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ow Do You ie Your oelace?
By Aaron Moss

I saw the craziest thing in the "Code of Jewish Law". It tells you how to tie your shoes! You are supposed to put your right shoe on before the left shoe, and then you have to tie the left shoelace before the right shoelace. And when taking them off it's the opposite: untie the right then the left, take off the left then the right. And a lefty does it all the other way around.

Maybe I'm missing something, but where is the great moral lesson in that? Am I a better person if I tie my shoes in a special way?

The shape of the human body reflects the contours of the human soul. Our body has two sides, right and left, because the soul has two distinct powers. On the one hand there is the power to give, be outward and expressive; on the other hand is the power to hold back, be inward and restrained. These are the two sides of the soul, the side of kindness and the side of discipline, that correspond to the two sides of the body, the right side and the left.

Both powers are essential. The secret to a healthy life and successful relationships is knowing how to balance these two forces - when to be assertive and when to submit; when to be strict and when to be lenient; when to let yourself go and when to just say no.

In Kabbalah, the stronger side (the right for right-handed people, left for lefties) represents giving, and the weaker side symbolises holding back. This is to teach us that our power of giving should be more dominant than our power of holding back. The ideal is to have a higher measure of kindness than discipline.   Ideals are concretised through actions. We can be deeply influenced by the symbolism of even simple acts that we perform - down to the way we get dressed.   Putting on a shoe is an act of giving (to your foot), so you put the shoe on your stronger foot first. You then tie the lace on the weaker foot, as tying is an act of restraint.

However, untying a shoe is releasing and letting go, so when you are untying shoelaces the stronger foot takes precedence. Removing your shoe is taking away, an act of discipline, so for that the weaker comes first. It all symbolises the same point - discipline is important, but kindness should dominate.

Imagine having to stop and think before putting on your shoes every day. Suddenly the most mundane routine becomes a meditation. If I am even mindful of the significance of my shoelaces, then I am more likely to be considerate of the people I meet, and ensure that while I use the necessary restraint, I save my stronger hand for kindness.

Posted on March 3, 2006
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