by Rabbi Aron Moss
Question of the Week:
(from Batya age 8)
Why do we wear tennis shoes or crocs on Yom Kippur? It used to be a luxury to wear leather shoes in the olden days, but today it's not such a big deal to wear leather, and anyway non-leather shoes are just as comfortable, and quite cool. So why can't we just wear leather shoes?
Shoes are what connect us to the earth. And so footwear represent what life on earth is all about. Sometimes we can wear leather shoes, sometimes we shouldn't.
Leather is animal skin that has been processed and refined. A coarse piece of rawhide is stretched and boiled, treated and purified, to make a final product that is smooth to touch and comfortable to wear.
The human being is like an animal in many ways. We eat and drink, and spend a lot of time worrying about our own survival. Our soul's mission on earth is to take the animal within us and tame it, to smooth out the rough edges of our personality, to transform our leather into shoes.
We do this work every day of the year, except one.
One day a year we withdraw from the physical world and retreat into a world of pure soul. Because while the human being may be similar to an animal, we are also similar to angels. We each have a deeply spiritual side, a side that is pure and holy. It can sometimes get lost beneath our animal side. So one day a year we shed our animal-like exterior and become angelic, connecting to our soul and letting its light shine.
That day is Yom Kippur. Adults do not eat or drink, and we do no physical work. We escape for a day to a spiritual haven. And we don't wear leather shoes. We are not taming any animals today. We are singing with the angels.
By the end of Yom Kippur, your body may be tired, but your soul is refreshed. You will be ready to put your leather shoes back on, and begin again your task of taming the animal. Because your mission is not to be an angel, but to be a good human being, by refining your own inner animal and revealing your unique soul. No one else can fill your shoes.