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By Jacob Nacht, Focsan, Rumania. 

Even the shoe has its history, its significance. Many 
a custom in connexion with the shoe which we practise 
blindly to this very day becomes of interest to the student 
of the history of civilization so soon as we set out to trace 
it to its beginnings. Then much that was unintelligible 
becomes clear, and new light is thrown upon many a 
popular custom. The following is intended as a modest 
contribution on the subject of the symbolism of the shoe. 

Our first source of information concerning the shoe is 
the Bible. Here the shoe partakes of the character of the 
profane, symbolizing the Earthly in contrast with the Holy. 
Removing the shoes signifies putting off something profane, 
obligatory upon those who approach the Holy. ' Put off 
thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou 
standest is holy ground ', is the command to Moses (Exod. 
3. 5). The Levites, whose function it was to carry the 
vessels of the Tabernacle, were required to take off their 
shoes while performing this holy service. 1 The priests like- 
wise had to be barefooted when performing their service in 
the sanctuary ; 2 this regulation has in part continued to be 
observed to this very day on the occasion of the Priestly 

1 Num. r. sect. 5 : 1TI btTVtW ? n^JJD *\b b& 1D3E> STn TOD. 

ptwn ^aa q^isid vne> *b bv ioae> bit* ,0'hjD a*wab ecsbrto 
troatpn bo nbiyio "6 bw rant? 'tip mob nn .D'srv vn. 

« Exod. r. sect, a : D'SIT &6n BHp»3 1KW itb ffOnan pi. 


Blessing pronounced on festivals. As a matter of reverence, 
no one with his shoes on should set foot upon the hill in 
Jerusalem whereon the temple had stood in bygone days. 3 
This explains the custom current in some localities until 
the late middle ages, that no one was to enter the synagogue 
with shoes on. 4 Only with bare feet should one draw near 
to a place dedicated to God. 5 

The shoe denotes supreme power and possession. ' Den 
Pantoffel schwingen ' is a well-known proverbial expression 
marking off the shoe as the symbol of power. And another 
adage, in which likewise the shoe is represented as the 
embodiment of power, says : ' As long as thy foot is shod 
tread the thorn.' The shoe thus is accorded an importance 
equalling that of the foot. The foot signifies domination : 
' Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy 
hands ; thou hast put all things under his feet ' (Ps. 8. 6). 
Hence the victor puts his foot on the vanquished to sym- 
bolize the victory which has been won : ' Put your feet 
upon the necks of these kings ' (Josh. io. 24) was the order 
of Joshua to his victorious warriors in order to indicate that 
the enemy had been defeated for all time to come. 6 And 

8 Comp. Berakot 54 a ; Yebamot 6 b ; RMbM., Bet ha-Bel}ira 7. 12. 

* fp mania nam) Noyo wibi, rfy 'o po nYno n"ix pj? 
.d^jho "bi d'bit pn n^ariD jw nuns c> ('i t\i nioaui i*j 
abrn s>"v rupn 'w <Biin w ninea p'pa na wwa ynan 
78 -re in, cnro minn ,pvi pjji ".rt'ab D'Shjd 'ttw n5>b>. 

» Ex. r. II, 13 : "JnJDrt D^Wl -I1DN Jv!>M fW3BW DipD S>a<, 
• Joshua 10. 24-5 = Wp *?* "OW ^KIE''' B*N ^3 i>N yEW Nip'1 

caben ntox by aa^n nx w imp inx Kiabnn nonben nw« 
!>n ysw nn^s *iotn .onnwv by nrr&n nx idw mpi ni>«n 
-i2>K ibw« bab nw hbtt naa »a ivDsi iptn innn bxi intti 

DrilN D'Drfa DDK. 


just as the foot symbolizes power, so also does its gear, the 
shoe. Of the hero Joab King David says : 'And put the 
blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, and 
in his shoes that were on his feet.' 7 

The shoe thus characterizes the successful warrior. But 
it also denotes victoiy in a different battle, the battle for 
right and possession. A purchase becomes legal when the 
seller takes off his shoe and hands it over to the buyer. 
This ceremony indicates the transfer of possession to the 
new possessor. The same holds true of the redemption of 
property by one's kinsman, and also of transactions of 
barter : ' This was the manner in former time in Israel 
concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to 
confirm all things ; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave 
it to his neighbour : and this was a testimony in Israel.' 8 

With the ancient Teutons likewise removing the shoe 
meant the transfer of power and symbolized the dissolution 
of property and inheritance. 9 

According to a haggadic narrative Mordecai established 

his right of dominion over Haman by producing a shoe on 

which was found a written statement by Haman to the 

effect that he had sold himself as a slave to Mordecai. 10 

' 1 Kings a. 5 : nt?N rmx |1 3NV "b TVff}> *WK TIN ns)7< nr)N DJ1 

• • • nnm "in" p kb>di6i *u p ■mxi' !>n-ib» mrav ne> \jb6 rwy 
\bra "kpn ibym vjnoa new imuro n»r6» >v\ ;jvi. Com P . also 

Schlesinger, Geschichte des Symbols, p 235 : ' The removal of girdle and 
shoes is a symbol of conditional and unconditional surrender.' 

« Ruth 4. 7 : bz tppb miDnn by\ rfotun by btt-iwi a s :sb nwi 
bvnvi miynn mi inyib jrui tbm b*k *\bv -m. com P . also 

b. Kiddushin 60 a. 

