Among the many mitzvot discussed in this Parsha, several
concern themselves with the Jewish home, including the construction of the
When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet (MA'AKEH)
for your roof, so you will not place blood (DAMIM) in your house if one falls (KI
YIPOL HA’NOFEL) from it (Devarim 22:8).
Although the word MA'AKEH has no parallel in the Tanach, it is
clear from the context that it refers to an enclosure around the roof, a parapet
Ramban points out that many of the mitzvot in the Book of Devarim are
essentially continued discussion and elaboration of mitzvot that appeared
earlier. However, the mitzvah of ma'akeh appears here for the first and only
time. On the other hand, it is related, in a general sense, to the mitzvah:
You shall not stand by while your fellow’s blood is shed (Vayikra
We are obligated to be concerned, beyond our own health and safety, with the
health and safety of our fellow members of society.
Our verse delineates two mitzvot, one positive and one negative, which are an
extension of the above mitzvah (Sefer HaChinuch):
#61623; # 546 - to build a parapet for the roof of one's house;
#61623; # 547 - not to create, or allow to persist, any potentially
In the “Laws of the Murderer and Protecting Life”, chapter 11, Rambam codifies
some of the details of these laws: Any house that is at least four cubits by
four cubits, and is used for dwelling, requires the construction of a sturdy
ma'akeh of ten handbreadths' height. By extension, one must erect a sand wall
around his well or cistern. One is similarly obligated to remove or repair every
hazard: “R. Nathan says: Whence is it derived that nobody should breed a bad dog
in his house, or keep a wobbly ladder in his house? From ‘and you will not place
blood (DAMIM) in your house’” (Bava Kamma 15b).
One very interesting issue raised regarding the construction of a ma'akeh is
whether to recite a bracha. Rambam (“Laws of Berachot” 11:8) says quite clearly
that one does, concluding with the words " . . . Who has sanctified us with His
commandments, and commanded us to make a parapet." His general principle is that
any mitzvah that is fulfilled upon the completion of the act, without requiring
further actions, requires a bracha. As a result, there is no bracha for building
a sukkah, tying tzitzit, or making a shofar, because these mitzvot are
unfinished: one still needs to sit in the sukkah, wear the tzitzit and hear the
shofar to fulfill these mitzvot. On the other hand, the mitzvah of ma'akeh is
fulfilled upon its completed construction, so it requires a bracha. This is
Rambam's position, despite his assertion (par. 4) that one does not recite a
bracha over a practice instituted to guard against danger, because the Torah
explicitly commands the construction of a ma'akeh.
The majority of authorities agree with the Rambam. Rashba (Teshuvot HaRashba III
283, Da') establishes the principle that any mitzvah whose fulfillment is
dependent upon others (e.g., tzedakah, which must be received) is not assigned a
bracha. Accordingly, ma'akeh, which one fulfills alone, requires a bracha. Along
the same lines, the Chatam Sofer says that the bracha should be recited when
putting in the last board, because only then does it become a ma'akeh that
prevents others from falling (Teshuvot Chatam Sofer, I Orach Chaim 52, U’mikol
There is a minority view not to recite a bracha for a ma'akeh. Sefer HaRokeach
(366) establishes the principle that a bracha is assigned only to those
dictates, whether Biblical or Rabbinic, that distinguish the Jewish People from
the other nations of the world. After all, the text of the bracha says " . . .
Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us . . . ". But, if a
mode of behavior is acceptable to all humankind, it does not "sanctify" us,
because it does not differentiate us. Ma'akeh conforms to a standard of safety
that is compatible with universal concerns. Therefore, says Rokeach, there is no
Rokeach's view makes a certain amount of sense, and some authorities agree (Meiri
beginning of ch. 3, Megillah; Teshuvot Temim De'im 179 in the name of Baal
Ha'itur and the Halachot Pesukot; Yabi'a Omer VIII Orach Chaim 22:26. See also
Rabbeinu Bachya, end of Shlach Lecha). Most authorities, however, side with
Rambam, and say that the bracha is recited " . . . Who has sanctified us with
His commandments, and commanded us to make a parapet."
But, how can we justify saying in our bracha that Hashem "sanctifies us" by
means of fulfilling an observance of universal concern?
An answer is suggested by R. Yechiel Michel Epstein in Aruch HaShulchan (Choshen
Mishpat 427:10). A Jew must follow even those mitzvot that are "reasonable"
and thus acceptable to civilization as a whole because they are the decrees of
the Almighty, and not only because they appeal to human reason. We obey Hashem's
commands, and we make an effort to understand them, but we do not make our
understanding the criterion for compliance. In this way, our fulfillment of
these commandments "sanctifies" us no less than the commandments of Shabbat and
We are loyal and loving subjects of Hashem. It is in this spirit that we put a
roof over our heads. This is a firm foundation for a Jewish home.
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!"- Torah from Aloh Na'aleh*
|Parshat Ki Teitzei
Many of the mitzvot appearing in Parshat Ki Tetzei deal with relationships
between men and women, several dealing specifically with marriage.
According to the beginning of the Talmudic Tractate Kiddushin, the first
verse of chapter 24 - "ki yikach ish isha - when a man takes a wife" -
serves as the textual basis for the contracting of marriages. The Sages
throughout the generations have elaborated upon many aspects of the
relationship between husband and wife.
One striking source concerning this relationship is a rather cryptic
statement in the very last Mishnah of Tractate Ketubot: "Hakol ma'alin
l'Eretz Yisra'el - Everyone may force to go up to the land of Israel..."
According to the Babylonian Talmud (ibid. p. 110b), the Mishnah means that
both marriage partners have the right to coerce his or her spouse to
immigrate to the land of Israel. If a woman refuses her husband's request
to live in Israel, he may divorce her without paying her the value of her
ketubah. If a man refuses his wife's request to move to Israel, she may
demand a divorce and the full payment of her ketubah.
In practice, contemporary Rabbinic courts are reluctant to enforce these
Talmudic rules. If one searches hard enough, one can find authorities who
argue that, for one reason or another, the obligation to live in the land
of Israel does not apply nowadays. Moreover, it is abundantly clear that a
husband and wife who are devoted to each other will work out the difficult
issue of whether or not to live in Israel without recourse to a Rabbinic
court. Nevertheless, as an indicator of the halachic ideal for a couple
that takes Judaism seriously - the Talmudic passage speaks volumes.
Rabbi Yitzhak Frank
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully
made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting
Aliyah. They send emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on
speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Tel: 972-2-566-1181 ext. 320