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Shoes, Jewish Law and Kaballah
By Chaim Lazer
Sometimes things in Jewish law do look down right silly. As an example, there is a law which stipulates that when putting on shoes, first you put on the right shoe, then you put on the left shoe. Afterwards, tie the left shoe and then tie the right shoe.
Now as an efficiency expert, it would seem that the fastest and most efficient method would be to put on the first shoe and then tie it prior to moving to the second shoe. After completing this task, move to the second shoe, insert foot then tie it. In this manner, you save yourself several moments of going back to the first shoe. Agreed? If you are on the first shoe, complete the task before moving to the second shoe.
However as stated above the Jewish law prescribes that we not be efficient. Rather, we are instructed to first put the right shoe on, then the left, then tie the left, then return and tie the right.
The reason given is because we should always give precedence to the right, with the exception in matters of tying. As tefillin are tied on the left arm, so there fore we must give precedence to the left in matters of tying.
Now this certainly does have a logic, even though it's now exactly what we might consider "heavy" logic. In all things we give precedence to the right with the exception of tying.
Now we may ask, what is the importance of preference always going to the right with the exception of tying?
For this we must do a little deeper understanding.
What is the right and what is the left?
In the Kabbalistic terminology, right is synonymous with chesed, giving.. Left is identified with gevura, with-holding. The concept of chesed is that of giving, outgoing, helpfulness and love even with out boundaries. Gevura is just the opposite, it is withholding, restraint, and withdrawal. These two concepts are present in all aspects of the world, since with these two characteristics the world was created.
They also exist in the personal relationships that we have with each other. When should we be giving, when should we deny giving? When should we act with love, when should we refrain from loving? As an example, we want and need to love our children. However there is a time to be stern. If need be, we must reprimand a small child who desires to play with a fire to prevent any injury. This is an example of gevura, in a positive manner. It binds and restrains.
Our right arm (in the majority of people) is the arm of strength. The left arm has a lesser degree of power that the right. We are therefore instructed to lead in all things with the right, with kindness and giving. Binding and withholding, necessary as they may be, must be done in a less severe manner, with the left, the less powerful arm. Hug your child with the right, spank him with the left.
That is the message of tying the shoes. The right, the manifestation of giving, must be done with all of our strength. Withholding, the left, must be done without all of our strength. When this is reversed, when the withholding is done with too much strength, a catastrophe may occur in our lives. However if giving is done with less than all of our might, we still may add on to it.
Abraham represented chesed, giving. He had two sons: Issac and Yishmael. Issac was a righteous man, Yishmael deviated from the righteous path when he was young but returned as he grew older. That is the power of chesed, giving. It does not push away.
Issac represented gevura, constraint. He also had two sons: Yaakov and Essov. Yaakov was a righteous man, Essov deviated from the path of righteousness. He never returned to his father's ways. Such is the power of gevura, the left side.
So let us remember this lesson each time that we put on our shoes, from the mystical teachings, via the media of tying our shoes. Giving is always given preference to withholding.
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