כ״ג בטבת ה׳תשע״ה (January 14, 2015)

Yevamot 102a-b: A Shoe For The Occasion

The centerpiece of the halitza ceremony – whose purpose is to embarrass the yavam who has chosen to avoid fulfilling his family obligation – is the removal of a shoe from the foot of the yavam by the widow.

Obviously, there is a wide variety of footwear. The Torah appears to require a shoe (na’al). Our Gemara discusses at length whether it must be a shoe, or can it be a sandal or a slipper? What must it be made from? Because of the various demands, it has become accepted practice that we do not use a shoe that belongs to the yavam, but rather every Jewish has a special “halitza shoe.”

These pictures show, from a number of different vantage points, the “halitza shoe” that is used in Jewish courts. Sandals are not used anymore because we are no longer certain of how it can be made and still meet all of the requirements. The general shape and appearance of the shoe is similar to one that was commonly worn in the times of the Talmud, although specially made to match those requirements.

The straps that go around and tie the shoe to the leg are referred to in the Gemara as the shintzi, and their job is to hold the shoe on the yavam’s foot tightly. The straps, which act as laces, are made out of leather so that the shoe can be an entirely leather shoe. Aside from the straps of laces, there are also three leather buttons that fit into three leather buttonholes. These are the humrata described in the Gemara.

When halitza is performed, the yevama undoes the top bow and the buttons and removes the shoe from the yavam’s foot.

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