Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Dead Man's Shoes

by Rabbi Aron Moss

Question of the Week:

Is it true you are not allowed to keep shoes that belonged to someone who is now dead? As we were going through my grandfather's possessions, my grandmother insisted on throwing away his shoes, including brand new pairs he never wore. Isn't it better to donate them to someone who can use them?


A medieval mystic, Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid, warned against wearing shoes that belonged to the departed. While he didn't share his reasoning, others have offered various fascinating explanations. Here's an ingenious one.

The Talmud, in a section on dream interpretation, lists various dreams that signal negative portents. One of them is if you dream of a dead person coming back and removing your shoes. Such a vision, says the Talmud, is bad news. It means that death will soon visit you.

A shoe represents our physical life. Just as the shoe is our connection to the ground, so our body is the soul's grounding in this world. This is why Moses had to remove his shoes when G-d spoke to him at the burning bush, why we don't wear leather shoes on Yom Kippur, and why angels are described as being barefoot. The absence of shoes represents the shedding of the body and identification with the soul.

In the symbolic language of dreams, a dead person removing your shoes means you are soon to shed your physical shell and join them on the other side.

You don't want to have such a dream. So the last thing you want to do is wear shoes belonging to a dead person. We dream at night what we think about during the day. Wearing those shoes will cause you to think about their departed owner, and that association may bring you to dream of them coming back to repossess their shoes. You have created your own nightmare.

Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid suggests a simple solution: sell the shoes to a stranger, and give the proceeds to charity. The stranger won't associate the shoes with the departed, and the poor will benefit from the sale.

Sources: Talmud Brochos 57b, Zohar Chukas 108a, Sefer Chassidim 454


Leah said...

I have heard if this, too. I never knew the reason, though. Thanks. Have a beautiful week! :-)

Anonymous said...

Also in Yibum, the shoe represents the connection to this world. When the shoe is given back, the possibility of the soul of the departed coming back into the world through his brother - keeping the deceased name alive, is eliminated.

Anonymous said...

Is this kabbalah?

Anonymous said...

Wow, this subject touches my soul very deep...
In 2012 my beloved Mother passed away after fighting for almost 2 years with brain cancer, and during her final weeks/months she lay unconscious in her bed while attended 24/7 by the "angels in white" (nurses) I had hired to take care of her.
When her soul finally departed, I had to take all necessary steps for the taharah, burial etc., and then I had the terrible task of giving away her objects and emptying the apartment. It took a few weeks, and after everything had been donated (furniture, kitchenware & so on, I was left with a bag containing her shoes...
I asked my Rav (who got his semichah at the Ben Porat Yosef Yeshiva and was a talmid of Chacham Yaakov Yosef Z"L) what should I do with those shoes... He told me that according to sephardic law, no one could use them, even a stranger... that they should be rendered unusable and disposed of... same as with hats and head covers...
I still remember, it took me a good half hour cutting the shoes with scissors and knife, while crying rivers of tears!! And then disposing of them.
Although my heart is now beginning to heal from such suffering (2-1/2 years have already passed since then), it's still one of my worst memories.
Shalom & brachah to all my Jewish brothers throughout the world, and wishing that Mashiach should arrive soon and relieve us from these terrible times.
R. Halevy.

Devorah said...

Kabbalah brought down to the masses, known as Chassidus.

SPACE said...

A good man is not shown a good dream, and a bad man is not shown a bad dream. Berakoth 55b

Anonymous said...

You are aware of the term "superstitious" correct?

Devorah said...

It is not superstition..... it is Torah. Many ''superstitions''' have their basis in fact, but have been misconstrued along the way. This one is not a superstition.

Anonymous said...

Have bought cycle shoes from a shop nearby, although I do not know the man personally I do know his name etc as the bike shop man told me after I had bought them in good faith as a charity donation.
since having them I have fallen from my bike twice, this could be just a coincidence but will keep you posted.