First of all, our frame of reference for Yom Kippur is based on the pesukim (Vayikra 16:29-31): “And this shall be statute forever to you; that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls and no labor shall you do, neither the Jew nor the stranger who sojourns among you. For on that day [He] will atone you to cleanse you, from all your sins, before Hashem you shall be cleansed.”
Interesting is that this Day of Atonement is introduced here to a fledgling nation, the Children of Israel, even before they sin. The understanding is that Hashem, in His infinite mercy, wishes that his beloved and chosen people have a means of resetting the clock, so to say, and returning to their Creator. Thus, such a day is an unusual opportunity that no one wishes to waste. Even should we be a bit more casual in our attire the rest of the year, on this day we are more meticulous in our approach.
In order to afflict our souls, we are required, among the other inuyim – abstentions of the day – to abstain from wearing shoes fashioned of leather. And indeed people wear all sorts of non-leather shoes. In theory, wearing flip-flops would be fine, but due to the construction and style of such a shoe (if we might call it that), it has a flat bottom and a single strap between the two end toes on either foot. Making it would be impossible to wear socks, which would be quite inappropriate.
– Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu, Flatbush, Brooklyn; is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; he also serves as chairman of the Presidium of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected].
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One of the most pivotal aspects of tefillah is knowing that I am standing in front of my creator. Recognizing that little me is speaking to the creator of the heavens and the earth, speaking directly to Him as a person speaks to him friend; his friend may respond or may not respond, but I’m speaking directly to him. This is how the Mesilas Yesharim describes davening.
It is a well known halacha in the Shulchan Aruch that one should have special clothing for davening, to prepare himself to stand in front of the king, and many people have either a jacket that they call a davening jacket or a hat or some special clothing to signify the honor. Especially when one is coming into a mikdash meat, a little sanctuary which is a replica of the Beis HaMikdash, one has to act with even more kavod for the place, and therefore it would seem highly inappropriate to wear the same type of shoes that one wears to the beach.
To be honest, even wearing running shoes which many of us, myself included, do on Yom Kippur often feels a bit strange to me. I often find myself taking them off because I wouldn’t stand in front of the king that way, so how could I possibly daven that way. That is the criteria brought in the Shulchan Aruch: how would one speak in front of the king, or if I had an audience with a person of extreme importance, how would I dress and how would I conduct myself.
And certainly flip flops do not fit into that description.
– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier is founder of The Shmuz and author of 10 Really Dumb Mistakes That Very Smart Couples Make (available at theshmuz.com).
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There is a debate among the Rishonim as to whether the prohibition of wearing shoes on Yom Kippur is limited to leather shoes or whether it extends to shoes made from non-leather substances. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 614:2) rules that we may not wear leather shoes on Yom Kippur. The Mishna Berura (614:5) rules that even though we technically can wear all non-leather shoes, it preferable to be stringent and only wear shoes in which one feels the ground.
Therefore, according to the strict letter of the law, flip-flops should be permitted because they are not made of leather. Additionally, if the flip-flops are flimsy such that one could feel the ground, it might even be preferable to wear those types of footwear on Yom Kippur.
– Rabbi Jonathan Muskat is the rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside, a rebbe at Shulamith High School, and a pastoral health care liaison at Mount Sinai South Nassau.