9 Grimm, Deutsche Rechtsaltert., p. 156. 
» Ag. Est, ed. Buber, V, 60: ON :»3T1D bllD by pT\ 3D3 TD" 

.nnx nr& "022 )b TnaoJB' '-m>n oto bv mj> yawi jon 

b a 


In a well-known case the shoe is removed from a person 
in order to indicate that he has lost his authority over a 
member of his family. When a man dies without issue, 
his wife takes off the shoe from the foot of her husband's 
brother, 11 showing that henceforth he shall have no claim 
upon his sister-in-law's hand. The man without a shoe is 
the symbol of him that is incapacitated for marriage, while 
the shoe, on the other hand, marks off the aspirant to 
marriage. 12 

The shoe means possession in a larger sense : offspring, 
land. Moses lacked two things, land and children who 
would walk in his footsteps, hence the command to him is : 
Take off thy shoes (in the plural) ; but Joshua, though 
childless, entered the land, hence it is said of him : Take off 
thy shoe (in the singular). 13 

To loosen a person's shoe-strings, to carry his shoes 
after him, as the carrying of garments 14 in general, is 
equivalent to subjugation. The master gains authority 

sen* wio 'tti mr may lovy m snpi rfanib tpoJ? nbyeoi 
vtm "owe jon ns ntr\ kwboi 13 nsi nxv torn? "jtan n$;B>3 
nan ton '\ii a 3im \nrcpb now hjD3 ii>n nx \b de>is 
■"ncn N^on»i. 

11 Comp. Deut. 05. 9. 

» Comp. b. Kiddushin 49 a : {0>JD i6 'NjnaO 3T7 'ODD. 

13 Comp. Midrash, Sekel Tob, to Exod. : *yith rDt xb 1J31 HEW "<sh 

u into 12b ,inmc by d»*idi» cab xb) pan T\o"ab xb o^nan 
li^j i>e> 13 icto yenrp bx . d^w w ««m d'3T pe6 ^bv: bv 
by cnay d\»5> nar xb bix px^ dm!? rare* "eh Trf pefo 

"lrim». See further rllim miDn tm», ed. Werthejm, p. 5 o : 

ne>» d«3 xbw *£ib -]byi bw jiwa ictoi t^W ^ ntj>»3 now 

1S1PD 1133 1Bn< K$>1 i"N^. 

14 See b. Erubin 37 b : ''JND W^31D. 


over his servant as soon as the latter loosens his shoe- 
string. 15 

To cast the shoe at a person is a sign of disrespect. 
The strong commit this act against the weak. ' Over Edom 
will I cast out my shoe' (Ps. 60. 10) God is made to say 
by the Psalmist. Like the glove 16 in later times, and the 
shoe of the league among the peasants, 17 so also trans- 
mitting the shoe serves as a challenge to fight and as a token 
of subjugation. ' Powerful kings in ancient times used to 
send their shoes to their inferiors as a sign of subjection. 
The shoe had to be carried on the shoulder as a mark 
of humility.' 18 

In the language of the Bible and the prophets the term 
shoe-string or shoe is also employed to express something 
petty and of little value. Abraham, who refuses to accept 
the least thing from the King of Sodom, says : ' I have lift 
up my hand (to swear) . . . that I will not take from 
a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take 
any thing that is thine' (Gen. 14. 23). 18a Samuel likewise, 
in defending his honesty as a judge, protests that he had 
taken neither silver . . . nor shoes. 19 

15 Comp. b. Kiddushin 22 b: ^J»D £ THH nptrO 1V3. 

16 Comp. Nork, Realwdrterbuch, s. v. Schuh. 

17 ' The peasants employed the tied shoe, the union shoe, as a symbol of 
revolt', Schlesinger, I.e., p. 236. 

18 Grimm, Deutsche Rechtsaltert., p. 156. 

181 Gen. 14. 23: $>J» lilt? "W BlrtO DN. The poet Moses Dar'i 
(9th cent.) likewise says of the insignificant price of the pen: 7JJ3 "J^IC 

Q'3-IV p3 1TTO (Pinsker, riVJimp "Bipi>, p. ?"V). 

19 In accordance with Ben Sira of the Septuagint 46. 19 where Samuel 
is made to say : xpVt utTa *<" « £US inroorjiiaTuv diro >rd(rijs aapie&s obit tiki](pa. 
On the other hand, the greedy prophet has sandals and entrails presented to 
him : ' Whoever comes first as an interpreter of my verses, to him give new 
sandals . . . and fill his hand with entrails ' (Aristophanes, The Birds, 11. 972-5). 


To sell a person for shoes means to abandon him for 
a mere nothing, to tread upon him, as it were, with the 
shoe. When the prophet Amos reproves the judges in 
Israel who sell the poor for shoes, 20 he means to say in 
the first place that they wrest the judgement of the poor 
for a small bribe, but at the same time he wishes to 
emphasize symbolically that the poor is trodden upon 
' like the dust of the earth '. The shoe which the corrupt 
judge receives is the symbol therefor. As men tread with 
the shoe upon the dust of the earth, so they (the unjust 
judges) desire to tread upon the head of the poor. 21 

The shoe as a symbol of somebody being trodden is 
found also among the Rapajutes in the following case: 
' The Rapajutes let the criminal ride on a donkey through 
the city with a wreath of sandals around his neck.' 22 

In disputes the term shoe designates an insult in the 
highest degree. Thus the Arab women, in their mutual 
quarrels and altercations, call to one another : Je Jrsir> 
eU, ' My shoe upon thy head \ 23 This derogatory excla- 
mation characterizes the authority of the one over the 

The Indian teacher, after the distribution of the Samavartana sacrament, 
receives shoes as an honorarium (Glaser; ' Der Indische Student ', ZDMG., 
LXVI, a8). 

m Amos a. 7 : D^Jtt *YOjn JV3N1 pnv SJD33 m3D b]). Comp. also 
Yalkut to 3B"1 and N*T1 ■'jTIB : DnB>J?3 D^NJW "b *]DV m VOIM 

':& arrbiib d^wd nup!> cddd w bo: ana trwo inx bs spa 

Cbyi "11350 1V3N1 PHS *|D33 Dn3D by- Note also the piyyut in 
allusion to this agada : (SS"vb ^DID in mam nbti) DENUDE* ninllN^ 

irmro oby* "ij?3 lnnnD. 

a Ibid., 2. 8: wbl CtTD pK ~\W bv CSNIETI. 

