Owning Our Slippers

Mar 23rd, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays
It was a tale well known to children all over Africa: Abu Kassem, a miserly Baghdad merchant, has held onto his battered, much repaired pair of slippers even though they were objects of derision. At last, even he couldn’t stomach the sight of hem. But his every attempt to get rid of his slippers ended in disaster: when he tossed them out of his window they landed on the head of a pregnant woman who miscarried, and Abu Kassem was thrown in jail; when he dropped them in the canal, the slippers choked off the main drain, and caused flooding, and off Abu Kassem went to jail…

One night, when Tawfiq finished (sharing this story), another prisoner, a quiet, dignified old man said, “Abu Kassem might as well build a special room for his slippers. Why try to lose them? He’ll never escape.”

“I hope one day you see this as clearly as I did when I was in prison. The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.” (From “Cutting for Stone,” by Abraham Verghese, Vintage Books)

I love the tale of Abu Kassem’s slippers and its lessons. I found allusions to Pesach: “If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching,” a lesson about Searching for Chametz and how it hints to our search for meaning that must begin by searching for the negative we must remove from our lives before we can search for our path and mission.

“You’ll die bitter,” obviously an allusion to Marror, the bitterness in our lives that comes from not having a sense of purpose.

The most significant is the idea of “Owning your slippers,” “own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have,” which is one of the primary themes of the Haggadah: “In every generation a person is obligated to view himself as if he went out of Egypt,” the Egypt story is our pair of slippers. It is part of who we are and we cannot throw it out the window, or toss it into the canal. It is our’s and we must own it, understand it, apply its lessons, or else we will, as in the story, “die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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