Not as Small as It Looks

And it will be because of your listening to these ordinances… (Devarim 7:12)

If the light commandments that a person tramples with his heels, you shall listen to… (Rashi)

The nature of a human being is to not pay attention to “light” mitzvot and “insignificant” customs. In truth, however, it is specifically the performance of the generally ignored commandments that testifies to a person’s love and devotion to Hashem and His Torah. An example would be the mitzvah that directs a person how, exactly, to put on a pair of shoes.

In Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, siman 2), it says, “One should put on the right shoe first and leave it untied. Then one should put on the left shoe and tie it as well. Then one should return to the right shoe and complete tying its laces. When one removes one’s shoes one should begin with the left shoe.” For someone trained to follow this order from childhood, it will become second nature well before one reaches adulthood. However, for one not taught as a child, the process may be challenging because one dresses in the morning robotically and does not pay much attention to details and procedures. If one were warned that improper tying of shoes could harm a Jew somewhere in the world,[1] then one certainly would pay attention and do one’s best to do it as prescribed in Shulchan Aruch. Yet, even so, one might justify one’s negligent attitude by pointing out, “What is so wrong? It is not murder, immorality or idol worship!”

Treating non-performance of any commandment as insignificant is based on a misguided premise. In fact, there is something more significant than even the three cardinal sins. It is a belittlement and degradation of the One Who gave us the Torah. One should not look at the “size” of a mitzvah; rather, one must consider the greatness of the One Who gave the Torah! Since Hashem is the One Who gave us His commandments, one must assume there is a lot more than meets the eye to each and every mitzvah.

When one wakes in the morning and greets the onset of a new day, one is commanded to say blessings of appreciation and praise for the many gifts our Creator provides daily. The blessing of “Who made for me all of my needs” is intended to thank Hashem for our shoes. One might ask, “What is so special about shoes that requires one to say a blessing for shoes every day?”

Imagine a person taking a long bus ride to an important appointment. In the heat of the day, the passenger took advantage of his travel time to remove his shoes and place them neatly under his seat. Unbeknownst to him, a prankster sitting in the seat behind him took one of the shoes and tossed it out the bus window. Before he arrived at his stop, the passenger reached under his seat to get his shoes and put them back on.

“Where is my other shoe?” he exclaimed. “I can’t find my shoe!”

Other passengers joined in the search — some who were good -natured, and others for less than altruistic motives — in order to meet their own schedule. After a seemingly long search, the driver said, “I’m sorry, my friend. Shoe or no shoe, you have to get off the bus immediately.”

The difficulty, the embarrassment, the missed appointment — all for a single shoe. Is a shoe so insignificant?

Hashem gives shoes to all His children. All He requires is that we bless Him once a day and we put them on in a manner that mimics tefillin, giving special importance to the left. We wear tefillin to remind us to dedicate our thoughts and powers to proper connection and service to Hashem.

All commandments are big because they relate to the One Who gave them to us. Understanding this will yield a great uptick in our mitzvah performance.

Shabbat shalom.

[1]. One does not even consider that, on the other hand, proper mitzvah performance may result in blessing to someone, somewhere.