Shabbos 60: The Tragedy of the Spiked Sandal

“It was taught in the mishna: And he may not go out with a single sandal when there is no wound on his foot.”

The Rabbis have been huddled over the topic of women’s accessories for days determining what is permissible to wear out and about on Shabbat in public. Today’s Daf Yomi continues that examination with a discourse on rings and spiked sandals. And we are told through the analysis of such sandals how tragedy can occur when cool heads fail to prevail, and people panic.

The general principle, which we learned in an earlier reading, is that the legal status of an object is determined by its primary material. Although as usual, there is a difference of opinion. The Rabbis examine rings with and without seals emblazoned upon them. After much debate about whether a ring is pure or impure depending upon if it has an administrative seal or is a simple piece of jewelry, a Rabbi offers a practical solution to the dilemma: “the ring is the ring itself, not the seal. Therefore, they permit going out into the public domain on Shabbat even with a ring that has a seal.”  Sometimes, a ring is just a ring.

We learn about the tragedy that is a spiked sandal in today’s Daf. We are told that a man may not go out on Shabbat with a spiked sandal or a single sandal when there is no wound on his foot (presumably he would be wearing a bandage if he was injured, but why would he be hobbling around with just one sandal regardless?) The spiked sandal carries a lot of misery with it. During a time of religious persecution, a group of warriors were taking refuge in a cave. We are told that one man wore his spiked sandal backwards and his footprints gave the indication that someone was leaving the cave and heading straight into enemy lines. The men who were sheltering in the cave feared that the footprints would provide their enemy with a trail to find them and started pushing each other out of the way in panic. We are told that they killed each other in greater numbers than the enemy ever would have and as a result, wearing a spiked sandal became prohibited on Shabbat, which is the day of the week the incident occurred.

Several Rabbis offer alternative stories involving the infamous spiked sandal and the tragedy of friendly fire. In one story, the comrades were sitting in the cave and hear a sound of a spiked sandal above them. In another version, the men were sitting in a synagogue and heard the sound of a spiked sandal reverberating from behind. In both cases the men pushed each other out of the way and killed one another in greater numbers than would have occurred at the hands of anyone else.

The panic behavior that was exhibited in the caves as soldiers were sheltering in place from marauding enemies, reminds me of the panic we have witnessed during the past few months as people try to find some normalcy among the encroaching coronavirus. The photos of people loading up with shopping carts of toilet paper and paper towels is a manifestation of all the fear, anxiety and uncertainty associated with living in one of the most stressful times that many of us have ever experienced. We see everyone else buying toilet paper and we think we better do so as well, or we will run out. We set each other off with our contagious panic buying; hoarding necessities provides a sense of reassurance that maybe we will be ok.

I love sandals; they hold the promise of languid summer days filled with lots of free time under the warmth of the sun. I always look forward to the month of May when the weather starts to get warmer and its finally time to shed outer layers and wear open-toed shoes. But this year, my accessory budget consists mostly of cleaning supplies. Despite limited storage in my small city apartment, I have bought more wipes and scrubbing cleansers than I could possibly ever need. I am ashamed to say, that I have to some extent given into the tragedy of the spiked sandal.

About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at
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