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N7. Taking Reasonable Steps to Keep Ourselves and Others Safe.    [Make a Comment]

We are to take reasonable steps to keep ourselves and others safe in areas that are under our control.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Deuteronomy 22:8 (Maimonides RP184, RN298; Meir MP75, MN190; Chinuch C546, C547)
When you build a new house, you must build a low wall around your roof; otherwise someone may fall from it, and you will be responsible for his death.

Philippians 2:4
Look out for each other's interests and not just for your own.

Supportive Scriptures

Leviticus 19:18
Don't take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people; rather, love your neighbor as yourself; I am ADONAI.

Psalm 16:1-2
Protect me, God, for you are my refuge. I said to ADONAI, "You are my Lord; I have nothing good outside of you."

Psalm 91:9-12
For you have made ADONAI, the Most High, who is my refuge, your dwelling-place. No disaster will happen to you, no calamity will come near your tent; for he will order his angels to care for you and guard you wherever you go. They will carry you in their hands, so that you won't trip on a stone.

Proverbs 3:27
Don't withhold good from someone entitled to it when you have in hand the power to do it.

Matthew 25:31-46
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, accompanied by all the angels, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. The 'sheep' he will place at his right hand and the 'goats' at his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you made me your guest, I needed clothes and you provided them, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the people who have done what God wants will reply, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you our guest, or needing clothes and provide them? When did we see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' The King will say to them, 'Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!' Then he will also speak to those on his left, saying, 'Get away from me, you who are cursed! Go off into the fire prepared for the Adversary and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me no food, thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, a stranger and you did not welcome me, needing clothes and you did not give them to me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they too will reply, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, needing clothes, sick or in prison, and not take care of you?' And he will answer them, 'Yes! I tell you that whenever you refused to do it for the least important of these people, you refused to do it for me!' They will go off to eternal punishment, but those who have done what God wants will go to eternal life.

Luke 10:27
He answered, "You are to love ADONAI your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your understanding; and your neighbor as yourself."1

1. See also, Matthew 22:33-40 and Mark 10:21


This Mitzvah is derived from Deuteronomy 22:8, which teaches that one must build protective railings around the roofs of our houses, and from the more general commandment, Leviticus 19:18, which commands that we show love to our neighbor. Our concern for the safety of our fellow man is a reflection of how God cares for and protects us.

The Deuteronomy Scripture was commanded at a time when the roofs of houses were flat living areas, and it was intended to keep our families, our neighbors, and ourselves safe from falling off. The general principle of this Mitzvah that is derived from Scripture is that we should take responsibility for the safety of ourselves and others by removing dangerous conditions from areas that are under our control. While most roofs today are not flat living spaces, some still are, and there are other conditions of danger that we must not allow to exist such as unfenced or uncovered swimming pools, the harboring of unchained vicious animals, dangerous implements and substances left accessible to children, etc.; there are too many to list them all.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides' positive mitzvah RP184 requires that we remove conditions of danger from our homes, and his negative mitzvah RN298 commands that we not cause or allow dangerous conditions to exist, or leave obstacles that could cause injury in either public or private places. Meir's positive mitzvah MP75 requires that we erect a fence around our roofs and remove all obstacles in our house upon which a person can trip and fall, and his negative mitzvah MN190 is related to it in that it prohibits allowing any dangerous condition in our houses to persist. HaChinuch's two mitzvot run parallel to those of Meir, so Maimonides is the only one of the three who extends responsibility for safety to public areas.


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