Parshas Ki Setzei
“And you shall make a fence for your roof!” (Devarim 22:8)
It is a positive commandment to remove all stumbling blocks from all of our habitations, and about this it says “And you shall make a fence for your roof!”. The application of this is that we must build a wall around all roofs, pits, and trenches etc. so that no creature should stumble and fall into or off them. Included in this commandment is that we must rebuild and fix every wall and fence that any possible injury might come from. The reason that the verse specifies for the “roof” and not for other things because it is in this place that one normally needs a fence.
Amongst the roots of this commandment are that even though Hashem watches over all of the details of people and knows all of their actions, and everything that happens to them be it good or bad is only at His behest according to their merits or shortcomings, nevertheless a person must guard himself from the normal things which happen in the world, for Hashem created His world and built it on the foundations of the laws of nature, and He decreed that fire burns and water extinguishes fire, and in the same way nature decrees that if a big stone falls on the head of a man that it will crush his brain, or that if a person falls from the top of a roof which is high off the ground that he will die, and He favored people’s bodies by breathing the soul of life which is master of knowledge into their noses to guard the body from all harm and he put both the body and soul into the wheel of the foundations which would make things happen to them. Since Hashem enslaved the person’s body to the laws of nature as His wisdom needed because a person is a physical being, Hashem commanded the person to guard himself from any happening for the nature will do things to him unless he guards himself from it.
However, there are some people who because of their abundance of piety and cleaving to the ways of Hashem He wants their good to the extent that He gives the laws of nature over to them. These are the great pious famous people like the great holy forefathers and many of their descendants. Examples of this are Daniel, Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah over whom the laws of nature had no power. Even though at the beginning of their lives nature was their master, at the end of their lives, because of the greatness of the elevation of their souls, they became the masters of the nature. This happened already to Avraham our father who was thrown into a fiery furnace and was not damaged. On the other hand, most people do not merit this great level because of their sins. It follows that the Torah commanded us that we should guard our dwelling places and all our other places to try and ensure that death will not be brought closer because of our negligence, and we should not put ourselves in danger and rely on a miracle. Chazal also said that one who relies on a miracle will nor merit having a miracle done for him.
Chazal forbade many things in order to guard us from damages and bad happenings as it is not correct for a knowledgeable person to put his life in danger. It follows that a person should pay attention to all of the things through which damage might occur. One who transgresses these words of Chazal receives rabbinical lashes. Some examples of these things are that which Chazal said that a person should not put his mouth in a pipe of water and drink or should he drink directly from rivers and swamps in case he might drink something damaging. They also forbade a person to put coins into his mouth in case there is dried spittle from a leper (or a man who has boils) on it or maybe it has sweat on it as all human sweat apart from that of the face is poisonous.
This commandment applies in all places and at all times both to men and to women. One who leaves his roof or pit without a fence has transgressed this commandment.