Friday, November 6, 2020

Why is my left foot different from my right foot?

 Why is my left foot different from my right foot?

At Jewish Newport

November 7, 2020

By Aaron Ginsburg

Thank you to Rabbi Marc Mandel, and Vicki Kaplan

Also at

Room devoted shoes in Cluny Museum, Paris Publisher: Chilton Co., Philadelphia, 9/29/1897, NY Public Library 

Rabbi Marc Mandel of Touro Synagogue has a message for Jewish Newport about hospitality,

“In this week's Parsha, Va'yera, we learn about Avraham's hospitality as he welcomes guests to his tent on a scorching hot day. At one point, Avraham says to his guests, ‘Enjoy some water; bathe your feet and recline under the tree.’ 

וַיֹּ֜אמֶר הִנֶּ֣ה נָּא־אֲדֹנַ֗י ס֣וּרוּ נָ֠א אֶל־בֵּ֨ית עַבְדְּכֶ֤ם וְלִ֙ינוּ֙ וְרַחֲצ֣וּ רַגְלֵיכֶ֔ם וְהִשְׁכַּמְתֶּ֖ם וַהֲלַכְתֶּ֣ם לְדַרְכְּכֶ֑ם

“Why did Avraham tell them to bathe their feet? Rashi quotes the Talmud that explains, ‘There was a custom among some idol worshippers to worship the dust on their feet, and Avraham did not want any idol worship in his home, since he grew up in a home of idol worshippers and didn't want anything to do with this custom.’ Yet, Avraham offered his guests great hospitality and kindness, even though he did not accept their views on life.

“Is there a message for us today in America from this chapter in the Torah?”


Washington, D.C. A busy shoe store on the last day on which war ration shoe coupons may be used. Bubley, Esther, photographer June 1943, Library of Congress
This got me interested in the esoteric subject of feet! Did you know that two thirds of people have different-sized feet? If you are in the foot care business, your patients expect you to explain this.

In Cincinnati, The Center for Foot Care is ready, “One explanation is that since the majority of the population is right-handed, they can only comfortably lift their right hand and left foot forward without losing their balance. Consequently, the foot opposite the dominant hand is exercised more, creating the slight variance in the sizes of the feet.” 

That is one of many possible explanations on their homepage,

Many people have closets full of shoes that they rarely wear. Perhaps this explains why Imelda Marcos, who was the first lady of the Philippines, had 3000 pairs of shoes! Would you let your significant other’s shoes come between you?

When Abraham offered a foot bath to entice the visitors to accept his hospitality, which they declined, he was not concerned about how different their feet were.

Right now America is in a tizzy. Many of us are overwrought by the political situation and it is affecting our relationships with friends and relatives who disagree with us. Just as Abraham did not have a litmus test about feet, I hope we can let go of the politics that interfere with our human relationships. This will make it much easier on a personal level, and who will help us when we have to take on that dreaded task, shopping for shoes?

Certainly there are times when politics are more than inconvenient, and there is danger involved. For example if you grew up in the Soviet Union or another dictatorship, one could never be sure who was cooperating with the regime as an informant, either voluntarily or by coercion.

Jewish Newport wishes you a Shabbat Shalom and Happy Feet!