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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Rotzeach uShmirat Nefesh - Chapter Eleven, Rotzeach uShmirat Nefesh - Chapter Twelve, Rotzeach uShmirat Nefesh - Chapter Thirteen

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Rotzeach uShmirat Nefesh - Chapter Eleven


It is a positive commandment for a man to build a guardrail for his roof, as Deuteronomy 22:8 says: "And you shall make a guardrail for your roof."

This applies with regard to a building used as a dwelling. But for a warehouse or a cattle barn and the like, there is no necessity. Similarly, any building that is not four cubits by four cubits does not require a guardrail.


A house owned by two partners requires a guardrail. As can be inferred from Deuteronomy 22:8: "For one who falls may certainly fall from it," the obligation stems from the fact that one may fall.

If so, why does the verse state "your roof"? To exclude synagogues and houses of study, for they are not intended to serve as dwellings.

If the public domain is higher than a person's roof, he does not need to erect a guardrail, for the phrase "For one who falls may certainly fall from it" implies that the guardrail is intended to prevent people from falling "from the roof," and not onto the roof.


The height of a guardrail should not be any less than ten handbreadths, so that a person who might fall will not fall from it.

A guardrail must be a partition strong enough to enable a person to lean on it without falling.

Anyone who leaves his roof open without a guardrail negates the observance of a positive commandment and violates a negative commandment, as Deuteronomy 22:8 states: "Do not cause blood to be spilled in your home." The violation of this commandment is not punished by lashes, for it does not involve a deed.


This requirement applies to a roof, and similarly, to any place that might present a danger and cause a person to stumble and die. For example, if a person has a well or a cistern in his courtyard, he must erect a sand wall ten handbreadths high around them or make a cover for them, so that a person will not fall in and die.

Similarly, it is a positive mitzvah to remove any obstacle that could pose a danger to life, and to be very careful regarding these matters, as Deuteronomy 4:9 states: "Beware for yourself; and guard your soul." If a person leaves a dangerous obstacle and does not remove it, he negates the observance of a positive commandment, and violates the negative commandment: "Do not cause blood to be spilled."


Our Sages forbade many matters because they involve a threat to life. Whenever a person transgresses these guidelines, saying: "I will risk my life, what does this matter to others," or "I am not careful about these things," he should be punished by stripes for rebelliousness.


They include: A person should not place his mouth over a conduit through which water flows and drink. Nor should he drink at night from rivers and lakes, lest he swallow a leech without seeing.

Similarly, a person should not drink water that was left uncovered, lest a snake or other poisonous crawling animal might have drunk from them, and as a result, the person would die.


These are the liquids that are forbidden if left uncovered: water, wine - even watered-down wine, or wine whose flavor has begun to change to vinegar - milk, honey, and brine. Other liquids are not forbidden if left uncovered, because venomous animals will not drink from them.


When garlic has been crushed or a watermelon cut open and left uncovered, they are forbidden. The same applies in all analogous situations.

The prohibition against drinking uncovered beverages does not apply to wine that has been boiled or to unfermented wine. Unfermented wine refers to wine from the time it was squeezed from the grapes until three days have passed.

Similarly, the prohibition against drinking uncovered beverages does not apply to wine, water or milk that are hot to the extent that vapor arises from them, nor to liquids into which liquid is descending from above drop after drop, providing the liquid continuously descends. For crawling animals fear bubbles and vapor, and will not drink from them.


The prohibition against drinking uncovered beverages does not apply to water used for pickling, cooking food or cooking vetch. Similarly, this prohibition does not apply when pickled foods, cooked foods or vetch have been left to soak in water, if they have changed the taste of the water. If they did not change the taste, the water is forbidden if left uncovered. Similarly, water in which quince and Syrian pears were washed for a sick person is forbidden if left uncovered.


The prohibition against drinking uncovered beverages does not apply when sharp tasting substances like pepper, or bitter substances like wormwood are mixed with wine to the extent that its flavor changes. The same applies with regard to other beverages.


When a liquid is forbidden if left uncovered, it is forbidden whether it was left uncovered during the day or during the night. This applies even when a person was sleeping beside the liquid. For crawling animals are not afraid of sleeping men.

For how long must a liquid be left uncovered to be forbidden? For as long as it takes for a crawling animal to emerge from under the container, drink, and return to its place.


