Masonic Symbols: The Shoe

By Bro. Chalmers I. Patton, P.M., #393, England

The Shoe, as a masonic symbol, is employed to remind us
of the duty of constancy and fidelity in our engagements,
that whatever contract we make we must honestly fulfil;
whatever work we undertake we must perform to the utmost of
our power, not undertaking any work which we do not believe
ourselves to be well capable of performing, nor promising
its completion within a time which we cannot reasonably
regard as sufficient for it.  It is thus a symbol having
reference to conduct in the common affairs of life: but the
duties of which it reminds us are nevertheless duties, the
obligation  of which must be referred to  the highest
principles, to those of justice and truth.  The use of this
symbol is derived from an ancient custom of the Jews, of
which we read in the Book of Ruth, in the account of the
transaction between Boaz and his kinsman who was nearer
in relationship to Ruth than himself, concerning the
redemption of the land that had been Elimelech's, and
concerning the marriage, in accordance with the Jewish law,
of Ruth the Moabitess, the widowed daughter-in-law of
Elimelech.  The transaction took place in the gate of their
city, in presence of ten men of the elders of the city, and
when the kinsman refused to redeem the land and to marry
the youthful widow, saying, "I cannot redeem it, lest I mar
mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself;
for I cannot redeem it" he drew off his shoe and gave it to 
Boaz; and this formality is thus spoken of by the narrator:
"Now this was the manner in former time in Israel,
concerning redeeming, and concerning changing, for to
confirm all things; a man drew off his shoe, and gave it to
his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel. Therefore
the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee; so he drew off
his shoe" (Ruth iv. 6-8).  This was done in accordance
with a law which we read in the book of Deuteronomy, and
in which probably an ancient custom was sanctioned (see
Deut. xxv. 5-10).  It was a custom somewhat similar to
that long enforced by the law of Scotland in the completion
of sales of land or of mortgages on land, of the handing of
earth and stone from the one party to the other, the
transference of the handful of earth and stone being in token
of the transference of the right of property.  So the
kinsman who relinquished his right may be understood as
saying to Boaz, I give over to thee all my right in this
matter as fully as I now give thee this shoe; I divest myself
of it as completely as I do of this shoe.  And the elders of
the city having witnessed this transaction, the bargain was
completed and could not be resiled from.  The shoe as a
symbol, reminds the Freemason that his contracts are never
to be resiled from, but faithfully implemented, even if he
should find them less profitable than he expected.  This
principle or rule, however, is only applicable to contracts
fairly made.  If a man has been entrapped into a contract
by false representations on the part of another, he may
honestly and honourably renounce it as soon as he discovers
the imposition which has been practised upon him.  If,
however, after discovering this, he still proceeds for a time
as if he had made no such discovery, he must be regarded
as having condoned the offence, and is then bound by the
contract.  It is as if, in full knowledge of the facts, he
entered into it anew.