Which shoe do you put on first in the morning? On the face of it, this seems to be a most banal question. What difference does it make which shoe one puts on first? Yet, Judaism finds this to be the basis of a halacha: First, you shoe in your right foot!
Each Halacha adds meaning to our lives, thus the obvious question is how does the order of putting on our shoes add meaning?
As the Kabbalah and Zohar ascribe meaning to each foot, we learn that the right foot stands for hesed (kindness) and the left foot stands for gevurah (strictness). These represent a balance whereby we strive to do good for others yet try to remember to stay within our limits.
Society is divided between too many factions; conservatives and liberals, G-d fearing and atheists, pro this and against that, it is so fractured we often get confused as to where we stand. Still, we gain meaning from somewhere.
This is where the Torah and Halacha help us define our priorities and finds balance and meaning. Being mindful and paying attention to how we approach our day by putting our right shoe on first, suggests intentionality and helps us start the day with the right state of mind—on the right foot, which serves as a metaphor for beginning our day the right way. Just as today’s gurus teach us to “be present”, our Torah suggested it thousands of years earlier, extending mindfulness to most things we do in our daily life: We wash our hands before we start our day and before we break bread, we make a blessing over the food we eat and many other large and small practices.
But, short of praising our tradition, herein possibly lies the real essence of this Halacha:
One should start the day by paying attention to one’s values and priorities! Don’t leave it to chance or circumstance, but own the day by putting on the right shoe first, as a commitment to landing on the right foot into the new day.
People often view Judaism and its edicts as archaic and detached from reality, but that idea couldn’t be further from the truth. Our days are busier than ever, with distractions mounting around us. Not only must we do our jobs and care for our families, but we must answer texts and emails and respond to all those bombarding us online and through social media. In such a world, applying intention to the smallest act, the seemingly least significant in appearance, helps to ground us, to take control of our minds and access the world around us. This amounts to starting our day by saying: “I am going to care about how I walk through life! I will try to control my day and be the best I can be in it.”
Chazal – our elders, thought of every detail regardless of how benign it appeared. Thus, when finding something confounding in the text, always give it the benefit of doubt. They knew how to guide us in life.
To be a Jew and keep Torah laws means paying attention and being mindful of our values.