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I recently called an exterminator to remove a hornets' nest in a tree overhanging my roof. Since my roof is slanted, with no direct access to it, and it starts at about 9 feet off the ground and peaks at about 15 feet, and the tree branch overhanging the roof is about 20 feet above that, we had a lengthy conversation about what it would take to deal with the nest. While we were talking about how this might be accomplished, he told me some of the crazy things that he would not do for the sake of the job, including standing a ladder on the roof.

This got me thinking: I don't have a fence around my roof. Do I need one? I assume not, because nobody in my community, including the rabbi, has one.

Why don't the houses in my community (which are similar to mine) need fences around their roofs?

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In the opinion of the Aruch HaShulchan, slanted roofs do not require fencing since they are not suitable for regular use (CM 427:5, נראה דחיוב מעקה בגגין אינו אלא בגגין שלהן שהיו שוין ולא בשיפוע והיה להם הגג לתשמיש אבל גגין שלנו שהן משופעין וא"א להשתמש בהן אין בהן חיוב מעקה). As far as I know, common practice follows this opinion. Obviously, this does not make it okay to engage in dangerous activities on one's slanted, unfenced roof. –  Fred Nov 12 '13 at 17:12
    
"Don't touch the oven, because if you do, your hand will get burned." The purpose of the commandment is to avoid anyone burning their hand. If the oven is cold, the commandment no longer applies, because its purpose is not valid in that particular situation. Similarly, the fence around the roof is to be build in order to avoid anyone falling off it - if there is no risk of anyone falling off the roof, the commandment, if I understand correctly, would not apply in that situation - hence Fred's quote from the Aruch HaShulchan. –  Niobius Nov 12 '13 at 17:21
    
I believe any dwell-able surface adjacent to a ten tefach precipice requires a wall. Roofs have nothing to do with it. –  Double AA Nov 12 '13 at 17:26
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@SethJ I don't know what naiveté has to do with it, but he went ahead and chose one of the two options I presented. I'll edit the question to clarify. –  Double AA Nov 13 '13 at 14:40

1 Answer 1

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in 190:1 states that our roofs don't need a fence since we don't use them. Obviously slanted roofs are therefore exempt.

He goes on the say that not only roofs, but any place where there's a danger of falling off and getting killed, requires a fence.

For the record, this fence needs to be 10 tefachim high and strong enough that a person could lean on it and it won't fall. (ibid).

מצות עשה לעשות מעקה לגגו, שנאמר, ועשית מעקה לגגך. גובה המעקה אינו פחות מעשרה טפחים, ויהא חזק כדי שישען אדם עליו ולא יפול. גגות שלנו שאין משתמשין בהם, פטורין. ואמנם לא הגג בלבד חייב במעקה, אלא כל דבר שיש בו סכנה, שיכשל בו אדם וימות, חייב במעקה

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