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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.
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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

Anonymous OP July 10, 2011

Source? All jokes aside, does anyone know of a source for this in Jewish (halachic) texts? Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA July 7, 2011

Hahaha, Richard. This reminds me of ... A story my rabbi told in Chabad on one Friday evening. He said that there was a SPECIAL pan you had to use to bake a beef roast. It was a religious edict, you had to use a pan of those dimensions. His wife said her mother said yes, they had to use that size pan. Why? Her own mother said they had to use that size pan, so it must be in the scriptures somewhere. Not being able to find it, the man decided to fly to the "Old Country" in Europe where his wife's great-great grandmother was still living. (This is, of course, a story). When he got there, he asked, "Bubbe, where in the scriptures does it say we have to use this size and kind of pan to bake beef?" Her answer, "It doesn't say that. But, it was the only pan I had." Her daughter had assumed because it was used, it was a holy edict, and handed that info down to her own children, etc. It could be that one family, long ago, couldn't afford shoes? So, they made a rule. No shoes. Then, it was copied... Reply

Richard Lauderhill, Florida July 6, 2011

Jews Without Shoes - bubbies Simple Answer. By bubbie (father's side)and my mother, who got it from her mother and grandmother, etc., etc. etc.
I would bet that that is where everyone got it. Reply

Anonymous OP July 5, 2011

Source? Can someone point me to a source for this?

Thank you. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA May 4, 2011

If this is the custom, then be sure... To keep your rugs and floors clear of such things as fallen staples, thumbtacks, broken glass, dried food, etc. Diabetics must protect the bottom of their feet so they won't become infected and need amputation. Reply

Anonymous Blacksburg, VA April 22, 2011

Flip side... I don't have any such custom in my family, so I can't speak to that. What I can speak to is the fact that when I pray barefoot, I feel much more intuitively connected to creation in it's "she-ha-kol ni-yeh bi-dvaro" sense. I feel physically and spiritually planted in the tangible expression of divinity. I would be interested whether there is any talmudic/scriptural basis for that? Reply

david zitter skokie, il. April 6, 2011

shoes off Although there is such a custom by many Jews,the vast majority do not follow this custom and allow walking around the house in socks or barefoot Reply

Leo35 London, U.K. January 26, 2011

Jews without shoes I think the subject of removal of shoes could be addressed by having some simple slippers near the front door. Also some clean and acceptable ones for visitors. When sitting shiva one must wear slippers. Perhaps all the family could keep slippers ready. As for taking outdoor shoes up to the bedrooms, I am told by an expert that bringing outerwear into the bedroom is almost certainly the cause of infested mattresses. Reply

Judith Epstein Chicago, IL January 25, 2011

Many reasons for shoelessness I have relatives living in Japan. There, wearing shoes inside is seen as highly unclean, as it tracks dirty and sidewalk germs into the living space. One wears slippers, socks, or bare feet there out of both respect and physical cleanliness standard.

I have the same practice in my home, because I've had lots of foot surgeries and have become very sensitive to dirty floors. I let people know about it before they come over, so it's not a surprise, and they can decline an invitation if it makes them uncomfortable -- but it is an absolute household rule with me, no exceptions. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA December 21, 2010

Anon in Santa Clara, When I first moved into my apartment in Riverside, I tried to have people take off their shoes. But, most of them ANGRILY said it was too much effort to take them off and put them on. These are family members who don't live with me. I could have been firm and then NOT SEEN them again. So, I wasn't. Now, my rug is A TOTAL EYESORE and even washing it does not work. In an apartment, they usually do NOT install the highest quality rug. I think people should be POLITE and ASK the host or hostess if they should remove their shoes. In a Korean household, you MUST remove shoes. They put all shoes in a neat line up at the front door. Often, in apartments, they put them OUTSIDE the front door on the landing or porch. I think this would be NICE of us to do with each other even if we choose to disregard the REASONING or tradition behind the practice. After all, we aren't all rich enough to be able to afford a rug washer on a weekly basis. Reply

Anonymous Santa clara, ca December 20, 2010

No shoes on I do not allow shoes in the house for the very simple reason.. NO ONE cleans their feet b4 getting in the house and drag all the dirt in on the carpet.. if I had a different floor perhaps I would wear shoes but I can't have the carpet get so dirty as it has in the past.. I keep the shoes off.. any other suggestions .?? Reply

Reb Yehonatan Chicago, IL November 8, 2010

Look at history Have you considered the fact that until very recently, say a century or so... most people lived in homes with dirt or rock floors, and even with raw wood floors, it was not like having sanded hardwood pirco! Think about it... reasons, segula, all valid... duh? how about practicality?!! Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA November 7, 2010

I think it is superstition because... For example, in mourning, we are to cover the mirrors? Superstition. Tear a piece of cloth? Superstition. Sit on the floor or a low stool? Superstition. All of it is superstition! Disguised as tradition, of course. So? Nu? Who cares if it is superstition. The rabbis and learned Torah scholars also deal in superstition. Numerology and what not. It's all superstition. Reply

Gershon November 5, 2010

To Anon in SF It is not a superstition. A superstition would be saying that walking around without shoes invites death. This article is just saying that not taking off shoes shows how much we treasure life and wish not to even appear as if we are mourning. Reply

Lis Miami, Fl November 5, 2010

Death Isn't going as far as teaching fear of death going a litle too far, we are all going to die regardless. I understand loving life and doing your part to stay alive as long as you can, but ultimately it's G-d who calls you anyway, so should we not be thankful for all things, including death? Reply

Ronda Wunsch Toronto, Canada November 4, 2010

Keeping your shoes on Aside from this, a friend taught me that walking with your shoes or slippers on in the house is a segula (meritorious act) against poverty. Personally, I never ask guests to take off their shoes unless it is rainy or snowy and I offer them slippers. Reply

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