It is a positive commandment from the Torah to place a
railing around a rooftop, as it is written, “If you build a new house, you
shall make a fence for your roof, so that you will not place blood in your
house if a fallen one falls from it.” (Devarim 22:8) Because of G-d’s
great love for His holy people, He is also concerned that they should not
suffer physical injury and commanded that anything that might cause a
dangerous accident should be removed, as it is written, “Only beware for
yourself and greatly beware for your soul (Devarim 4:9). A person who does not
remove something that could cause a dangerous accident negates a positive
commandment and violates—every moment that he fails to remove the
danger–the negative commandment “…so that you will not place blood in
your houses… Even if he later installs a railing, he cannot undo the
negligence of the past. When a person keeps this commandment in mind and
fulfils it with care it is as though he were fulfilling it every day.
A person should not say that no harm comes to those who
trust in G-d so he has no need to make a railing around his roof. G-d does not
do miracles for those who rely on miracles.
A person is obligated to make a railing for his roof as
soon as he occupies the house. Some poskim hold that it should be made as soon
as the building is completed, even before it is occupied.
A person is obligated to spend even more than one fifth to
make a railing for his roof because the obligation derives from both a
positive and a negative commandment. To avoid violating a negative commandment
a person is obligated to spend all his money.
Woman are also obligated to make a railing for the roof.
Besides being a negative as well as a positive commandment, the mitzvah of
making a railing on the roof is not a time bound mitzvah.
A person who purchases or inherits a house is also required
to build a railing for the roof. The mitzvah is not limited to a person who
builds a house.
A house that has two or more owners must also have a
railing around the roof, and a person should be machmir and make a
railing even if he owns the house in partnership with a gentile.
If a person rents (or borrows) a house that does not have a
railing around the roof, he is obligated to make it. There is disagreement as
to whether he is obligated by the Torah or by the rabbis. He is obligated to
make a railing even if the house is rented from a gentile. If the person who
rents the house does not make the railing, it may be that the owner is
required to make it.
Even though a person who rents a house outside of Israel is
not obligated to attach a mezuzah before thirty days have passed, it is
reasonable, because it is a safety precaution, that he should be obligated to
build a railing around the roof immediately.
The mitzvah of making a railing around the roof applies
only to the roof of a house that is at least four amos by four amos and has a
roof that is usable. There is no obligation to build a railing around a
A porch that is used as part of a house must have a guard
railing even if it is smaller than four by four amos. We are obligated to take
precautions to prevent dangerous accidents wherever an accident might happen:
“so that you will not place blood in your house.”