2! Comp. Nork, s. v. Schuh. 

™ Similarly, Gen. 3. 15 : 3Ptf US1ETI nnN1 tWl "}S>W> N1H. 


other, who is to come under her shoe. To come under 
the shoe or to lick somebody's shoe exemplifies slavish 
subjection, 24 while handing a shoe to a person should be 
construed more in the sense of devotion. Thus the son 
hands the shoes to his father, and similarly the pupil to his 
teacher. 25 The custom among the Sarmatae to toast the 
beloved by drinking from her shoe is likewise to be 
construed as an act of homage. 25 a 

The dependence of the son upon the father and of the 
pupil upon his teacher is expressed by the formula that 
the father or teacher strikes the son or pupil with the shoe. 26 
Conversely, a woman who threatens to strike her husband 
with the shoe wants to emphasize her authority and inde- 
pendence. 27 In certain cases the woman has a right to hit 

» Esther r. 8 : py nintwi by pnb mnnt!>N t6 new *JK 13 "3 

V&n bill® VPTI imb "O ,biC1W. In striking resemblance is the custom 
to kiss the slipper of the Pope. In the same connexion I wish to call attentioh 
to a passage in Aristophanes {The Acharnians, 11. 300-1), where the enemy 
is threatened with being cut up into shoe-soles : ' For I hate thee still more 
than Cleon, whom I will cut up into shoe-soles for the Knights.' 

» p. Shabbat VI, 1 (p. 8 a) : pnV '*1 iTDIp BWD mil K3 13 pVDV 

rrhjD Ttb bwd mm. 

"* Comp. also Goethe, Waklverwandtschaften, p. 358 (ed. Kurz, vol. VI) : 
' Ein schOner Fuss ist eine grosse Gabe der Natur . . . Noch immer mOchte 
man ihren Schuh ktlssen und die zwar etwas barbarische, aber doch tiefge- 
ffihlte Ehrenbezeigung der Sarmaten wiederholen, die sich nichts besseres 
gonnen, als aus dem Schuh einer geliebten und verehrten Person ihre 
Gesundheit zu trinken.' 

* Comp. b. Moed katon, p. 35 a: n^l3D3 fl>3N ffh PlBD- 
Similarly, Nork, s. v. Schuh : ' Not until the end of his term of apprenticeship 
is the Brahman pupil permitted to wear shoes, for these are signs of 
independence.' Comp. also Glaser, ' Der Indische Student', ZDMG., LXVI, 
25 : ' He (the Indian student) should not approach him (the teacher) with 
his shoes on.' 

27 Aristophanes, Lys. 658 rlfSi 7' d^*ry nari(o> t$ xo$6pvq> ity yvaSov. 


her husband with a shoe. In a portion of Russia it is 
customary for a woman who is insulted and called indecent 
to strike her shoe in the face of her insulter. 

As a symbol of contempt for one and esteem for the 
other the terms sandal, shoe-latchet, shoe-sole, and shoe 
generally, are employed by both Arabs and Jews in certain 
turns of speech. The Arab Bedouin, when separating from 
his wife, says : ' I have thrown away my slipper.' 28 The 
eastern Jew often expresses his appreciation in the following 
words : ' He (resp. you, &c.) is not worthy to loosen his 
shoe-strings ; 29 he has more sense in his shoe-soles than 
you in your head ; 30 he is as wise as my shoe-sole.' 31 

A woman scorns a Rabbi by telling him that her father's 
shoe was worthier than his entire family. 32 In Palestine 
the word shoe or shoemaker serves as a disgrace. When 
somebody mentions 'shoemaker' in his conversation it is 
always with the addition : Far be it (this handiwork) from 
you. Never is the word used in a favourable sense. It is 
considered a great dishonour to be dubbed ' shoe \ 33 

28 Nork, s. v. Schuh. 

29 Comp. besides Luke 3. 16 lpx tTai *"« & laxvporcpos ftov, o5 oix ei/il 
ixavds \vaat rbv i/iavra twv inrofyp&Tow airov. 

*> Literally: H K^l yWryTS "i]H J'K 5>3B* *VI**D 0»"1 *iy 
BKp D'K. 

"1 Literally: jmtrryVB J"D N'll J^p PK *1JJ. Comp. also the 
Rumanian popular expression : ' vita incaltata ' (a shod animal), which 
resembles the Hebrew DIN 71*11X3 "10*13 applied to simpletons. 

32 by '31 rnww nx rruB* D3nn„ :j>B"nn db>3 "nopn Dpi*, n* 
'\-i iT3N bv $>j»onc ii> ioktm ma ntyn ,111333 nw*i vm nbibw 
'innsco bx *ini* awn. 

