Monday, February 28, 2011

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Right, Left, Right…Or is it the Other Way Around?

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by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

     When you put on your shoes, or take them off, which one do you start with, and what difference does it make? It can drive you nuts when you have to stop and think which side goes first. Why would the rabbis set up such a seemingly meaningless rule?

    In the Torah, and even the English speaking secular world, “right” can mean a particular side, or it can mean, “correct,” depending upon the context. The English word “left” can either refer to a side, or it can refer to the discarded, the forsaken.

    The right side of a person is generally stronger than the left. The vast majority of people are right-handed, some 92 percent. So we can see where “right” gets its meaning.

    But what does any of this have to do with me taking off my shoes?

    The Torah is trying to instill a wonderful, ongoing, general principle:[i] When you move toward the positive, start with your stronger side, your right side. When you move away from the positive, move away reluctantly, with a weaker step first, your left side first.

    Release the good in you first. Untie your right shoe first. Discard your weaker aspects first. Take off your left shoe first. Move toward the good with a strong step. When beginning to daven (pray) move forward with your right foot first. When moving away from the positive, move away reluctantly. When finished davening, step back with your left foot first. Bind your left side first, tie your left shoe first.

     Giving charity? Give with your right hand. Taking off your socks? Take the left one off first.

    Does any of this change your spiritual life? Like all things in the Torah, when you stop and think about what you are doing, when you recall what the teaching is, then even seemingly meaningless things are frequent reminders of how to live your life. Be reminded: Move toward the good with strength. Leave the good reluctantly. Give with strength. Release the good first. Bind the weaker first.

    Like all things in the Torah, the order of putting on and taking off shoes is just a hint to the ordering of the soul.


[i] Left-handed people must check the law for each of these.

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