Halacha for Monday 15 Iyar 5778 April 30 2018

A Railing Around the Roof of an Apartment Building

Question: I live in an apartment building. Can I compel the other tenants of the building to make a railing around the building’s roof?

Answer: In the previous Halacha, we have discussed the positive Torah commandment to build a railing for one’s roof so that no one falls from it.

The Rambam writes that one who does not build a railing around his roof has nullified the positive commandment of “And you shall make a railing for your roof” and has transgressed the negative Torah commandment of “And you shall not place blood in your home.”

Indeed, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch added a special Chapter at the end of his epic work, the Shulchan Aruch, where he explains the laws of building a railing and other laws regarding protecting one’s life; this is Chapter 427 of Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat, the final chapter of the Shulchan Aruch. There in Section 6, Maran writes as follows: “One who leaves one’s roof without a railing has nullified a positive commandment and transgressed a negative commandment, as the Torah states, ‘And you shall not place blood in your home.’”

Regarding a jointly-owned roof, such as the roof of every apartment building, it would seem that there is no obligation to build a railing around it, for the Torah states, “And you shall make a railing for your roof” and not “for the roof” which implies that the Torah only commands a private owner to make a railing for his own roof; however, a roof belonging to several partners should be exempt from this Mitzvah.

Nevertheless, the Rambam (Chapter 11 of Hilchot Rotze’ach U’Shmirat Nefesh) writes: “A house belonging to two partners is obligated in a railing, for the verse states, ‘When someone falls from it.’ We see that the Torah makes this Mitzvah contingent upon the individual who falls. If so, why does the Torah say ‘your roof’? This indeed comes to exclude synagogues and Houses of Study which are not meant for residential purposes.”

This means that the primary issue which establishes whether or not there is an obligation to build a railing is if there is a concern that someone may fall off the roof. The reason why the Torah uses the language of making a railing for “your roof” is in order to exclude synagogues and Houses of Study where there is no obligation to make a railing, for people do not dwell there on a permanent basis and the Torah only obligates one to do so for a house where people reside on a permanent basis. Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (ibid, Section 3) rules likewise.

Thus, one of the building’s tenants may certainly compel the rest of the tenants to build a railing around the roof (even without this reason, one tenant can compel the others since it is customary to build such a railing).

Summary: All of an apartment building’s tenants must participate in the cost of making a railing around the building’s roof so that no one falls off of it.

Ask the Rabbi

8 Halachot Most Popular

One Who Eats Less than a Kezayit of Bread With other Foods- The Halachic Pitfall Present in Some Halls

In the previous Halacha we have explained that one does not recite a blessing on foods eaten during a bread meal, for the “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz” blessing recited on the bread exempts them. We have also quoted the words of the Ritba who explains that this is not because of......

Read Halacha

Tu Bishvat Customs

Tonight, Sunday night, marks Tu Bishvat. There are unique customs observed on the night of Tu Bishvat, as we shall explain. The Prohibition of Fasting and the Customary Reading of the Zohar It is forbidden to fast on the day of Tu Bishvat. Some customarily hold an order of learning on the eve of......

Read Halacha

Mentioning Hashem’s Name in Invitations and Letters

Question: Is one permitted to write “ב"ה” (acronym for “Be’ezrat Hashem”) at the top of letters, adorn wedding invitations with verses, and the like or should one not do so out of concern that they may be thrown out into the waste basket, causing disgrace to Hashem......

Read Halacha

Eye Ailments on Shabbat

Our Sages teach us in the Gemara in Masechet Avodah Zarah (28b): “A man’s eyes are connected to his heart.” Thus, if we see that one’s eye is in danger, it is tantamount to revealing an ailment in the person’s heart and we must certainly rush to desecrate Shabbat in ord......

Read Halacha

Some Detailed Laws Regarding a Person Suffering from a Life-Threatening Condition on Shabbat

In the previous Halachot we have discussed that there is a Mitzvah to desecrate Shabbat for one whose life is in danger such as to transport him to the hospital, turn on a light in order to afford him proper treatment, and the like. We shall now discuss some details about this matter, based on what ......

Read Halacha

One Whose Life is in Danger on Shabbat

If one experiences a life-threatening situation or illness, there is a Torah obligation to desecrate the Shabbat on his behalf, for instance, by rushing him to the hospital by car; indeed, there is a Mitzvah to perform any other forbidden work on Shabbat that is necessary to save the individual&rsqu......

Read Halacha

The Blessing on Puffed Wheat and Farina

Question: We would like to partake of all of the Seven Species on Tu Bishvat. We wished to use puffed wheat as one of the species. What is the correct blessing on puffed wheat? Answer: Anything made out of the five types of grain (wheat, barley, oat, spelt, and rye) such as, cakes, cookies, and o......

Read Halacha

Rice Cakes and Puffed Rice Cereal

In the previous Halacha we have discussed that any grain, such as wheat, which is eaten raw requires the “Boreh Peri Ha’adama” blessing. For this reason, the blessing for puffed wheat is “Boreh Peri Ha’adama.” Only if the grains were cooked together until they sti......

Read Halacha