One Weekday Morning
After getting herself dressed, Miriam went to check on her four year old brother Eli.
“Good morning, Eli. I see that you’ve almost completely managed to get dressed by yourself. Where are your shoes?”
“I can’t find them. Can you help me?”
“Sure” replied Miriam with a smile. “Let’s check under your bed. Here’s the left one. Now where’s the right shoe?”
“Are you looking for Eli’s shoe?” their father called from downstairs. “It’s right here by the front door.
“Thanks Daddy” said Miriam. “Eli, your bus is going to come soon so we have to hurry. Start putting on this shoe, while I get the other shoe from downstairs.”
As Miriam left the room Eli realized that something didn’t feel ‘right’.
Q: What was bothering Eli?
A: The Torah affects all aspects of our life – even how we dress. When we put on our shoes, we are supposed to put the right shoe on first and then the left. When we take off our shoes we reverse the order (Mishna Berura, siman 2:4).
Q: Why do we give the right side special treatment?
A: Parashas Tetzaveh gives special instructions for a korban called the miluim that was brought by Moshe in the days of the chanukas hamishkan. One requirement was to place some of the korban’s blood on the right ear, right thumb and right big toe of Aharon and his sons (Shemos 29:20). We learn from these instructions that more kavod is given to the right side of the body (ibid).
Q: Eli has velcro straps on his shoes. He wants his next pair of shoes to have laces so they can be “just like Daddy’s”. When this happens what halacha will he need to know?
A: The rules change when we are tying shoelaces! This is because we give kavod to tefilin that generally are tied on our left arm. Therefore, when someone puts on shoes with shoelaces the order should be: 1) put on the right shoe, 2) put on the left shoe, 3) tie the left shoe, 4) tie the right shoe (ibid).
Q: Is the halacha different for a left-handed person?
A: Yes. A left handed man puts tefillin on his right arm. Therefore, when he ties his shoes he ties the right shoe first (ibid). There is some debate about which shoe a left-handed person should put on first. Some poskim say that they put on the left shoe first (Tzemach Tzedek, Orach Chaim 4:6), as explained in Netivim Bisdeh HaShlichut ch. 2). Other poskim say that they still put the right shoe on first (Pri Megadim 158, A.A. 1).
(This Dvar Torah was written by Josh and Tammy Kruger, in collaboration with Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer of the Institute for Dayanim. It is based, in part, on an article by Rabbi Aryeh Citron entitled “The Right (and Left) Way”: http://m.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1097194/jewish/The-Right-and-Left-Way.htm#footnote49a1097194)