Boots are made for walking…writes Rabbi Laibl Wolf

October 14, 2014 by Rabbi Laibl Wolf
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Science is making impressive strides. Take sports-shoe shops for example.

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

I needed a new pair of cross-trainers. On expert advice from my podiatrist, I committed an act of treason (having worn Asics for 15 years) and, disguised in a beard and beret, I surreptitiously slinked into the S. Monica (L.A) New Balance store, looking furtively over my shoulders in case any Asics deep-cover spooks were on my tail. (Carelessly I had left a trail on my Google history searches that Homeland Security might have tracked and a future Edward Snowden would reveal, much to my embarassment.)

Impressive store, New Balance. Hi tech equipment measurement of my feet included computer analyses of corns, bunions, idiosyncratic family peculiarity of two webbed toes, as well as the obvious width and length of each of my feet (different sizes to my amazement), degree of pronation – negative (conflicting with every shop to date claiming my dire need for much vaunted anti-pronation-designed-shoe-base with strong heel counters – naturally at considerably higher mark-up).

Armed with the printer read-out outstandingly dominated by scientific-looking graphs of my two feet, the store assistant (clearly a PhD physics candidate trying to earn a few dollars on night shift) went to the back of the store and brought out a bevy of rather plain white shoes, which to my color-sensitive eyes, did not at all resemble the bright green sided, orange based, blue shoe-laced model that I had specifically requested. When asked about the slight differential between customer model choice and bland store-supplied samples, the attendant uttered in inaudible undertone, which low decibels meant that I should not be at all concerned, “we are out of that one”.

Being a sensitive soul as well as PhD candidate, he must have sensed my fast-waning interest and he quickly offered, “but we do have it in another size”. I must admit that his helpful admission did raise a faint question in my mind as to the efficacy of the lengthy scientific assessment made at the outset of my loyalty-conflicted entry into the store, coupled with his somewhat blithe preparedness to clothe me in ill-fitting shoes. But out there in the real world we all know that appearance reigns supreme, and therefore my ego-voice offered me the forbidden fruit “doesn’t hurt to try them on.” Naturally, through the magical agency of my ego, they fitted perfectly! – a true testament to the power of the colloquially described Hassidic teaching of Yetzer Hara (the inner tempter).

I walked out of the store a happy man. New Balance clearly had it all over Asics. The fit was better, the approach more scientific, the heel counter more firm, and the coloring much more appealing. (Color was, as no doubt you can readily recognise, a mere afterthought, not the real motivator, surely, since, ipso facto, all the other aspects were clearly superior. Yes, dear reader, I had very successfully brainwashed my brain. But my heart was singing so could I have really erred too badly?

Nevertheless, the astute reader of my process of self-entrapment will have noted the following dissonances in my autobiographic episode:

  • Science is useful only as long as sales attendants are not employed on a commission basis.
  • Nancy Sinatra may have reinforced the Divine rule that that boots are made for walking, but the appurtenance (shoe) at the end of that limb (foot) is a powerful and undeniable fashion statement that compromises even G-d’s best of intentions.
  • Rabbis are morally perplexed when it comes to conflict between the two body organs most distant from its other – the brain and the sole (or, should I rather say, the brain is not the seat of the sole!)
  • Thank goodness for product-return policies.

In Chabad Hassidic teachings there is a wonderful observation that the brain may be the senior partner of the body, but is useless without the feet to take it where it wants to go. Likewise, feet may possess a monopoly over body locomotion, but its capacity to read a compass is very limited (hence my questionable choice of shoe stores).

So before buying your next pair of sports shoes, don’t make an ass(sic) of yourself, and assume a posture of (new)balance, always noting that success will not be a ‘shoo-in’.

Rabbi Laibl Wolf, is the  Dean of  Spiritgrow – The Josef Kryss Center, Australia


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