Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Giving Precedence to the Right

In general, halacha gives precedence to the right (not correct, but as opposed to left) side.  When washing -- whether first thing in the morning, after using the wash room, or for a bread meal -- the right hand is washed first.  When backing up from Shmoneh Esrei, we bow to our left which is to the right of the sh'china.  When putting on shoes we put on the right first.  Two notable exceptions: tying the left shoe (for men) and (usually) removing the left shoe both take precedence over the right.

Men tie their left shoe first because of t'filin.  The pasuk tells us, "ukshartam al yadecha"/tie them onto your bicep (Chazal tell us the "al yadecha" here means "on your bicep").  M'sora also tells us that from the spelling we see that it means your weak/left side.  Note than in halacha, "left" means "weak", except when otherwise specified.  So a left handed man put his t'filin on the arm that for everyone else is the right, but for him is his left.

Since women don't wear t'filin, there is some discussion about whether they should tie there left of right shoe first.  On the one hand (yes; every pun intended), the drash may have just used t'filin because it was there, or it could mean that only those that wear t'filin should give precedence to their left when tying.  I believe my daughters (who both went to seminary and put shoes on women way more than I do) told me that women tie their right shoe first.

As far as taking off the left shoe first, that is actually giving precedence to the right by leaving the right foot enshoed longer.  However, would there be a mitzvah to remove one's shoes, then the right would again take precedence.  Presumably, Moshe Rabeinu took of his right sandal first when HaShem told him to remove his shoes at the burning bush.  We also have a time when we are required to remove our shoes -- Yom Kippur and Tisha b'Av.  At first blush, though, since the removal of shoes is for suffering, there is not kavod to be given and so the left would still come off first.

Halichos Shlomo, though, paskens that a woman should remove her right shoe first after lighting candles for Yom Kippur.  (Men should also remove their right shoe first for Yom Kippur if it is close to acceptance of Yom Kippur; I just happened to see the candle lighting p'sak this morning.)  He gives an interesting reason from Rav Kook, ztz"l.  On Yom Kippur, in addition to the aspect of suffering, there is also an aspect of preparing oneself to stand before the Creator of the World and plead for mercy.  That requires one to strip away all arrogance and present oneself in honest humility.  Removing one's shoes helps with that attitude adjustment.

The act of removing one's shoes is thus transformed from simply fulfilling a technical obligation into a positive act of contrition in preparation for the awesome meeting that is about to take place.  It is more than worth deferring to the right for such glorious act.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…