One of the well known prohibitions of Yom Kippur is that one should refrain from wearing leather shoes. At first glance, one would assume that the simple reason for this, is to cause us some extra discomfort on the day of atonement. But the question arises, if that were the case, why is it that leather shoes are banned, when in fact for most of us, our non-leather shoes are the most comfortable?
The ban on leather shoes can be explained with a law written in the Shulchan Aruch, which states that normally when one purchases a new article of clothing, one should recite the blessing of "She'hecheyonu", a blessing which shows enjoyment over the new item of clothing. On new leather shoes, however, one does not recite that blessing because there is an element of sadness, by the fact that an animal had to be killed in order to produce this pair of shoes. ( Even though animals have been given for the purpose of man, it would be sadistic to rejoice over the slaughtering of an animal for the sake of covering our feet) .
On Yom Kippur, mankind stands in judgement hoping and praying to G-d to judge us favourably and mercifully. There is a famous saying found in the Gemora "He who shows compassion to others, G-d will allow compassion to him". On Yom Kippur when we are desperate for that compassion we conceal any traces of cruelty, and we dare not wear leather shoes, hoping that G-d will look at us with compassion, and grant us a good year. Maybe one could use the same logic as an argument to refrain from driving on Yom Kippur, in order to avoid sitting on leather seats!
May we all have a happy, healthy, prosperous new year. .

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