The quantity of water that becomes forbidden if uncovered is an amount in which the venom could remain a distinct entity and cause danger. If, however, there is so much that the venom will be nullified as if it does not exist, the water is permitted. This applies to water contained in utensils or on the ground. The same law applies to other liquids.


The prohibition against drinking uncovered beverages does not apply to a stream that is flowing, even slightly.

When a container of wine is left uncovered in a chest, a bureau or a closet, or in a larger container in a pit that is even 100 cubits deep, in a tower that is 100 cubits high, or in a hall that is ornamented and plastered, it is forbidden.

If the person checked the bureau or the chest and then put the wine there, it is permitted. If there was a hole in the chest, it is forbidden. How large must the hole be? Large enough for a child to insert his small finger.


When a jug is left uncovered, a person should not drink from it, although nine people drank from it before him without dying.

An incident occurred, and it was reported that the tenth person who drank from a jug died, because the venom of the snake sank to the bottom of the jug. And there is venom from some crawling animals that rises to the surface of liquids, and other venom that becomes suspended in the middle. Therefore, everything is forbidden. This applies even if one filtered the liquid with a filter.

Similarly, when a watermelon was left uncovered, even if nine people partook of it without dying, a tenth should not partake of it.


Water that was left uncovered should not be poured into the public domain, nor should it be used to settle the dust of a home, nor should it be used to mix mortar, nor should it be used to wash one's face, to water one's animal or an animal belonging to a colleague. It may, however, be used to water a cat.


When dough has been mixed with water that has been left uncovered, it should be burned. This applies even if the dough was terumah. Even if it has been baked, it is forbidden.

Rotzeach uShmirat Nefesh - Chapter Twelve


When an animal, a beast or a fowl has been bitten by a snake or another poisonous animal, or it ate a poison that could kill a person, and the nature of the poison has not changed in the animal's body, it is forbidden to partake of meat from that animal, because of the deadly danger involved.

For this reason, if an animal, a beast, or a fowl was found with its feet cut off, although it is permitted and it is not considered taref because its feet were cut off, it is forbidden because of the possible danger, unless it is checked, because of the possibility that a poisonous crawling animal bit it.

How should such meat be checked? If should be roasted in an oven. If the meat does not break into pieces or react differently from ordinary roasted meat, it is acceptable.


Similarly, figs, grapes, zucchini, squash, watermelons and cucumbers that have holes are forbidden, lest a snake or other poisonous animal have bitten them. This applies even if the produce was very large, and regardless of whether it was still growing or detached, even if it was placed within a container, as long as it has moisture, and it is discovered that it was bitten it is forbidden.

Even if one saw a bird or a rat sitting and making holes in the fruit, it is still forbidden. Perhaps they made the hole in the place of an existing hole.


When the stem of a grape or a fig has been removed, the produce is not considered to have been left uncovered. Therefore, a person may eat figs and grapes at night without concern.

A fig that had a hole, but dried to the extent that it can be considered a dried fig, and a date that had a hole and dries, are both permitted.


It is forbidden for a person to place coins or dinarim in his mouth, lest there be the remnants of dried spittle from a leper or a metzora, or sweat on them. For all sweat from a person is like poisonous venom, except sweat from one's face.


Similarly, a person should not place the palm of his hand under his armpits, lest his hands have touched a leper or a poisonous substance, for "hands are active."

A person should not place a cooked dish under the couch on which he is reclining, even though he is in the midst of his meal, lest an entity that could harm him fall into the food without his noticing.


Similarly, one should not stick a knife into an etrog or into a radish, lest a person fall on its point and die.

Similarly, it is forbidden for a person to pass under a wall that is leaning, or over a shaky bridge or to enter a ruin. Similarly, it is forbidden to enter all other places that are dangerous for these or other reasons.


Similarly, it is forbidden for a Jew to enter into privacy with a gentile, for they are suspected of bloodshed. Nor should one accompany gentiles on a journey. If a Jew encounters a gentile on a journey, he should make sure the gentile is at his right.

If they are making an ascent or a descent together, the Jew should be careful that he should be in the higher position and the gentile in the lower position, but not vice versa, lest the gentile fall on him with the intent of killing him. Nor should a Jew bend down before a gentile, lest he crush his skull.


If a gentile asks a Jew where he is going, he should give him a misleading answer, as Jacob gave a misleading answer to Esau, as Genesis 33:14 states: "Until I come to my master, in Seir."


It is forbidden to take medication from a gentile, unless there is no hope that the sick person will live. It is forbidden to be healed by a heretic, even if there is no hope that the person will live.

