It says in the Rambam that a Beis HaKneses (a special place for prayer which has many certain laws about it) is not required to have a "ma'akeh" (a fence on the roof). I believe the same is said in the Sifri.

(If someone can help with the exact sources then that would be better for the question.)

Does a "shul" or "shteibel" — the place where people go now to pray and learn, which doesn't have the same "sanctity" as a Beis HaKneses and where other things might be done (eating and drinking, getting together, meeting with people, etc.) — does it need a ma'akeh?

  • Meikeh? Maakeh or Maykeh? Aug 14, 2013 at 0:48
  • ph.yhb.org.il/08-09-05 Aug 14, 2013 at 0:55
  • similar judaism.stackexchange.com/q/5860/759
    – Double AA
    Aug 14, 2013 at 8:49
  • do you assume that the exemption is related to the activities that are conducted, and not related to something else - eg, the fact that they are public places with no individual owner to shoulder responsibility?
    – Seth J
    Nov 12, 2013 at 13:53
  • @SethJ I based my assumption off of the Rambam that I heard (don't have an exact mareh makom for.) So you'd have to look there.
    – Yehoshua
    Nov 12, 2013 at 23:28

2 Answers 2


Your answer is in the Rambam that you quote.

הלכות רוצח ושמירת נפש פרק יא

בַּיִת שֶׁל שְׁנֵי שֻׁתָּפִין חַיָּבִין בְּמַעֲקֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כב ח) "כִּי יִפּל הַנֹּפֵל מִמֶּנּוּ" לֹא תָּלָה אֶלָּא בְּנוֹפֵל. אִם כֵּן לָמָּה נֶאֱמַר (דברים כב ח) "גַּגֶּךָ" לְמַעֵט בָּתֵּי כְּנֵסִיּוֹת וּבָתֵּי מִדְרָשׁוֹת לְפִי שֶׁאֵינָן עֲשׂוּיִים לְדִירָה.‏

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.

Touger translation

Since a "shul" or "shteibel" — the place where people go now to pray and learn is not a Dira - a place where people live - it follows that according to the Rambam it would be excempt from a Ma'akeh.

  • It goes even further back to Sukkah 3a-3b.
    – DonielF
    Jun 15, 2016 at 4:44

The g'mara in M'gila, starting at the bottom of the first amud of daf 28 and continuing on amud 2, discusses בתי כנסיות,‎ בתי מדרשות, and בתי כנסיות built with stipulations that they may be used. It implies that the latter two are in one category — that they may be used for various purposes — and the former, בתי כנסיות without stipulations, are in another, stricter category.

The synagogues you ask about seem to me to be בתי כנסיות built with stipulations (or else they could not be used in the ways you describe).

Minchas Chinuch says "בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות פטורין" from מעקה, which I think would include also בתי כנסיות built with stipulations, which are similar to בתי מדרשות in many ways but are בתי כנסיות technically.

  • how do you draw your conclusions about the technical status?
    – Seth J
    Nov 12, 2013 at 13:52
  • @SethJ, as I say in the answer, "or else they could not be used in the ways you describe". See M'gila.
    – msh210
    Nov 12, 2013 at 18:43
  • Ah. I hear you now. I thought you meant that, without the stipulations, they could not be used for more casual things like eating, not that you could not use them for holy things if they were not Batei Kenesiyoth. Is that what you meant? That's not very convincing to me. Does that mean you're not allowed to hold a Minyan anywhere you please? Like a summer camp holding a Minyan next to the bus at rest stop on their road trip? Or like a Shul or a school having a Shabbaton in a hotel or a camp somewhere?
    – Seth J
    Nov 12, 2013 at 18:53
  • @SethJ, I indeed meant that without the stipulations they couldn't be used for eating and chatting.
    – msh210
    Nov 12, 2013 at 19:02
  • Then maybe you misunderstood my first comment? I meant to ask why you assume that they are בתי כנסיות technically - or why that matters. Your answer seems to assume that they have some variant form of that designation, which allows them to be treated with certain leniencies, but still exempts them from the requirement of מעקה. Makes sense to me in its own right, but by itself I'm left asking for a source. You provide a source, but my question to you is how you draw your conclusion that the מנחת חינוך is referring to all בתי כנסיות, including with stipulations, and not standard בתי כנסיות.
    – Seth J
    Nov 12, 2013 at 19:34

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