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

Reciting Selichot Alone, Without a Minyan

Question: If one is unable to recite Selichot with a Minyan (quorum of at least ten Jewish men) for whatever reason or if a woman wishes to recite Selichot and she cannot do so with a Minyan, may one recite the Selichot texts alone or should one abstain from doing so? Answer: If one wishes to rec......

Read Halacha

The Month of Mercy and Forgiveness-The Month of Elul

Today, Sunday, is Rosh Chodesh Elul (the second of a two-day Rosh Chodesh), which is the beginning of the Month of Mercy and Forgiveness.    The Source for the Significance of the Month of Elul It is taught in Pirkei De’Rabbi Eliezer: “For forty days on Mount Sinai, Moshe R......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Teshuva (Repentance)

The month of Elul is the Month of Mercy and Forgiveness when all, including men and women, are obligated to scrutinize their actions as much as possible during these days and to repent before Hashem. When we come before Hashem for judgment on Rosh Hashanah, He will be filled with mercy for us and wi......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Man and His Fellow

In the previous Halacha, we have discussed the general laws of Teshuva (repentance). Between Man and His Fellow The Mishnah in Masechet Yoma (85b) states: “Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya expounded: The Torah states (Vayikra, 16) regarding Yom Kippur, ‘For this day shall atone for you by pur......

Read Halacha

What is the Most Preferable Time to Recite Selichot?

The prevalent custom is to recite Selichot during the early morning hours, i.e. at the end of the nighttime hours, before Shacharit prayers. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that the reason for reciting Selichot during the early morning hours is based on the words of the holy Zohar whic......

Read Halacha

The Law of “Entering One’s Boundaries”

In the previous Halacha we have discussed the prohibition to sit in close proximity to one praying Amida. We have also written that sitting in front or on the sides of one praying is an absolute prohibition along with the reasons behind this. “Entering One’s Boundaries” If one ......

Read Halacha

Sitting Within Four Amot of One Praying

Our Sages derived many laws pertaining to prayer from the incident recorded in the beginning of the book of Shmuel regarding Chana, mother of Shmuel Ha’Navi, who went to the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in Shilo in order to pray to Hashem that she be able to bear children. Through the power of her pra......

Read Halacha

At What Point During the Chazzan’s Repetition of the Amida May One be Seated?

In the previous Halacha we have explained that, according to the letter of the law, one may sit during the Chazzan’s repetition of the Amida. This means that after one has concluded one’s personal, silent Amida, the congregation may be seated and need not remain standing for the entire d......

Read Halacha