I tried on a new pair of shoes this week. I wouldn’t say they were comfortable—not entirely—but I was pleased to feel the increased support of the arches. I was careful to double-knot the crisp laces so that they wouldn’t come untied while I was running. I wore them for a short while, because the occasion seemed to require new shoes. After I had broken them in, I set them beside my bed and wiggled my toes. Suddenly, I was aware of my achy muscles. It was a good kind of ache, I think.
Those of you who heard my Kol Nidre sermon on Tuesday night know that I am not really talking about shoes. After services concluded, a perceptive listener asked me two questions: Rabbi, how do you feel now that you have joined the ranks of rabbis who engage in exhortation of the congregation on Yom Kippur? and Rabbi, will you be returning tomorrow to your usual, more gentle tone?
The next day I slipped on my well-worn pair of sneakers. They were more comfortable; they creased and folded in just the right places when I stood on my tiptoes to stretch. They are looking a little beat-up these days, because I have walked many times through the wet grass and have exposed them to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
My mentor, Rabbi Irwin Kula, challenged me to think about the multifaceted role of rabbis. Participating in Rabbis Without Borders, I realized that I have always preferred being the teacher or pastor and, until now, I had studiously avoided the role of prophet. I strive to speak with a voice filled with compassion and to squelch the voice of moral outrage.
The sales clerk at Phidippides taught me that it is important to alternate running shoes regularly. Not only so that the shoes will last longer, but also because it is better for your feet.