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Shoes of Deceased

We are in the process of disposing of the belonging of our late father, of blessed memory. I have heard that some people throw out the deceased’s shoes. Is there any basis for this? Is it a superstition? We were planning to give most of his personal items to charity, so it would be for a good cause.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

I’m sorry first of all to hear of your father’s passing.

The practice of disposing the deceased’s shoes appears in a work called “The Testaments (tzava’ot) of Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid” (454). R. Yehuda HaChassid (“the pious”) was a great scholar and Kabbalist of 12th-13th century Germany. One of his works was an ethical will of instructions and rulings, based as much on Kabbalah as Jewish law. Although not all his rulings have been accepted by later generations, a good number of them have become quite well-known and prevalent, such as not wearing the shoes of a deceased, not marrying a woman whose name is the same as one’s mother, and not getting a haircut on Rosh Chodesh.

As R. Yehuda HaChassid did not explain the rationale for the custom and the wording itself is vague, several theories have been put forth as to the basis for it, ranging from the mystical to the practical. Most limit it to shoes alone as opposed to other garments, and only to the ones worn at the time of death or during his final illness.

The most accepted reason, however, is practical – out of concern that the person died of contagious disease, which can be spread via his shoes (or perhaps other items of clothing). Based on this, if it is known that the person had no contagious disease at the time of his death but died from other causes, or if his shoes have since been decontaminated, it is fine to put such items to good use rather than just discarding them (Igrot Moshe Y.D. III 133).

May your father’s memory be for a blessing!

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