»» See Luncz, '"« nib, p. 47= *n"**K &N D'3B>rU WBnjn $>J»»n 

an ,*ih*D QE>n dk oTarru "a *ij» ,*mj !*b> D'jBnoi* pt<n 
oi*iy^i .t^» **!" '« 1»» pim *o6 /-io Ty? :ii33 *|*i*i a^'Dio 


' Fine feathers make fine birds' is a proverb frequently 
cited ; while Homer says : ' Through handsome garments 
one obtains favourable repute among the people.' 34 In 
Biblical literature, to mention but one example, we find 
a similar attitude in the exhortation: 'Let thy garments 
be always white.' 35 In the Talmud, besides clothes in 
general which, according to Ben Sira, illustrate the worthi- 
ness of man, 36 special emphasis is laid on foot-gear. In 
the shoe the value of man finds its expression. 37 ' Only he 
who has shoes is a man.' The slave goes barefoot. One 
should sell everything in order to obtain shoes, 38 for he 
who walks barefooted is placed in ban by God. 39 

When putting on shoes a certain blessing is required. 40 
There is likewise a definite prescription for the manner in 
which to put on or take off the shoes. In putting on shoes 
the right foot has the precedence, while in taking them off 
the left foot comes first. 41 Especially important is the foot- 
gear of women. Moral motives were responsible for these 
sayings. While it is said of the vestments of women in 

ysbrfa ,ra& bw jeno nm oy Dnac in by byi Den ns by vb 
by: oca wnpna mb xm> bra. 

34 Comp. Homer, Odyssey vi, 11. 29-30 : 

°E« yip toi towtoii' (pans &v0p<virovs avafraivti 

35 Eccles. 9. 9 : G<nb fli2 V.T nj> bl2. 

36 Comp. n35S> I)]} (Frankfurt a. M., 1700) where it is cited in the name 
of Midrash Tanhuma : 03 Tim OIK 03 D^K Tin 1D1N NTD |3 |31 
iniD3 D1K. See Zunz, Gottesdienstlkhe Vortrage, p. 104. 

87 Comp. b. Shabbat 122: B»JN TJ Tfbi"M ttblJSD. 

88 b. Shabbat 129 a : D^yjD PJpl 1JV3 nillp CIS 11313* D$>1S& 


39 b. Pesahim 113 b. 

40 b. Berakot 60 b. 

41 b. Shabbat 61 a, and Derek. Ere:, ch. 10. 


general : ' With her dress a woman removes also her 
decorum ', 42 the Rabbis went even farther in considering 
as a transgression the baring of only certain parts of the 
body. Attention should therefore be paid to the foot-gear 
of women, especially those living in cities. Thus, while the 
man in the country was permitted (on the basis of an oath) 
to forbid his wife the wearing of shoes for a period of three 
months, this prohibition was valid only for twenty-four 
hours in the case of a city resident. 43 

As a whole the woman enjoyed more liberties than man 
with respect to foot-gear. Thus the male had the same 
shoes for week-days and sabbaths, 44 for father and child ; 45 
furthermore, he is to wear a pair of shoes seven years. 46 
Not so the female, who was at liberty to obtain a pair of 
shoes for each of the three holidays. 47 These regulations, 
as indicated above, were dictated by moral motives. Hence 
the song of the royal bard on the feet of Zion's daughters : 
' How beautiful are thy feet with shoes ' (Cant. 7. 1), provokes 
the censure of the Haggadist : ' Such eulogies are not fit 
even for an ordinary man.' 48 

Nevertheless attention was paid to the aesthetic needs 
of women with regard to the cover of the foot. Apart from 

42 Herodotus, I, 1. 17. 

" p. Ketubbot, VII, 31 b : vbw WK DN "wb $>jnn bw D'TMa 

nvb nyo p"\ M-oa bx p-vnn '1 -\y byia hwn. 

** p. Shabbat, VI, 8a: fb~UD pin wb 'ITO ''BO ">3T 'THIN u6 

my\vb tm vhrb in. 

" b. Shabbat naa: pKBTI f^Ot ^"UDn KW tOnfl Ttb 1W1 N^D n 

iTpw rra pun pjot >tk ma. 

« b. Gittin 68 b: ^ T3V KS3C«6 nDNP mm Kn3J tt\nrb iTyOE> 
yp 2vfy 'JKDD. 
« b. Ketubbot 65 b. 
« Cant. r. 7: b Kin 'KM fit pt^a obpO Win I^SN. 


the shoes common to both men and women, which, be it 
remembered, were not without gold ornaments, there was 
already at the time of the Talmud a distinct fashion for 
feminine shoes. 49 

As in the case of women, there are also special prescrip- 
tions for the foot-gear of scholars. While, on the whole, 
a person wearing shoes that have been patched is equal to 
the barefooted, this is especially true of the learned. It is 
unworthy of a scholar to walk the street with patched 
shoes. 60 

The scholars who used to mourn for Jerusalem, known 
by the name abwv 'Son 61 and distinguished through their 
exterior apparel, also wore shoes of a black colour. 
As a token of mourning the shoes as well as the latchet 
were black. 62 Only the worthiest could make use of this 
foot-wear. Unknown people were forbidden to wear such 
shoes, and when they were found doing so were subject to 
punishment. 63 

As a rule shoes were black, latchets white. This was 

49 b. Shabbat 141b: BBTTDP1 ^WD3 nt?N NVfl tib, on which comp. 
Hirschberg, Heatid, IV, 51 : MiTtm DJ )W W 1t?N D^J»D3 1Bt?pnm 

invD h»» oi nvdj 133 d^n • • * Dnaan dp Dra rosnipo vm 
1iD2 d'3-ho vn hbwi b~ao • • • owb. 

