Today’s daf (Shabbat 113a-b) informs us that a person should wear different clothes (מלבוש) on Shabbat than those that they wear during the week, they should walk differently on Shabbat than they do on the week, and they should speak different on Shabbat than they do on the week.
Interestingly, it is often thought that ‘Shabbat clothes’ must necessarily be more expensive than weekday clothes. However, as Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein (1829-1908) explains in his Aruch HaShulchan (OC 262:3), ‘there is no need for Shabbat clothes to be expensive’. Still, while he acknowledges that in the time of the Gemara there were those with just one set of clothes, he points out that most people today are blessed with more than one set of clothes and therefore a person should endeavour to have ‘Shabbat clothes’. However, what is not clear either from the Gemara or from most of the later halachic sources is whether a person needs to wear different shoes on Shabbat than those that they wear on Shabbat?
In a fascinating responsum (see Yechave Da’at 5:23), Rav Ovadia Yosef addresses this question by examining whether the word מלבוש (which is the word used on our daf) means just ‘clothes’ (as it is generally understood to mean), or whether it actually means ‘clothes and shoes’ – such that if it means the latter, then a person should ideally also have a pair of ‘Shabbat shoes’ in addition to their ‘Shabbat clothes’.
Though he brings a range of sources that support both positions, Rav Ovadia acknowledges that many people do not have shoes that are only worn on Shabbat, and therefore, given the varied opinions and in light of common practice it is not necessary to have unique ‘Shabbat shoes’. However, he adds that if a person does wear their weekday shoes on Shabbat, it is appropriate to polish those shoes before Shabbat in honour of Shabbat because, by doing so, it is as if they have special Shabbat shoes (nb. I am reminded of this responsum every Erev Shabbat when I polish my shoes for Shabbat).
Of course, you might expect the great Torah leaders to be strict on this matter and for them to have a separate pair of Shabbat shoes – and it is likely that some do! However, it is worthwhile noting that when someone asked the saintly R’ Shlomo Zalman about the practice of having special Shabbat shoes, ‘he looked at his shoes and said that he himself does not have any special shoes that he only wears on Shabbat, and that he wears the same pair of shoes throughout the week and on Shabbat’ (VeAleihu Lo Yibol’ Vol. 1 p. 137).
Now did this mean that R’ Shlomo Zalman was someone deficient in his honouring of Shabbat? Of course not! What it simply meant was that R’ Shlomo Zalman’s honour of Shabbat went beyond the shoes that he wore or his special Shabbat garb, and that the spirit of Shabbat was reflected in his very being including how he walked and how he spoke.
Today, many people have costly shabbat clothes, and some even have special Shabbat shoes, but yet on Shabbat, many take the opportunity to discuss weekday concerns with family and friends especially matters relating to work and business. Contrasting this, Rav Shlomo Zalman wore the same pair of shoes 7 days a week, but even the way he spoke on Shabbat was different to the way he spoke during the rest of the week.
Thus what we learn from our daf is that while – where possible – we should honour Shabbat through wearing Shabbat clothes, it is how we behave and what we say which is no less part of our sacred Shabbat ensemble.