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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Preparations for Shabbat, Entrance and Exit

Shabbat Shoes

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When I was growing up in Chicago, a long time ago, most Jewish families were still living under the shadow of the Depression. As such, when I was young, I always had only one pair of shoes, which I wore on weekdays, Shabbat, holidays, and even special family occasions, until they wore out. Then, I got another pair of shoes.

By the time that my children were born and required shoes, the general financial situation in the United States and especially in the Jewish Orthodox community had changed for the better. So, one of the first things that my wife and I decided to do, to make the Shabbat special in the eyes and minds of our little children, was to institute the concept of Shabbat shoes.

They would each have a separate pair of shoes to wear on Shabbat. These shoes were shinier and prettier, though not necessarily more expensive, than the shoes that they wore to school and played in during the week. It was meant to create an idea that is central to Jewish life, that Shabbat is special and must be treated that way in every facet of our otherwise mundane existence.

Having a different, ostensibly nicer, and better pair of shoes to wear on Shabbat reinforces the idea that Shabbat is special, beautiful, and something to look forward to all week long. However, as a child of the depression, I continued to wear one pair of shoes on each day of the week, every day of the year, until that pair of shoes finally wore out. Then, I bought another pair that I continued to wear daily until those, too, finally collapsed from wear and tear.

I have always worn a special suit of clothes for Shabbat. However, I never bought for myself a pair of Shabbat shoes. I always had my weekday shoes polished for Shabbat, but habit is a very strong impediment to changing one's way of life and even spending habits. However, last month the shoes that I was wearing literally fell apart, and, therefore, coronavirus and all, I went the shoe store to buy a replacement pair of shoes.

While there, I decided that I would buy a lighter weight shoe to wear during the weekdays. At my stage of life, anything that helps me walk more easily becomes a necessity. Naturally, the shoes that I bought had to be black, as befitting the Rabbi of the important congregation that I serve. However, suddenly on impulse, I also purchased a much more expensive and stronger shoe that I decided I would now dedicate as my Shabat shoes. It took almost 3 weeks for the shoes to finally arrive at the shoe store, but when they did and I began to wear them, I am happy to report, they fit perfectly and are most comfortable. But then I experienced a sudden surge of nostalgia and even excitement because I felt I was re-enacting the experience of my little children when they put on their Shabbat shoes on Friday afternoon. They were always so proud of how they looked in those shoes. I have no doubt that it enhanced their Shabbat, and now I felt that it enhanced my current Shabbat experience markedly. I have the delicious experience at my age, of being like a child, with all the wonder, excitement and optimism that is reserved for the very young.

Now I know you will say that I am reading too much into the mundane and ordinary experience such as buying a pair of shoes. But all my life I have believed that there really are no small matters in life, and that everything, ordinary as they may appear on the surface, have an importance far beyond the act itself.

Shoes are important item in our minds. It is not for naught that there are holy days in the year when we are meant to mourn and afflict ourselves, when wearing comfortable leather shoes is forbidden. Part of this concept is that the rest of the year shoes are important. In fact, one of the blessings that we make in the morning, according to Jewish tradition, is that the Lord has fulfilled everything that is needed, and this includes having a good pair of shoes to wear. Having special shoes for Shabbat really does make a lot of sense for us, both spiritually and psychologically.

Shabbat shalom

Berel Wein



Rabbi Berel Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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