M b. Ber. 43 b: piBO D^WDrl D'S>J«D3 K^t? rfnb *KM. 

61 Comp. J. Klausner in Haomer, II, 9. 

52 Tosafot Baba kamma 59 b, s. v. mil: 'DD11 VQTl *D31K '3KDD1 

nine 'vi 5»an nwnm ^jnon u«n rwn. 

M b. Baba kamma 59 a-b : • ' • KD31K 'OKDD Dn» mn KT*Jff "ITjrfo* 
t0^3KD Npi !>"« ? 'ONDB yn MB> »t» i»*WI Nflta t^l '3T VHrOPK 

mn tnw iud pd^btvk ^3Nnsb nanwi nx 5>"n .d^tk 
meam nvnte. 


the Jewish custom. 54 In order to escape the persecutions 
of non-Jews, 66 it was permitted to wear also black latchets, 66 
. ' so as not to be recognized as Jews '. On the other hand, 
if a Jew is requested ' openly ' to wear his shoe-latchets in 
accordance with non-Jewish fashion, he must under no 
conditions yield to this request. 67 

Another phase of the shoe which deserves attention is 
the interchange of shoes in putting them on. Thus the 
doctors of the Talmud made it their practice on holidays, 
to put the right shoe on the left foot and the left shoe on 
the right foot. 58 

Various symbolic effects are attached to the state of 
being barefoot. Fugitives and captives go without shoes. 
King David removes his shoes as he flees before his son 
Absalom. 6 ' The prophet Isaiah is ordered by God to go 
barefoot 60 as a symbol of the capture of Egypt and Cush 
by Assyria. 'And the Lord said, Like as my servant 
Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for 
a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia ; so 

M See Tosafot, i.e. -. r»:ai> mywvn -nnt}> \n byyom n"i now. 

On the various kinds of shoes, comp. b. Yoma 78a-b: D^Z'' JTISDW, s.v. 
»» b. Taanit aa a : Kj!?«y b"H ? 'D31N 'JNDD TVDKl NDJ?tD HO b"H 

mk mnvm wb ttbi *avi »a d'ujj va tup^wi. As to change of 

clothes in order to avoid danger, comp. Gen. r., sect. 8a : DTlS'liy WE> 

•vsem nyea. 

« Tosafot, /. c. : mjWVTI ^yjon 1W TWyn 'DDT «D31K '3KD01 

mnc iTn bsn. 

87 b. Sanhedrin 74 b. 

» b. Taanit la b : N^DKHI vboth MW 'B^flD NICIT "101 W1D 

» 9 a Sam. 15. 30: tp "fan twn • • • nam rfoy mm. 

w Isa. ao. a: -]^n J>yD J^Wl "J^. 


shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, 
and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and 
barefoot.' 61 

The removal of shoes symbolizes, as already mentioned, 
resignation and loss. At the decease of a near relative, 
such as parents, children, or brothers and sisters, the wearing 
of shoes is suspended for seven days. The same observance 
holds true with reference to mourning in a wider sense. 
Thus on the ninth day of Ab, which is observed as a fast- 
day in memory of the destruction of the Jewish state, it is 
likewise forbidden to wear shoes. The same is also true of 
the Day of Atonement, when Israel prays for forgiveness, 
for life. 

Every great disaster which befell the people was indi- 
cated by the removal of shoes. Dearth of rain caused the 
sages of the Talmud to take off their shoes as a sign of 
universal mourning. 62 One doctor of the Talmud is famed 
for having obtained the object of his prayer with only one 
shoe off, when rain began to come down. 63 

The removal of shoes designating loss and suffering, it 
becomes evident why the carrying off of shoes by the dead 
appearing in dreams forebodes evil and disaster. 64 For the 

« Isa. 20. 3-4 : ?h& S]rVl 0\"\]> 1iTJN2» H3J) "|i>n "lEWD IW nOfOI 

•at? rw "wn ita my p . vra bv\ trwa bv nsioi rm wiw 
f\m any cropn anj» &a nta n&o onvo. 

62 b. Taanit 24 b. 

•» Ibid.: N1£3D *riN NJNDD in t(fyv flirt »3 JTW 31. Owing to 
a superstition it is forbidden among the Arabs to walk with only one 
sandal : ' Do not walk with one sandal in the manner of the devil ' is one of 
the commandments in the Kitab akamV l-murgani (quoted from a review by 
Noldeke in ZDMG., LXIV, 444). 

«« b. Berakot 54 b : N^Dl NJKDDD ~\2 ^J» N33B> ^pBH S>3. In 
Germany a superstition prevails that a guest must not be presented with 


same reason the retention of shoes after death is considered 
by some people as a favourable symbol. This custom was 
known already at the time of the Talmud, 65 and has been 
preserved until this very day among the Jews of Tripoli. 66 
It was familiar also to the ancient Norsemen. 67 

Widespread is the custom of offering gifts to the bride. 
The bridegroom gives presents to the bride. This custom 
is rooted in antiquity: it probably dates from the time 
when woman was still considered the personal property of 
the husband. This state is expressed symbolically by the 
present which the bride receives from the bridegroom, 68 
and is borne out especially by the circumstance that the 
present consisted mostly and still consists of shoes. Such 
was the use among the ancient Lacedaemonians, 69 and so, 
as we shall see further on, it has been preserved among 
other nations until this day. The shoe proclaims symbo- 
lically : The man is the ruler in his house. ' The govern- 
ment of the house was assumed literally the moment the man 
set his foot upon that of his bride ; the slipper furnished the 
symbol for it'. 70 In handing the shoe to the bride the 

shoes lest he should depart soon and never return. (Fischer, ' Die Quitte ', 
ZDMG., LXVIII, 298.) 

e« p. Kiiaim ix, 32 b : parm p-inn wb^k npao mn pm '-\ 

<5>JT3 'JNDD. Comp. Krauss, "TlE&nn nVJIDnp, I, 125, n. 2. 