It is permitted to take a medication from a gentile for an animal, or for an external affliction - e.g., a compress or a bandage. If, however, the affliction involves a danger to life, it is forbidden to take medication from them. The general rule is: One should not take medication from a gentile for any affliction for which one may desecrate the Sabbath.


It is permitted to ask the opinion of a gentile doctor and follow his directives if he says: "This drug is good for you; you should perform these and these treatments." One should not take the prescription from him directly.


It is forbidden to have one's hair cut by a gentile in a private domain, lest the barber kill him. If the person whose hair is being cut is an important personage, it is permitted, because the gentile will be afraid to kill him.

It is also permitted for a person who creates an impression of being an important personage for a gentile barber, so that he will fear him and not kill him, to have his hair cut by him.


It is forbidden to sell gentiles any weaponry. We may not sharpen weapons for them or sell them a knife, chains put on the necks of prisoners, fetters, iron chains, raw Indian iron, bears, lions, or any other object that could cause danger to people at large. One may, however, sell them shields, for these serve only the purpose of defense.


Just as it is forbidden to sell such weaponry to a gentile, so too, is it forbidden to sell it to a Jew who will sell it to a gentile.

It is permitted to sell weapons to the soldiers of the country in which one lives, because they defend the Jewish inhabitants of the land.


Every article that is forbidden to be sold to a gentile is also forbidden to be sold to a Jewish robber, for by doing so one reinforces a transgressor and causes him to sin.

Similarly, anyone who causes a person who is blind with regard to a certain matter to stumble and gives him improper advice, or who reinforces a transgressor - who is spiritually blind, for he does not see the path of truth, because of the desires of his heart - transgresses a negative commandment, as Leviticus 19:14 states: "Do not place an obstacle in front of a blind man." When a person comes to ask advice from you, give him proper counsel.


It is forbidden to give good advice to a wicked gentile or servant. It is even forbidden to counsel him to observe a mitzvah if he perseveres in his wickedness. Daniel was subjected to a test solely because he advised Nebuchadnezzar to give charity, as Daniel 4:24 states: "O King, let my counsel be acceptable to you. Redeem your sins through charity."

Rotzeach uShmirat Nefesh - Chapter Thirteen


When a person encounters a colleague who is on a journey and his animal has fallen under its load, he is commanded to unload the burden from it. This applies whether the animal was carrying a burden appropriate for it, or a burden greater than it could bear.

This is a positive commandment, as Exodus 23:5 states: "You shall certainly help him."


One should not unload the animal and depart, leaving the wayfarer in panic. Instead, one should lift up the animal together with its owner, and reload the animal's burden upon it, as Deuteronomy 22:4 states: "You shall certainly lift it up." This is another positive commandment.

If one leaves the wayfarer in panic without either unloading or reloading, one has negated the observance of a positive commandment and violated a negative commandment, as Deuteronomy, ibid. states: "You shall not see the donkey of your brother... and conceal yourself...."


When a priest sees an animal fallen in a cemetery, he should not contract ritual impurity to unload and reload it, just as he does not contract ritual impurity to return a lost article.

Similarly, if he is an elder, whose practice is not to unload and load animals, since this is beneath his dignity he is not liable.


This is the general principle: If the animal were his own and he would unload and reload it, he is obligated to unload and reload it for a colleague.

If he is pious and goes beyond the measure of the law, even if he is a great nasi, and sees an animal belonging to a colleague fallen under a load of straw, reeds or the like, he should unload and load it with its owner.


If one unloaded and reloaded the animal, and it fell again, one is obligated to unload and reload it another time, indeed even 100 times, This is indicated by the verbs עזוב תעזוב and הקם תקים in the proof-texts cited above.

For this reason, one must accompany the animal for a parsah, unless the owner of the burden says that it is not necessary.


When does one become obligated to unload and reload together with its owner? When he sees the fallen animal in a way that can be described as an encounter. For Exodus 23:5 states "When you see your colleague's donkey..." and the previous verse states: "When you encounter...."

How far a distance is implied? Our Sages determined it as being a distance of 266 2/3 cubits - i.e., 1/7.5 of a mil. If a person was further away from a fallen animal, he is not obligated.


It is a mitzvah from the Torah to unload an animal without charge. Loading it, however, is a mitzvah for which one may charge. Similarly, for the time when one accompanies the animal for a parsah, one may receive payment.


