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Jews Without Shoes

Jews Without Shoes



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?


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
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Discussion (34)
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.
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.
Ray Schmitz
Lompoc Ca
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.).
Yehuda Shurpin for
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?
July 10, 2011
All jokes aside, does anyone know of a source for this in Jewish (halachic) texts?
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...
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA
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.
Lauderhill, Florida
July 5, 2011
Can someone point me to a source for this?

Thank you.
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.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
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?
Blacksburg, VA