In the portion of Ki Teitzei, we learn the law that: “When you build a new house, you must make a parapet for your roof, in order that you won’t cause bloodshed in your house, by he who falls, falling off of it.”

The law of making a parapet applies even when you buy a house that you didn’t build, as well as to a house that you have owned all along. So why does the verse say, “When you build a new house?”

Why does the verse call the person who might fall, “he who falls,” even though he didn’t fall yet? Even more, “he who falls” is in the present tense, as if he is presently falling. But we also say “will fall,” implying that he hasn’t fallen yet. Also, what kind of person is called “one who falls?”

The New House

The Sifri explains that the verse says “new” because “from the time it is new, you have to make a parapet.” In other words, the obligation to make a parapet begins before you move into the house. The moment it is new to you—whether you built it or bought it—you are obligated to make a parapet. This is not like the mitzvah of mezuzah, which doesn’t begin until after you move into the house.

This leaves us with a question. From the words in our verse, “When you build a new house,” it seems that the obligation is only for a new house. Why doesn’t the verse use terms that indicate that every house needs a parapet?

The Faller

The Talmud tells us that the reason he is called “one who falls” is because he was already destined to fall.

But you don’t have to be the one that makes it happen. Making a parapet will ensure that it doesn’t happen in your house. When something like that happens in your house, it reflects negatively on you.

Again, this leaves us with a question. The word in our verse that means “one who falls” is hanofel, which doesn’t refer to someone who is destined to fall, but rather to someone who is presently falling. Who is the one who is presently falling?

The Fence of Marriage

Every verse in the Torah is meant to be understood on many levels. When we look deeper into this verse, we can learn lessons that apply to all of us, even to someone who doesn’t own a house.

Our sages say, “A man’s home is his wife.” On a deeper level, “When you build a new house” refers to beginning married life, which is the time that one is first obligated to remove himself from his spiritual cocoon of yeshivah and involve himself in the physical world to begin making a living. He is therefore actively falling from the spiritual life into the physical world of work.

It is at this time that he has to make a parapet. The idea of a safety fence is to protect someone from falling. This refers to the new protections and boundaries that will keep him from falling into the trap of being enticed by the physical, allowing it to become more important for him than the life of Torah. The parapet also provides separation, so that even when he is involved in the physical, he remains above it.

Our purpose is to infuse the physical with G‑dliness, making this physical world into a dwelling place for G‑d.

This work primarily begins with marriage and the ensuing obligatory descent into the physical world. It is a mistake to refrain from getting involved in the physical and locking yourself into a spiritual bubble because if you do, you are not accomplishing what you are meant for. G‑d put you here to develop your part of the physical world, infusing it with G‑dliness.

Body and Soul

On another level, when you say “house,” it refers to the body; every one of us is a soul that resides in its home, the body. The purpose is the same: to make this world into a dwelling place for G‑d. The body is called a “new house” because, for the G‑dly soul, the physical world is all new. It is “falling” because, for the soul, it is a great and constant descent having to deal with the body’s natural predilection for physical pleasures, which is not the interest of the soul. At the same time, the soul is happy to be in her new home because she knows that through the work of the body and making this world into a dwelling place for G‑d, she will draw down levels of G‑dliness beyond anything she experienced before.

How does this work? When we do our part, making this world into a dwelling for G‑d, we create a “new home” for Him. Everything we do down here affects the spiritual realms as well. We, so to speak, create a new home for G‑d above. It is called “new” since it evokes an expansion in the spiritual realms, allowing for levels of G‑dliness that were previously beyond the loftiest spiritual sense. These spiritual heights will ultimately draw such levels of G‑dliness into the physical as well.

To be able to do this work, we have to make a parapet: First, by setting boundaries and protections not to falter; and then by creating a degree of separation so you can be in the world, and at the same time, be above it.

May we be successful in drawing down G‑dliness into the physical, making it a home for G‑d. His presence will fill the world openly, and Moshiach will be here. May it happen soon.