“Stepping Into Another Shoe”


“Stepping Into Another Shoe”


We are often told not to judge another until we are able to walk in their own shoes. Yet, how often does one walk in someone elses shoes? What lessons may be learned by walking the extra miles in the shoes of others? What life lessons must we learn from this understanding. I have dubbed this conversation “Time Frames”, as i will be discussing several cases where one may enter someone else time frame and discover a new life, and at the same time we will come to realize how we must make the best of our time frames while understanding and not judging others’ time frames. This level of understanding helps eliminate most misunderstandings and helps elevate understanding to other lifestyles and ways of servicing Hashem.

Pirkei Avos Perek 2 Mishna 5 quotes Hillel “…Veahl tudin es chaveircha ahd shetageya limkomo”, do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place. This is explained as … you never know how you would react if you were in the same predicament. You cannot condemn a person who succumbed to temptation unless you have overcome a similar challenge (Art-Scroll comentary). This refers to judging a quality of life. However, the topic I want to discuss is more like the grass is not always greener elsewhere or in anothers’ situation, rather, understand the other in his place and observe his successes and challenges.

In 1979 I heard a great talk given by Rabbi Shmeltzer of Chicago that has left an incredibly strong mark on me ever since. He talked about the Mishna that states “kach hee darkuh shel torah…. ashrecha beolom hazeh vetov loch leolom habuh” The mishna states (Avos Perek 6 Mishna 4) This is the way of Torah: eat bread with salt, drink water with small measure, sleep on the ground, live a life of deprivation – but toil in Torah! If you do this “You are praiseworthy, and all is well with you!” He asked a great question that really is linked to every day Time Frames. How can one live such a life and still have a good life in the present world? The story that follows will illustrate this so beautiful and allow us to time travel into understanding Time Frame issues.

They say, the story is with Napolian as he was conquoring the world he passed through a small village and was being chased by some opposition and ran into a basement store operator and he asked that the owner hide him and he will be greatly rewarded. The store owner not realizing that this indeed was Napolian took him into his back work area and hid him between the bed spring and the mattress. As the soldiers enetered this mans store they demanded to search the store for Napolian. They enetered the back room and could not find him. They even drew their swords and stuck it in the walls and closets and even the bed, bust still he could not be found and the soldiers left. After a few hours, the store owner saw that the coast was clear so he removed his bedding and mattress and released Napolian. The king looked the owner in the eyes and proclaimed, “Anytime you come to Paris you come see me and I will reward you with all the riches in the world for saving my life”.

A year passed and the store owner decided to go to Paris and collect his reward. As he arrived, Napolian greeted him with open arms, fed him and dressed him in saintly clothing and asked him to say what he wants and it would be granted to him. The store owner looked at Napolian with saddened eyes and said, “before I tell you what I want, may I ask you a question?” Of course smiled Napolian, well, the shop owner continued, I have been wondering now for a year, “How did it feel while you werte lying under the mattress and the swords were being stabbed through it?” Napolians rage could not be controlled as he yelled out to his soldiers, “Did you hear how this coward stands before me and embarasses me in front of all my servants? Take him outside to the courtyard and he will be shot!” The store owner, coming to his senses begins to cry and he begs, “Please, dear king I was just asking a question, forget I said anything, please!” But Napolian only walked away and said “Take him immediately to be shot in front of a firing squad!”

They tied his hands behind his back and stood him near the wall as they put the mask over his eyes, bitter tears were flowing down this mans face and Napolian shouted, READY, the man was shivering and thinking to himself how did he ever think of something so rediculous to ask, Napolian shouted again, AIM… as the man broke down in tears and remorse he felt a slight tap on his shoulders. Napolian leaned over and whispered into his ear, “So, tell me, how does THIS feel?”

Rabbi Shmeltzer concluded that if you study Torah you will understand a feeling and then by living that feeling you will understand the Mishna better. I, however, took the message a bit different. We all have our lifestyle that over the course of life we choose for ourselves. Perhaps we need to also take time to understand and appreciate the lives of even those we oppose or we just don’t understand. By understanding and trying to feel what they are living, we can escape from our humanistic approach of judging others.

I wonder what Mark Mcguire must feel as he is hounded every day to break a Baseball record. How his mornings must feel like, how his feelings are measured by millions watching him every day? I wonder about my Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav Bakst and how he feels while learning a piece of Gemara? How he wakes up and goes to sleep? What thoughts he has about yiddishkeit and life? Can I really try to walk in his shoes for even one day, and would I feel the love of Torah he has and the passion towards learning that he posesses. lately, I have been thinking more of others’ Time Frames. How do people make time for family, learning, recreation, community involvement and still have time to complete the days work load? What trick is used, and what can I do to make my life more inspiring and accomplished.

I decided therefore, to step out of my life and step into another persons’ Time Frames and realized that although we all have our own life past, and we all have our ups and downs, we design our own todays and our tomorrows. We can learn that by walking one day in someone else shoes, we can respect both the life they have chosen for themselves and the life we have chosen and continue to change on a daily basis. If we can recognize our own growth then we acknowledge our process and respect the process of very person out there.

We hear almost every day the routes and journeys people travel to get to where they are today. With all that life has to offer in valleys and mountains, I encourage us all to walk on the other side, even if for just a day or so. Walk in the shoes of the other persons Time Frames and understand that others choose because that is the Time frame they have chosen for themselves and you have chosen but are able to change and modify our own Time Frames at any time we wish.

Life is made to be lived in order that we may do good. We do choose the path we want and Hashem helps us along THAT chosen path. Yes, I believe, that even I have the right to reach beyond my dreams and into the potentiality of everything available in life. I just have to create and choose to live every day with its full intent, and not judge that I have not reached the highest I can climb as long as I don’t give up. Even if I do, the greatest pasrt of life is the next day’s chance of getting up and climbing higher.

The month of Av is coming to a close soon, and we will begin thinking about the New Year and the New challenges and success we will look forward to. I challenge us all to take a day or two and walk in the Time Frames of others – it may help us make positive changes and prepare us to welcome in the new year, besha tova.

If you take a walk into the Time Frame of others, or if you have any questions pertaining to this subject, I’d appreciate if you e-mail me. Feedback is always a great tool for growth.