The Mitzvah of Putting a Guard Rail on a Roof (II)
The guard rail on a roof should be at least ten tephachim high.
Where there are children who might climb over it, the halachah requires that
it should be high enough to assure that they don’t. Similarly, where
children might climb up to windows, grates should be placed on the windows
even if the windows are above ten tephachim. The obligation to make
guard rails ordinarily applies only to buildings which are fit to be lived
in, but guard rails should also be placed wherever they might prevent a
dangerous accident, such as in batei midrash and batei knesset.
A person should be safety conscious and make sure that there is nothing in
his house that could cause a dangerous accident, like an unstable ladder,
bare electrical wires, broken electrical utensils, open pits, etc. An open
pit that is ten tephachim deep must be covered or fenced in with a
fence that is ten tephachim high. Because the halachah is so
stringent in matters of safety, it is forbidden to hire an unqualified
contractor to construct a building or make a porch. Similarly, it is
forbidden to disregard traffic laws, for they were established by experts
for our safety.
When making a guard rail, a blessing should be recited: asher kidishanu
bmitzvosav al asias ma’aka. It is not customary to say shehechiyanu.
When a person makes the guard rail himself, he should say laasos ma’aka.
When making several guard rails, a single blessing is sufficient.
A talmid chochom may make a guard rail with his own hands. Because it is a
mitzvah, it is in keeping with the respect that is due to a talmid chochom.
Some have held that the blessing should be recited before making the rail,
so that the blessing precedes the mitzvah act. But the custom in accordance
with the opinion of the Chasam Sofer, who held that a guard rail must
be completed to be considered a guard rail, is to recite the blessing just
before the rail is completed.
The blessing is recited only when erecting a rail that is ten tephachim high. No blessing is recited when raising a rail higher then ten tephachim because that is done in observance of the negative commandment to avoid
danger, and blessings are not recited for the observance of a negative
It is permitted to fix a rail that has broken on Chol Hamoed in a way that
could be done by a nonprofessional.
The mitzvah of placing a guard rail is a most important one because the
absence of a guard rail can lead to the loss of life. To disregard the
danger and ignore the mitzvah is tantamount to relinquishing the world to
chaos. The person who fulfils the mitzvah in a way that assures safety
sustains the world.