Meditation and Shoelaces

Ideals are concretised through actions.

Rabbi Aron Moss,

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7
Question
I saw the craziest thing in the Code of Jewish Law. It tells you how to tie your shoes! You are supposed to put your right shoe on before the left shoe, and then you have to tie the left shoelace before the right shoelace. And when taking them off, it's the opposite: untie the right then the left, take off the left then the right. And a lefty does it all the other way around.

Maybe I'm missing something, but where is the great moral lesson in that? Am I a better person if I tie my shoes in a special way?

Answer
The shape of the human body reflects the contours of the human soul. Our body has two sides, right and left, because the soul has two distinct powers, called chessed and gevurah.
 
Chessed is the power to give, be outward and expressive; gevurah is the power to hold back, be inward and restrained. These are the two sides of the soul, the side of kindness and the side of discipline, that correspond to the two sides of the body, the right side and the left.
 
Both powers are essential. The secret to a healthy life and successful relationships is knowing how to balance these two forces - when to be assertive and when to submit; when to be lenient and when to be strict; when to let yourself go and when to just say no.
 
In Kabbalah, the stronger side (the right for right-handed people, left side for lefties) represents giving and the weaker side symbolises holding back. This is to teach us that our power of chessed should be more dominant than our power of gevurah. While both powers are important, the ideal is to have a higher measure of kindness than discipline.

Discipline is important, but kindness should always dominate.
Ideals are concretised through actions. We can be deeply influenced by the symbolism of even simple acts that we perform - down to the way we get dressed.
 
Putting on a shoe is an act of giving (to your foot), which is chessed, so you put the shoe on your stronger foot first. You then tie the lace on the weaker foot, as tying is an act of restraint, which is gevurah.
 
However, untying a shoe is releasing and letting go - a chessed movement. So when you are untying shoelaces the stronger foot takes precedence. Removing your shoe is taking away, an act of discipline and gevurah, so for that the weaker comes first. It all symbolises the same point - discipline is important, but kindness should always dominate.
 
Imagine having to stop and think before putting on your shoes every day. Suddenly the most mundane routine becomes a meditation. If I am even mindful of the significance of my shoelaces, then how much more must I be considerate of the way I act toward the people around me, ensuring that while I use the necessary restraint, I save my stronger hand for kindness.




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