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Safety First!

Safety First!

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Make a fence around your roof, so that you won’t bring bloodshed upon your house if someone falls. (Deuteronomy 22:8)

For most of history, rooftops were places for storage, drying produce, and just plain leisure. They were also hazardous. The Torah instructs us to reduce that hazard by erecting a fence or guardrail—at least 10 handbreadths tall and sturdy enough to support the weight of a grown man. Roofs that are not used (like those of most modern houses) need not be fenced.

This precept goes beyond roofs. If the Torah tells us to fence in dangerous rooftops, obviously we need to deal with other potential hazards as well. The Jewish sages provided a few examples:

  • Not just rooftops, but porches and balconies must be fenced in, and staircases equipped with sturdy railings.
  • Construction workers must cover any hole they leave behind, or surround it with a barrier. The same applies to swimming pools. Dangerous equipment and other hazardous materials must be stored away, so that they pose no danger.
  • You didn’t create your own life, so how could you be permitted to endanger it?Ideally, one shouldn’t own a dangerous dog. A dog is considered dangerous if its bark frightens people. If one must own such a dog, he must keep it chained, so that it is incapable of harming or frightening others.
  • A father is obligated to teach his children to swim.

Are You Your Own Hazard?

You didn’t create your own life, so how could you be permitted to endanger it? And so, the mitzvah of reducing hazards applies to yourself as well.

Some examples of forbidden hazards:

  • Wading through rushing waters that are higher than your waist.
  • Driving a vehicle at a dangerous speed.
  • Traversing a dangerously unstable bridge, or walking under a shaky ladder.
  • Since smoking is now recognized as a health hazard, many contemporary halachic authorities are of the opinion that it is forbidden to smoke today (and certainly in the presence of others).
Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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James More Seaside City August 31, 2017

Good we have health laws. Too many yet smoke and some blow smoke in my face and try to provoke a fight with slander, threats, and curses "This is your judgement day. You need a bath or we are going to make you pay for every mistake you make. Get out of here and don't come back." And then they ask why do you want to go to a place like that when it is a coffee shop, grocery store, or other public area. Reply

JCS London August 31, 2017

"You didn’t create your own life, so how could you be permitted to endanger it?"

We didn't give breath to ourselves, to any other person or to any Breathing Being, so how are we permitted to take it away?

Bereishit 1:29 please see and note and action, dearest Chabad, it will be you in the vanguard worldwide and that time is not so far off now Reply

isaac klein Boca Raton FL September 23, 2015

You should never tell people to chain their dogs - that's just aweful advice If a dog's bark scares people - it does not make the dog bad or dangerous. In fact chaining a dog, is exactly how to make a dog become dangerous. Chaining a dog is ignorant and dangerous and this is terrible advice - chaining makes dogs aggressive!!!
Another thing you are totally missing regarding dogs, is that people, like me included, have large aggressive breed dogs, to protect their home and family. Nothing makes me feel better, than knowing when I go on a business trip - that my 100 pound Shepard is protecting my family when I can't. The more rural the environment - the more important it is to keep large breed dogs for security for your family.
Dogs are not to be left outside, dogs from the moment you get them until the day they die should be in your home as part of the family. This is the best way to avoid safety issues. Reply

Anonymous August 31, 2017
in response to isaac klein:

Well said, because in the countryside dogs are also kept for guarding sheep and cattle. In many states chaning a dog constantly is considered cruelty against animals. I think the author was refering to people who are confronting other people with a dangerous dog against their will, and without a chance for them to avoid the dangerous situation. Reply

Emma Rose Fry Georgia, USA August 27, 2015

Chaining Animals While I understand the precept, chaining any animal is cruel, dangerous, and, in most states, illegal. In the case of dogs especially, training, not chaining is the better option. Please treat your animals with the same dignity and discipline you would your children. Reply

Anonymous Cedarhust, NY August 27, 2015

Smoking a Danger to the Body It is time that this matter be brought to the attention of the Yeshivos that we entrust our boys to, which is where many many boys learn to smoke.
The Rebbeim must deal with these issues especially in Israel. I am so very astounded that this issue is being ignored and closeted and even if they would lead by example, it would be a start. It has been a very serious problem---and it must be dealt with. Reply

Anonymous Toronto September 13, 2013

safety first I believe we are also told to protect our bodies. As the body is a gift from G-d , and is the temple that our souls live in. Reply

Anonymous tallahassee, florida May 2, 2012

chain a dog? only if it's dangerous (wich means it has to bite someone) Reply

Judy Resnick Far Rockaway, NY May 2, 2012

Restrain, Not Chain The author of the article was not suggesting, G-d forbid, to do anything that would be cruel or inhuman to any animal. He was simply suggesting to use common sense in dog ownership, for everyone's benefit. Most dogs kept for security purposes are intelligent breeds that have been well trained to distinguish between friendly visitors and unfriendly intruders. You wouldn't want a dog in a store that bit your customers! Ideally, all animal owners should recognize the need to place some barriers at times between any pet and the public, to protect both humans and animals. To sum up, dogs should be trained, restrained or chained. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Reply

Justin Roth Staten Island, NY May 1, 2012

This is a very enlightening article... Not only should we take precautions with regards to obvious dangers listed in this wonderful article, but we should also prepare for the unforeseeable. This is why most people have smoke detectors and/or carbon dioxide detectors in their homes.
In this day and age, just as during the cold war, I do not think it is unreasonable to prepare for, G-d forbid, a "doomsday scenario." I mean, stocking up on food and water, buying gas masks, doing everything one can do to protect oneself and one's family in such a scenario. "Duck and Cover" won't cut it.
One should always keep in mind the sanctity of life and the blessing of being alive and strive to preserve it! Reply

Bill Kelley Tifton, GA, USA July 1, 2011

being a danger to myself Obviously I'm a Gentile. While we lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early 1940's, the Sunday School teacher at our Quaker Meeting House taught me a prayer that has been a strong and basic fundamental in my life. As such, I am sincerely giving my future, my plans, what ever, to His control and authority. I can not tell you how many times I have been told "Boy, are you DUMB" when I turned down many opportunities that I later found were fools gold. What I hadn't known to begin with, G_d dumbed me down so that I frankly just didn't see what He didn't want me to see. Wow, what Love from HIM. Reply

Anonymous Little Rock, AR/US June 28, 2011

Chain a Dog? One of the worst things you can do is chain a dog! If you want a vicious animal, chain it up and I guarantee you will get an animal that frightens people! How cruel. Reply

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