As The Better Half and I are currently in our child-bearing years, our shopping habits tend to change month to month. At the beginning of a pregnancy, smaller clothing naturally tends to fit. Then as the pregnancy progresses, so do our waistlines. My wife’s changes, as she is carrying a human being in her uterus, and mine changes as well, as I, embracing my husbandly duties, understand it would be rude to make her eat ice cream and pickles by herself at 11:37 PM. Nine months later, gradually, the clothing begins fitting a little better. There is, quite literally, a little more breathing room.
So I was somewhat shocked recently to discover when my wife went on a shoe shopping spree. “Don’t you have enough shoes, Apple Bug? Are eight pairs of shoes not enough, Snicker Doodle? You even have some of the shoes you used to rock in high school! Heck, so do I! I still have the crocs I wore in college before it was cool, when all the haters made fun of me. So why, oh why, do you need more shoes?”
And she brilliantly, eloquently, and elegantly explained to me that this was, in fact, exactly the point. She still has her shoes from high school because they still fit. It might be time to update her shoes, because she is not naturally inclined to purchase new ones the same way she is inclined to buy clothing, when her size changes more frequently. Not so with shoes. So once every 15 years its necessary to swap out some old ones and splurge on some new ones.
I instantly realized that she was saying something deep and profound, though at first I was not quite sure what the message was.
Then I thought about it some more, and it hit me. With so much in our world changing on such a frequent basis, we all need some old time shoes in our life. We need consistency. We need something to cling to, something to keep us balanced. We all appreciate how much the world can change.
Think back to what you were doing three and a half months ago. The Nuggets and Avalanche were cruising. The economy was booming. You most likely were employed, and didn’t think twice about going to a store, and then coming home without washing your hands. I, as a gabbay (helper) at my synagogue, had the simple but rewarding job of shaking people’s hands after they said a blessing over the reading of the Torah. It didn’t gross me out, and I didn’t think about the germs that were being spread to my unsuspecting hands. Things were different.
Then, everything changed. Not just my waistline, which was busy adjusting to taking 2,000 steps in a day and not 8,500. Our lives were turned upside down. The world shut down in a way no one could have ever imagined. Our lives were kind of like our clothing–constantly changing based on our changing bodies. It can be stressful when this happens. What can we wear that still fits?
Blessedly, we still have our shoes. We still have things we can cling on to, things that keep us balanced. Things, I call my “quarantine shoes.” For me, my quarantine shoes are my family, and my Torah study. My connection to my family strengthened, being able to spend more time with them, developing new rituals and habits to connect us even more. My shoes became even more snug.
And my daily Torah study. In January I started doing the Daf Yomi, the program in which Jews from all over the globe learn 1 page of Talmud a day. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, we study. Every. Single. Day. Quarantine or crazy busy life, we study.
This program began in 1923 when the great Rabbi Meir Shapiro recognized a need to connect Jews across the world through Torah learning. In his own words, this “will create a common language among our people. When two Jews from different towns, or even different countries, meet, the knowledge they share on the Gemara currently being studied will help them form a deep bond of friendship.”
His idea was based on a Gemara which relates the following story: Rabban Gamliel was at sea when he encountered a capsized vessel. Observing that there were no survivors, he was devastated over the loss of the Rebbi Akiva who was on board. Rebbe Akiva miraculously survived and came before him to study. Surprised he asked, “My son, who brought you up from the water?” Rebbe Akiva responded:
The daf (plank) of a ship came before me. I grabbed hold of it and floated to safety…
Rav Meir Shapiro said similarly in 1923, “a plank from the boat came to me, and I bent my head before each and every wave that came toward me. This plank, this daf, is the daf Gemora, the daf Yomi, which is available to every Jew wherever he may be, to save him from the crashing waves of evil that threaten to destroy him physically and spiritually, the daf Gemora that saves every Jew from the waves of a stormy life.”
How appropriate that the new cycle began in January. How fortunate are so many tens of thousands of people who study have the daf to cling to, every. single. day.
Clothes will sometimes fit, and sometimes not fit. Sometimes your pants will button all the way, sometimes not. More often than not, by the end of a Shabbos, they will not button all the way. But your shoes will always be there, awaiting your foot’s snug embrace.
Let us use this time, to all find clarity on what kind of shoes we have.