Shemoth: These Shoes Are Made for Walking

At their first “meeting,” God commands Moshe (Moses), “Remove your shoes from upon your feet, for the place upon which you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). The deeper sources reveal incredible secrets that underlie this passage. Aside from the plain meaning of the passage, the Almighty commands Moshe with a spiritual directive. Just as the shoes clothe the feet, allowing the wearer to walk upon the earth, so too the body clothes the soul, allowing it to interface with the earthly realm. The shoes represent our physical bodies, while the wearer of the shoe is the soul. Our mandate in this world obliges us to focus on living spiritually, developing the faculties of the soul and not making the mistake of focusing our energies on the physical body as an end, but using every medium at our disposal as a means to energize the soul. The Torah here expresses this sublimation of the body and focus on the spirit as “removing the shoes,” in other words, removing our focus from the service to our physical desires, and placing it on the higher element of our existence, our spiritual life. By doing so, we do the seemingly impossible, and actually bring spirituality into our physical existence, uplifting even our physical component, our body, and making it holy. In this way, our bodies, upon which our soul “stands” (as in the shoe analogy) become “holy ground.” May we merit to increase our spiritual life, focusing not downward upon our “shoes,” but upward toward bringing God’s divine light into the world through fulfilling His Will, and by so doing, transforming the earth upon which we stand into “holy ground.”

Based on Shla”h, Parshas Shemoth

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