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In Europe they used to have such a practice [not to wear the shoes of someone who passed away] because of contagious diseases. If a person died from a contagious disease, the shoe may cause me to get sick also, so they would throw out whatever the person wore. But if he has a good pair of shoes and died from a heart attack, there’s no contagious disease, so why should you throw out the shoes?

I think there’s a sefer that says wearing them is “dangerous” and some people think that means spiritually dangerous. You’re saying it doesn’t mean that…

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I don’t think so.

Who gives the explanation you offered?

One of the gedolim in the early 1900s wrote a sefer on all of Hilchos Aveilus alphabetically arranged. He was a big rav. He corresponded with Rav Chaim Soloveitchik and the Ohr Sameach and quotes what they say. He wrote a sefer called Mishmeres Shalom, which is a commentary on the Pri Megadim on Yoreh De’ah, and then he wrote Chayim Uvrachah L’mishmeres Shalom on Hilchos Aveilus. (He also has a sefer Chayim Uvrachah L’mishmeres Shalom on all of Hilchos Daled Minim).

So on Hilchos Aveilus he talks about shoes, and I’m pretty sure he writes like that – that it’s only because there were contagious diseases and you’re afraid you’ll get the sickness if you wear the shoes.

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Rav Hershel Schachter is a widely-respected posek and a rosh yeshiva and rosh kollel at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. To suggest a topic you’d like to see Rav Schachter address in this column, e-mail editor@jewishpress.com.