If one finds an animal belonging to a colleague fallen under its load, it is a mitzvah to unload and reload it even if its owner is not present, for "You shall certainly help" and "You shall certainly lift up..." implies that one must fulfill these mitzvot in all situations.

If so, why does the Torah say "together with him" i.e., the animal's owner? To teach that if the owner of the animal was there and goes off to the side, telling the passerby, "Since you have a mitzvah, if you would like to unload it yourself, unload it," the passerby is not obligated. This is implied by "together with him."

If the owner of the animal was old or ailing, the passerby is obligated to load and unload the animal by himself.


The following rules apply when the animal [that has fallen is owned by a gentile, but the burden it is carrying is owned by a Jew. If the gentile is the one driving his donkey, one is not obligated toward him. If not, one is obligated to unload and reload it because of the distress suffered by the Jew.

Similarly, if the animal that has fallen is owned by a Jew, but the burden it is carrying is owned by a gentile, one is obligated to unload and reload it because of the distress suffered by the Jew.

When, however, both the animal and the burden are owned by a gentile, a passerby is not obligated to concern himself with the animal, unless there is the possibility that animosity will be aroused.


When the legs of a donkey owned by one of the donkey drivers in a caravan are shaky, his colleagues may not proceed and pass before him. If it falls, the other donkey drivers may pass him.


If one donkey was laden with a burden, and another was carrying a rider, and the way became too narrow for both of them, the rider must move to the side to allow the laden donkey to proceed.

If one donkey was laden with a burden, and another was burden-less, the burden-less one must move to the side to allow the laden donkey to proceed. If one was carrying a rider, and another was burden-less, the burden-less one must move to the side to allow the donkey carrying a rider to proceed.

if both are laden with burdens, carrying riders or burden-less, the owners should negotiate a compromise.


Similarly, there are criteria laid down when two ships that are passing through the same straits confront each other, and if they both try to pass at the same time they would sink, but they could pass one by one, or when two camels that are climbing a high pass confront each other, and if they both try to pass at the same time they would fall, but they could pass one by one.

What should they do? If one was carrying cargo, and another was burden-less, the burden-less one should move to the side in favor of the one that was carrying cargo. If one was close to the port or city from which it set out and one was further removed, the one that was closer should move to the side in favor of the one that was further removed.

If they are both far removed, both close or both laden with cargo, and they both share the same difficulty, they should come to a compromise and reach a financial settlement between themselves. With regard to such situations, it is said Leviticus 19:15: "Judge your colleague with righteousness."


When a person encounters two individuals: one whose donkey is fallen under its load and one with a donkey whose burden has been unloaded, but who cannot find anyone to help him reload it, it is a mitzvah to unload the fallen donkey first, because of the discomfort suffered by the animal. Afterwards, he should reload the other animal.

When does the above apply? When the two people he encounters are both friends or both enemies. If, however, the one whose donkey must be reloaded is an enemy and the other is a friend, it is a mitzvah for the passerby to reload his enemy's donkey first, in order to subjugate his evil inclination.


The enemy mentioned in the Torah is not a gentile, but rather a Jew.

One might ask: How is it possible for one Jew to hate another? Is it not written Leviticus 19:17: "Do not hate your brother in your heart"?

Our Sages explained that this is referring to a person who while alone sees a colleague violate a transgression and rebukes him, but the colleague did not cease transgressing. In such an instance, it is a mitzvah to hate the person until he repents and abandons his wickedness.

Even if he did not repent yet, if one sees him in panic because of his cargo, it is a mitzvah to unload and reload with him, instead of leaving him inclined toward death, lest he tarry because of his money and be brought to danger. For the Torah showed concern for the lives of the Jewish people, both the wicked and the righteous, for they are attached to God and believe in the fundamentals of our faith. And Ezekiel 33:11 states: "Say to them, 'As I live,' says God, the Lord, 'Do I desire the death of a wicked man? I desire that the wicked return from his path and live.'

Blessed be God who grants assistance.

With the help of the Almighty, the eleventh book has been completed.

The number of chapters in this book are 62.

Hilchot Nizkei Mammon has 14 chapters.

Hilchot Geneivah has 9 chapters.

Hilchot Gezelah Va'Avedah has 18 chapters.

Hilchot Chovel UMazik has 8 chapters.

Hilchot Rotzeach USh'mirat HaNefesh has 13 chapters.

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in the one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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