha

Melaveh Malka

Question: Is one obligated to eat bread on Motza’ei Shabbat for the fourth Shabbat meal which is also referred to as “Melaveh Malka” (meal escorting out the Shabbat Queen)? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (119b) tells us that one should always set one’s table nicely......

Read Halacha

Moving an Electric Blanket or Fan on Shabbat

Question: May one use an electric blanket (heating pad) on Shabbat or is it prohibited to be moved due to the prohibition of Muktzeh? Similarly, may one turn a fan to another direction on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halachot we have discussed several laws of Muktzeh on Shabbat which are obje......

Read Halacha


A Tool Used for Work Prohibited on Shabbat

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the basic laws of Muktzeh on Shabbat which is that there are certain objects our Sages prohibited moving on Shabbat. Utensils or tools which are used for types of work that are permitted on Shabbat may be moved for any purpose. Thus, one may move forks, kn......

Read Halacha

“Muktzeh Due to Monetary Loss”

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed several laws regarding Muktzeh which are certain objects that our Sages prohibited moving on Shabbat. As of yet, we have discussed three types of Muktzeh: “Utensils used for work permitted on Shabbat”, such as forks, knives, and the like, wh......

Read Halacha

The Customary Order of Rosh Hashanah

It is customary to eat certain symbolic foods during the two nights of Rosh Hashanah which signify good fortune for the entire upcoming year. It is therefore customary to eat black-eyed peas, pumpkin, leek, spinach, dates, pomegranates, apples dipped in honey, and meat of a sheep’s head on the......

Read Halacha

Uncertainty About a Life-Threatening Situation

Question: If one desecrates Shabbat on behalf of an ill person and it turns out that the action one performed that desecrated the Shabbat was actually unnecessary, does one require atonement for this transgression? Answer: If one desecrated Shabbat for no good reason, such as driving on Shabbat u......

Read Halacha