M Comp. npnSX b& ^lanoa D'YliTfl in Hamebaser, Constantinople, 

1910, p. 204 : d^5»n b ds> nrv naip' non ; nrn QipDa aruo my 

87 See Nork, s. v. Schuh. 

68 Comp. Bebel, Die Frau und der Sosialismus, p. 33 : ' Symbolic for the 
acquisition of woman as property is also the present which the bridegroom 
still offers to the bride in all the civilized countries.' 

69 Comp. S. Fl. Marianu, Nunia la Romani (Hymeneal Customs among 
the Rumanians), Bucharest, 1890, pp. 258-9. 

,0 Schlesinger, /. c, p. 331. 


bridegroom considers himself as her conqueror. Mighty 
kings sent their shoes to inferiors as a sign of subjection, 71 
while, according to an old German practice, the bride con- 
siders herself subject to the bridegroom the moment she 
puts on the shoe which he gave her as a gift. 72 Accordingly 
the man is the shoe which the woman has to wear. 

This symbolic designation for the man is not unknown 
to the Talmud. A woman, according to one passage, 73 may 
annul a contracted marriage if it is found out that her 
husband occupies a higher rank and station than the one 
she believed him in originally. She may say : ' I have no 
use for a shoe that is too large for my foot.' 

While the transmission of the shoe to the wife signalizes 
the assumption of the rights of the husband, the man who 
allows himself to be dominated by his wife is stigmatized 
by the nickname ' man of the slipper ', that is, not the wife 
but the husband wears the shoes which should be worn by 
her as a token of his power. He is the subjected party. 
As a Yiddish adage has it : ' Az dus weib geht im spodek, 
geht der mann in pantofel.' 7 * 

As a rule, therefore, the woman must wear the slipper 
or shoe which her husband has bestowed upon her. The 
shoe must be neither too small nor too large for the 
foot. As mentioned above, the woman may say of her 
unevenly contracted marriage : ' I have no use for a shoe 
that is too large for my foot', 75 while, on the other hand, 

71 Grimm, /. c, p. 156. 72 Grimm, /. c. ; Nork, s. v. Schuh. 

73 b. Kiddushin 49 a: NJ'JD t6 »J?"130 2~TI tttKDD. Comp. hereon 
Horace, Epistulae i. 10. 42 : 

Cui non conveniet sua res, ut calceus olim, 

Si pede maior erit, subvertet. 
7< Comp. Bernstein, Jiidiscke Volkssprichworter, p. 88. 
75 See above, note 75. 


Aschenputtel becomes the bride of the king's son after it is 
found out that the golden slipper presented to her by the 
prince fits her foot. The fitting shoe decides the right 

Rucku di guck! Rucku di guck! 

Kein Blut in Schuck. 

Der Schuck ist nicht zu klein, 

Die richtige Braut, die fuhrt er heim. 76 

Among a portion of the Palestinian Jews it is customary 
to make sure of the fitting of the bride's shoes, and for that 
purpose the bridegroom sends the cobbler to his bride's 
house. Simultaneously with this ceremony the day of the 
wedding is determined upon. 77 

In general, however, little importance is attached to the 
fitting of the shoe. The main thing is that the bride, 
and also her relatives, are presented with shoes. That 
also the relatives of the bride are presented is probably due 
to that ancient custom according to which the kin of the 
bride should appear in the same dress as the bride herself. 
Thus among the ancient Greeks the bridemaids had to be 
dressed in exactly the same manner as the bride. Says 
Athene to Nausicaa : 

Nausicaa, has thy mother then brought forth 
A careless housewife? Thy magnificent robes 
Lie still neglected, though thy marriage day 
Is near, when thou art to array thyself 

78 Grimm's M'drchen, Aschenputtel. 

« Luncz, c"D-in ;"tt mb, p. ia: jnnn rfoe> ruinnn vsb dweo 
pt "o p'D rm nmo >-d b^jhb rb *i»n5> ?yv*i nbn rn*? 
jopin rwinn. 


In seemly garments, and bestow the like 
On those who lead thee to the bridal rite. 78 

It is a practice among the Sephardic Jews that the bride- 
groom, before the wedding, bestows shoes upon the bride 
and certain members of her family. 79 The handing over of 
shoes to the bride immediately before the wedding is related 
by Gregory of Tours. 80 In Teheran the bridegroom, soon 
after his engagement, sends shoes to the bride, her mother, 
and her sisters. 81 

The Russian peasants employ the boot as a symbol in 
choosing a bride. As soon as the son makes known his 
preference for a girl, the father, on a Sunday, orders his son 
to bring his two boots, one after the other. In one of them 
he had placed (some time previously) a handful of oats. 
' If the son brings this one first, it is a sign that the alliance 
will be successful and blessed. If, however, the son seizes 
the empty one of the prophetic boots, fate wills it that the 
chosen girl cannot be his.' 82 

Among the Rumanians 83 the bridegroom transmits 

78 Odyssey vi, II. 25-9 : 

Nau<n/«4a, ri yv 0' cDSc jjLedrjfiova yeivaro pfjTrjp; 
fi/tara \iiv rot KCtrau attrfiia atya\6evTa, 
ool Si yifios a\d6v lortv, iva xp>l KaA.a plv airf/v 
tvvvadai, rd tik toioi -napaoxtw 01 kc a* ayoivrw.. 

