Off the Pulpit

The Spirituality of Shoes

Although the morning blessings are now recited in synagogue, originally each was tied to a morning activity. The blessing “who opens the eyes of the blind” was said when we first opened our eyes. “Who clothes the naked” was when we dressed, and so forth.

“Who has provided me with all my needs” was recited when tying shoelaces, beautifully explained by Rabbi S.R. Hirsch. He said that shoes indicate self-reliance. By contrast, when individuals in the Bible stand on sacred ground, they are told to take off their shoes, for to be barefoot is a sign of dependence.

Each morning we go from a vulnerable state, that of sleep, to a state where we are expected to aspire and accomplish. Perhaps that is one reason that the Talmud teaches: “A person should sell the very roof beams of his house to buy shoes for his feet (Shabbat 129a).” To walk with confidence is a gift for which we thank God every morning.