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Is There a Jewish Superstition Not to Go Barefoot?

Is There a Jewish Superstition Not to Go Barefoot?

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Question:

My grandmother always told me not to walk around the house in just socks and no shoes. Is there anything to this or is it an old wives tale?

Answer:

There is no law that forbids you to walk around in socks. But our sages teach us to never ignore the sayings of our grandmothers, for there is always some wisdom in them. Indeed, your grandmother's aversion to shoelessness does have some basis.

Jewish law states that one who is mourning the loss of a loved one removes their shoes. Thus walking around in socks makes you look like a mourner, and we don't even want to look like a mourner. This is part of a general Jewish attitude to death. We don't like it. We do whatever we can to stay away from it.

There are many Jewish customs that stem from the desire to avoid anything associated with death. Some people don't sleep with their feet facing the door, because that is how a corpse lies before burial. We don't speak about what will happen when someone dies, but rather what will happen "after 120 years." We wash our hands after attending a funeral, to rid ourselves of the impurity of the cemetery.

This dislike of death is not so much a superstition as an allergy. Our tradition trains us to love life and be allergic to death. Unlike some traditions that venerate death as an ideal and view life as a wretched curse, the Jewish tradition cherishes life as a blessing. Through customs that distance us from death and its trappings, the Jewish people has inculcated a worldview that is life-affirming and this-world focused.

Your grandmother had a point. Death is a part of life. But it need not be given any more space than necessary. Keep your shoes on.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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M. Diane September 3, 2017

My maternal grandmother always admonished against running in 'stockinged' feet (just socks on, no shoes) to avoid slipping and sliding on her immaculately polished floors - She warned: "You'll
fall down and hurt your 'tuchus.' Reply

Wanda Sain Diego September 3, 2017

We were and still are forbidden by all parents and grandparents to walk around barefoot in the house. House shoes are required. Reply

J.W. Brakebill Indiana U.S.A. September 2, 2017

My siblings and I were not allowed to run around the house sock-footed as children, simply because the friction of the wood floors had a tendency to cause unnecessary holes in socks. Wisdom of the adults! But we were taught to respect other people's homes by removing our shoes when we visited, unless, the residents told us to keep our shoes on. Reply

Jenna Boulder September 1, 2017

Why does Hashem tell Moses to take of his shoes at the burning bush "because this ground is holy?" Seems like we should respect a place by taking off our shoes . It also allows us to be more connected to the earth/the ground we are walking on. Reply

J.W. Brakebill Indiana U.S.A. September 2, 2017
in response to Jenna:

From Moses' experience, should we not conclude that whenever we enter into the Presence of HaShem, such as in prayer, would it not seem logical that we should not only remove our shoes in humility, due to His Holiness, but fall to our knees as well? In other words, standing with our shoes on, could "suggest" we imagine ourselves on equal footing. And as you say, removal of shoes shows respect. Reply

Liat NY September 1, 2017

When I was a child, I was not allowed to be at home without shoes. Now, I have the same rule at my home. However, we do have a separate pair of sandals/shoes for home. I would like my daughter to continue with my Sefardí tradition as my family did. Reply

aleks yakubson Staten Island August 31, 2017

i always took 'barefoot' to mean without shoes or socks. Reply

Joey Fox via chabadstudentcentre.ca August 31, 2017

"There is no law that forbids you to walk around in socks."
You can take your shoes off. Reply

vivian warshaw los angeles CA August 31, 2017

you guys forgot something: Jewish mourners do not wear leather shoes. Reply

Elisheba Flor USA August 31, 2017

My mom would never let me go without shoes when I was a kid (still now, she would tell me to put shoes on! lol) and bedfoot was not supposed to face the door. I never knew where those traditions would come from... I never had a clear answer when I asked, it was just things our Sefardi family did... Thank you for the explanation! Reply

Jan London August 31, 2017
in response to Elisheba Flor:

The foot of the bed is never to face the door - the explanation my parents gave to me was that only when a person was dead and lying on the bed was the foot of the bed facing the door. Reply

Patricia arcadia via chabadpasadena.com August 31, 2017

We always take our shoes off when entering our house. There is bacteria from outside on the soles of your shoes, not to mention the shumutz and you spread it around the house.
We bring life and health to the indoors by removing our shoes. Reply

vivian warshaw los angekes August 31, 2017
in response to Patricia :

so do people from India and Japan and Korea and many other countries. Reply

Anonymous SC September 1, 2017
in response to Patricia :

I agree with this, but we have "house shoes" too. They are softer and more comfortable to wear specifically while in the house, and not allowed outside because of the bacteria you mentioned. Reply

Patricia Huff Arcadia via chabadpasadena.com September 2, 2017
in response to vivian warshaw:

We take our shoes off to keep dirt out, not because we are thinking about people from other countries. Reply

Ron Nyc August 31, 2017

One is not aloud to go on the temple mount without shoes. A person who walks without shoes is a sign of holiness. Reply

Robert Berkovits Annapolis Maryland August 31, 2017

Wearing socks is not barefoot Free will, means we can choose not to be controlled by baseless superstitious. Going shoeless, may make a person uncomfortable from a cold floor. In certain parts of the world you may want to avoid stepping on a scorpion or snake.
Alternate rationale: she did not want shoes worn outside to dirty the rug. Reply

nathan dunning elizabethtown August 30, 2017

Perhaps your grandmother knew how it was not to have any shoes for a period of time.My uncle told me repeatedly about the time he was shoeless,I myself experienced the same situation when I was still very young.Very interesting customs,you guy's are awesome
Reply

Anshel I August 30, 2017

Thank you. Reply

Clive South Africa August 30, 2017

I prefer to wear light shoes or sandals in the house. Thesr are often kept for inside use.
Feng Shui principals that the Japanese use are practical and could bring tranquillity into the bedroom. Reply

Anon Mouse This crazy city August 27, 2017

Oy, I feel bad but will deal. I feel like life is a blessing and death is to be avoided and I live for my kids. But sometimes I see ppl suffer and think life is wretched. I can not figure things out often and feel like my brain is part wretched even though in some ways i'm qute smart.Since there is a least one other out there like me I write this. Sorry if it is offensive. It is real. Reply

Anonymous February 25, 2015

? Slightly exaggerated Judaism deals with everything and there is so much literature on death and reward and the world to come. Who doesn't prefer life? But Jews aren't aftaid of death we realize it's an important stage also known as the World of truth. Reply

Ray Schmitz Lompoc Ca January 8, 2014

Shoes or no shoes Again discussions like this make me think about and appreciate living. I just asked myself why I traipse around the house in socks.
I will read more on the subject and no doubt talk with others about this discussion. The exploration and appreciation of life is what I receive from this discussion.
Thank you all. Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org January 7, 2014

Re:Sleeping w/ feet\face towards the door While many are lenient about this, this custom is based on this that there are many things we do not do because they are done to dead people and we do not want to emulate a dead person. There are differences of opinion if the dead is taken out feet or head first.... there is a brief discussion about this in shemirat Haguf vehanefesh p. 815 (in the supplement to the 10 ed.). Reply

Chananya Pikes January 6, 2014

Sleeping w/ face towards the door Where is the source not to sleep with one's feet towards the door. I would think this applies to not having the head towards the door because that shows exiting the house, But where did they get the idea not to have one's feet toward the door? Reply

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