79 See DmSDH "TO by nbubtt in Hashiloah, XXIV, 267 : 31J? nj& 

nnatren W>i cby: inDn^ fnnn rb)v minnn *xb. 

80 Comp. his Vitae Patrum, ch. XX, cited by S. Fl. Marianu in his Nunta 
la Romani, pp. 58-9. 

81 Revue des Ecoles de V Alliance Isr., for 1901, p. 166 : ' Le jeune 
homme envoie aussitdt a sa fiancee, a la mere et a chacune des sceurs de 
celle-ci une paire de souliers' ; comp. also M. Grunwald, Mitteilungen, &c, 
XX (1906), 132. 

82 ' Russische Sitte ' in Wolfgang Menzel's Morgenblatt for 1838, p. 635. 
88 Marianu, Nunta la Romani, p. 239 : ' Mirele cumpera si pereche de 



shoes to the bride and to her mother, or, when the latter 
is not alive, to her representative ; while among the Bulgars 
the bridegroom has to bestow shoes upon all the members 
of the bride's family. 84 In many localities of Italy slippers 
are sent instead of shoes. 85 

Finally, mention must be made of the custom current 
among English-speaking nations to throw slippers after 
a newly-married couple departing for their honeymoon. 
This custom is in vogue even among the highest circles of 
society, 86 which, however, did not deter an American mayor 
from prohibiting further exercise of the practice. 87 

This prohibition calls to mind a similar decree issued in 
1690 especially against the Jews of Hesse. Here, too, it 
was customary for the bridegroom to bestow slippers upon 
the bride and her family on the day of the wedding. The 
Hessian diet considered this an extravagance not permitted 
to the Jews, which should be opposed as extravagance in 
dress generally. The diet therefore issued an order that 
the gifts should be limited to the bride only, and should 
consist only of a pair of shoes and slippers. This custom 
has been preserved up to the present among the Jews in 

papuci san crobote pentru . . . mama miresei, car daca mama acesteia nu 
traeste, apoi pentru cea ce o suplineste.' 

84 ' Volks- und Familienleben in Bulgarien ', Sarajevoer Tagbla/t for 
Aug. 15, 1913. 

85 Comp. Marianu, /. c. 

86 Neue Freie Presse for July 9, 1913 (No. 17556) : ' . . . Thus the family 
of the whilom English Consul-General Crave preserves a ball shoe of white 
silk and with gold embroidery, which the Prussian crown-princess, later 
Empress Frederick, removed from her foot in order to throw it into the 
carriage of her court maid, who had just been married to Joseph Crave.' 

87 Ibid. : 'In Portsmouth, Ohio, the mayor and the chief of police issued 
an edict, according to which the police are authorized to arrest every person 
who strikes newly-wed people on the back, or hurls rice upon them, or 
throws old shoes after them.' 


Hesse, where the bridegroom, on the wedding day, gives 
to the bride a pair of shoes as ' rVtiv3D \ 88 

The shoe is also the symbol of courting and fertility. 
Among the English-speaking nations 89 rice and slippers 
are thrown after the betrothed couple as a sign of fertility, 
while, according to a Jewish-mystic interpretation, the 
biblical phrase : ' Take off thy shoes ' (in the plural) desig- 
nates Moses, who was the father of two sons. 90 

In order to attract man, the women of antiquity used to 
expose their ankles, 91 while Greek women employed the 
shoe as a means of embellishment. If a woman was of 
small stature she padded the shoe with cork in order to 
appear taller ; if, on the contrary, she was too tall she put 
on flat shoes. 92 Clemens Alexandrinus relates likewise 
' that by means of characters imprinted in the sandals they 
indicated by footprint a rendezvous to their lovers \ 93 The 
Haggadah also mentions this practice. In commenting on 
Isa. 3. 16 Rabbi Jose remarks: 'The picture of a serpent 
was impressed upon the shoe ; the Rabbis, however, have 

88 Comp. Munk, ' Die Judenlandtage in Hessen-Cassel ', Monaisschrift 
fiir die Wissenschaft des Jud., XLI, 520. 

89 See above, note 87. 

» Comp. Pin D1pX s. v, TWO : T^l» *W ^ "IBM l"S D^P TWO. 

91 Comp. Heatid, IV, 5a, n. 1 ; also Herodotus, I, 395 : ' The women 
(of the Gidans) wear many leather bands around their ankles, for the 
following reason, it is said : Every time a man knows her she attaches 
a band around her ankle.' 

92 Comp. Heatid, IV, 50, where Hirschberg points out a parallel passage 

in Lev. r. sect. 16: nnx nnwa .ruDayn B'&nai rua^n ^&o\ fbn 
rva-tf 'nnt? na ,}rw3 ra^noi niivp tip rwao nwn nam jnc 
w nteaei pay ppinip rwyb rtrvn rcr® po nns nirwai ,tw 
nans wtni 'nnc na ; jiTM nafcin nnvp. 

