Kabbalah and the Art of Tying Your Shoelaces

First put on your right shoe, then your left shoe, then bind your left shoe, and finally bind your right shoe. That's the way Jews do it.

The Torah was given to sanctify the mundane.

Shoes allow us to walk the face of the earth, to contact physicality and move around as we wish freely. More than any other material artifact that we possess and utilize daily, shoes symbolize our involvement with the mundane. As we walk forward to acheive our goals in life they protect our feet from the stones and thorns that cover the ground upon which we tread.

In the Temple the priests served barefoot, so as not to separate their bodies from the sanctity of the Temple floor. Similarly, Moses at the Burning Bush was told by God to take off his shoes, "for the place upon which you stand is holy ground." The gematria of the phrase, "is holy ground" (אדמת קדש הוא, 861), is the same as that of "the Holy Temple" (בית המקדש).

But so long as we have not sanctified the earth in its entirety to be a sanctuary for God we need shoes to protect our feet, while continuously on the move, doing our utmost to make this world a better place – a meeting ground for us and our Creator.

In the Song of Songs the bride is described with the words, "How beautiful are your feet in shoes, daughter of the benevolent one" ("מַה יָּפוּ פְעָמַיִךְ בַּנְּעָלִים בַּת נָדִיב"). "The benevolent one" refers to Abraham, the first Jew, who was outstanding for his unsurpassed benevolence to all. He needed shoes to take him to the place of those in need of support and to fill the world with the consciousness of one God. Every Jewish soul is called "daughter of the benevolent one."

In Kabbalah, the name of the archangel of the World of Action, Sandalfon, is from the word "sandal" (the same as in English). One needs sandals/shoes to function optimally in the World of Action.

The two feet symbolize (and on the spiritual level, embody) two types of trust innate to our souls – active trust (the right foot) and passive trust (the left foot). Active trust is relatively male while passive trust is relatively female. Active trust manifests as the self-confidence necessary to take initiative, to get up and accomplish what we need to accomplish in our lives. Passive trust is the simple and earnest trust in the Almighty who will surely provide for us and sustain us in all situations.

We begin putting on our shoes with right-foot consciousness – we're putting on shoes to become fit to transcend the limitations imposed upon us by our immediate surroundings, to enter the outside world and pursue there our worldly occupation and realize our goals. But then, before binding our right shoe, we put on our left shoe – augmenting our awareness that all our needs in life, and surely all our success, depend upon the Almighty, in whom alone we trust. We then immediately bind and fasten this passive trust in the Almighty and only thereafter bind our determination to affect reality in the way we desire (for the sake of the Almighty).

We begin by working on the male side of our character (our active trust, ready and wanting to rise to our call in life) but cannot complete its rectification (in Kabbalah, "rectification" means "clothing," in our context, the clothing of the feet) before we first complete the rectification of the female side of our character (our passive trust, our total reliance on God).

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sand June 9, 2011 at 10:45 pm

the Sandler family likes this Blog !!! Trust in Hashem permeates evry detail of our lives, even tying your shoes!

sand June 9, 2011 at 10:46 pm

the Sand family likes this Blog !!! Trust in Hashem permeates every detail of our lives, even tying your shoes!

Germophobia…. and davening with shoes June 21, 2011 at 8:39 am

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Natan June 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm

First, may Hashem grant you a full speedy recovery with healthy happy years into the future.

Regarding the shoes, the following phenomenal story happened in a town in New Jersey (about 25 years ago).

A Yeshiva boy started slipping from the path early in life. When he was 14 he left the yeshiva. At 16-17 he left his home but still remained in the same town and was known to everyone. Later he became attached to Italian girls and had his girl friend. They wanted to marry, but her Catholic parents insisted he should convert to Catholicism first. After a while, he agreed even to this. An appointment was setup with the priest for a full fledged Sunday conversion ceremony in the Church.

At the ceremony with her family and friends, they were standing and waiting for the priest who had gone to bring special water. While waiting, he noticed that people were staring at his shoes. He looked down to his shoes and to his surprise he forgot to tie both shoes! Ashamed, he started bending down to tie them, but found himself contemplating which shoe should he tie first? He suddenly had the following flashback:

He is sitting in class in the Yeshiva learning Talmud which is discussing “First put on your right shoe, then your left shoe, then bind your left shoe, and finally bind your right shoe.” His Rebbe/Teacher tells the class, “How wonderful is our Torah and the ways of Hashem. The Torah guides a Jew even into the minutest detail of everyday life.”

Our lost Yeshiva boy started crying! He abruptly turned and ran out of the Church! Still crying, he ran to his parent's home, and ran inside. His startled father was reading the Sunday paper on the recliner. His lost son said very little but cried, “Abba! Abba! I need to go to Israel, NOW!” His father knew not to talk and simply gave him money, had a flight arranged 1-2-3, and wished him the best. From the airport in Israel, he went straight to the Kotel, fell on the holy wall, and cried for a very long time.
Finally, he turned away from the Kotel, and to his absolute astonishment he comes face to face with his Rebbe/Teacher from New Jersey! He exclaims, “Rebbe! You saved my life!”

Top Hat and Shoes | Morning Meditations July 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm

[…] of two other stories; the story of The Emperor's New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson, and Kabbalah and the Art of Tying Your Shoelaces by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh. The former tells a tale of self-delusion which others are willing to […]


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