Lesson # 370 • To Remove Dangerous Conditions
Making a parapet
No parapet is required if the roof is sloping and people cannot walk on the roof. No parapet is required if the street is higher than the roof. The parapet must be at least ten tefachim (about 37 inches) in height and it must be strong enough for a person to lean against it without it breaking. If one does not build a parapet for his roof, he transgresses a positive commandment, as well as the prohibition not to place blood in his house. There is no flogging for violating this prohibition since it does not entail an action. A roof belonging to partners requires a parapet. If one buys a house without a parapet or rents a house without a parapet, he must build one. A parapet or fence must also be built around areas similar to a roof; for example, a well or a pit in a yard which may be covered in lieu of building a parapet around the pit.
Danger matters as enumerated by Maimonides
1. Shimon may not put his mouth to a flowing pipe of water and drink from it.
One may not say that he wishes to be left alone and do those things that may endanger him. If he insists in putting himself in danger, he may be flogged. Every reader can think of many things that a person should not do so as not to put himself or others in danger. These can include having a swimming pool without a fence around it, those things that are known in the law as attractive nuisances, in not having adequate circuit breakers in one’s home. The list is never ending. The determining guideline is that if there is a possibility of something causing harm it should be safeguarded.
Closely associated with this topic is the obligation to save a fellow Jew.
Rabbi Yosef Karo writes of the requirement that Jew must save a fellow Jew. It is to be noted that what is said of a Jew's obligation to save his fellow Jew also obligates the Jew to act in the same way towards the non-Jew in his midst. This concept is known as daraki shalom. There are several related Torah commandments (Vayikra 19:16-18) "You shall not be a gossip monger among your people, you shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed; I am G-d. You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and not bear a sin against him. You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself - I am G-d."
The Torah commandment to save a fellow Jew
The same holds true if Reuven sees Sara about to be raped or Shimon about to be killed and he fails to save them, Reuven has transgressed the commandment.
Helping a fellow Jew includes lending him money when he is in dire need. Failing to lend him money may be similar to shedding his blood. A visitor must be escorted a safe distance from the host’s house so that he will find his way home safely.
Some of the later commentators hold that with the advent of modern means of transportation this law may entail taking someone to his automobile, train or bus station. If one destroys the life of any Jew, he is regarded as if he has destroyed the entire world and if one preserves the life of a single Jew it is as if he has preserved the entire world.
The subject matter of this lesson is more fully discussed In Volume X, Chapter 427 of A Restatement of Rabbinic Civil Law by Emanuel Quint. Copies of all volumes can be purchased at local Judaica bookstores. Questions to firstname.lastname@example.org