93 Comp. Nork, s. v. Schuh. 

C 2 


this to tell : The wanton daughters of Zion used to place in 
the heels of their shoes the stomach of a cock filled with 
odoriferous oil ; and whenever a host of youths passed by, 
they pressed their foot on the sweet-scented oil, so that the 
odour produced confusion among the youths like the venom 
of serpents.' M 

As a symbol of love we also find ' the flowered shoe of 
the bat ' in the Chinese folk-song : ' Bat, bat, with flowered 
shoes, accompany us — the little girl yonder will be the 
wife, and I the husband.' 95 

The bride herself, as a rule, puts on the shoe given to 
her as a gift. Yet in the poem of King Rother the suitor 
orders one gold and one silver shoe to be forged, and he 
dresses the bride's feet which lie in his lap. 96 In Berry the 
bride used to stand barefooted before entering the church 
for the wedding. The relatives endeavoured in vain to 
have her put her shoe on, since this could only be done by 
the bridegroom. 97 

In general, as already mentioned, 98 the putting on and 
removal of the shoes has to proceed according to definite 

M Lam. r., IV: mi* mX iTTISTO nDIS W '~\ /"IJMjm abrai 

n^ddi bui-m b& pat nwao nnw nox pam ni>j»D bv jipii 
b& ra mm nnwai Q'byiab nzpy pa nnix runui p»d*ibn lms 
bv dik wito jna vayan nnn mix 'vn rby npsn nnw onira 

W3JJ. — As to the serpent being a symbol of fertility, comp. Rubin, Agada 
u. Kabba a, pp. 18-19, an d on tne cock, p. 23. Comp. also Koran, Sura 34. 

95 La Revue, March 1, 1913, p. 98 : ' Chauve-souris, chauve-souris aux 
souliers fleuris, accompagnez-nous, la petite fille que voila sera la mariee et 
je serai le mari.' 

96 Nork, s. v. Schuh. 

97 Marianu, Nunta la Romani, pp. 258-9 : ' In Berry miresa statea eu 
piciorele goale coud sosea timpul sa mearga la biserica si rudele si cercan in 
Zador sa o incalta. Numai mirele isbutea.' 

98 Comp. above, p. 9. 


prescriptions. In this connexion many mystic conceptions 
grew up concerning the importance of the feet and shoes. 
Thus it is said of Enoch that he effected the union of the 
upper worlds and knew how to keep the evildoers from 
himself through being a shoemaker." We find further in 
a mystic book that the feet need special protection against 
the pernicious influences from the outside (D'31¥n), since they 
(the feet) represent the ' lower wisdom '. This protection is 
afforded by the shoes just as the Tephillin indicate the light 
of the face. On account of this similarity between Tephillin 
and shoes the left shoe is to be fastened first. 100 

' Civilized people lose easily their religion, but rarely their 
superstitions ', says Karl Goldmark somewhere. The super- 
stition concerning the shoe has come down to our own days, 
and we meet it even among the educated classes of society. 
Says Dr. J. Kohler, professor in the University at Berlin : 
' My superstition is prognostic throughout ; I place much 

99 See tnn Bip5>\ s. v. 'ni^K : 'M JTttD '? N^K niXD '\n t6 "]13n 

»a"na i?m Drra-rro cist}' aha ,n" 1N »tdpid Ton n^nno 'tti nj 
bprui *im in i>33t?> p*ra 11 pya in new mso 13W *D3 b«*iB* 
wqi> dn nni> jpmo no w vib naioh n)i6 n^yn rbym 
\abrw a>vvn mncb yx njni . tv t6 iw rbw jvai on»a*n 
moijiyn -wpb d^jhd -©in \i kwi i"n Tnani> D'cpaon. 

100 y-fnp .' r ^ ^"nno 'oipb byi*? n"a jrV by ncbn ,| Bipi> 
D^yjen »a • • • pi>an» no!>i ni>nn ^ndb> iwpb) rhm po 1 ' 5>e> ^iyab 
D'aiDDn Di3ivnn jo -lnva nwi> pnx pbaia 'a ,pb3-6 mw on 
D'anxt? Q'Divcvn n^an 'n3 nsnn n»an 'na on o^nn 'n . nn^K 
Dtroi . 0^31 vh&2& D^an -iik 'n3^ fmVi!>i nva^o 'tid oannb 
p^ans inn Q^ivn p ?br\n nx anew one n^wen 'na p3t5>D3 
nne> tartan 'na "]t?D3 ne>» "a ,B^yjD p yiT3 D'3an tik one 
p^ann ma n^nn ^sdc nT^pa a"yi p!>a-6 mwn 'na. 


weight upon the right or the left shoe being put on first, 
because I imagine that otherwise something uncanny would 
happen ' ; while Tilla Burieux, the actress, states in an 
interview that she is very careful not to place her shoes on 
the table, because it signifies 'certain stuttering'. 101 

Concerning the laying on of the left shoe the following 
belief prevails in Ansbach : ' If the bride lets the bridegroom 
buckle on her left shoe, she will rule in the house.' 102 

With reference to worn shoes the Chinese say: ' He 
who wears his hat sideways, has a lazy wife ; and he who 
has worn shoes on, has a gluttonous wife.' 103 

Finally, mention must be made of the superstition pre- 
vailing among a considerable part of the French people, 
according to which the preservation of the bridal shoe 
guarantees a happy conjugal life. 104 

101 Berliner Tageblatt for May n, 1913 (No. 235). 

102 Nork, s. v, Schuh. 

103 J. Banzemont, ' Enfants Chinois ', La Revue, March 1, 1913, p. 102 : 
' Si vous portez votre chapeau sur le col vous avez une femme paresseuse, 
dit-on, si vous portez un habit crasseux et des souliers ecules vous avez une 
femme qui aime a manger.' 

104 Revue des Deux Mottdes, Jan 1911, p. 146 : ' Garder les souliers avec 
lesquels on s'est marte, c'etait s'assurer des chances de faire bon manage.'