He describes a man forced to endure the demeaning work of kneeling before people and removing their shoes to replace them with other shoes while the people just sit there above him, not even bending down to put on their own shoes.
Picture him all day in this lowly position, dealing with the unappealing feet of people too vain to put on their own shoes.
Watch as the picture changes when the view expands to show this man as the owner of a highly successful shoe store.
Rather than a lowly slave to spoiled bullies, he is a highly regarded professional who utilizes his expertise to provide his eager customers with the shoes most suitable for their needs.
It's an upside-down world, as the Gemara says in Pesachim 50a. The people who stand at the top of This World crouch at the bottom in the World of Truth. And those kneeling at the bottom of This World stand at the top of the World of Truth.
In other words:
The same person who appears to kneel at the bottom rung actually stands at the apex.
The Shoe-Magnate Visualization
We sometimes encounter situations that make us feel hurt, degraded, or dehumanized.
Maybe we even live this on a daily basis at home or at work, chas v'shalom.
People enduring such situations describe feeling squashed, quashed, battered, whipped, crushed, flattened, dead, and more.
Their oppressor may seem larger than life, impossible, and so on.
Yet who's really on top?
In the World of Truth, we'll see our experiences as they really are: in line Rav Dessler's mashal, and not as they appear here.
We hear a lot about thanking Hashem for our trials & insults.
We hear a lot about how insults atone for our sins, help us both avoid Gehinnom & earn a truly wonderful eternity in Gan Eden.
Rav Avigdor Miller often spoke of how responding with derech eretz & equanimity to aggravating people helps us perfect ourselves (despite how we otherwise feel inside).
And Rav Dessler's mashal (which he attributes to his Rebbe) fits right in with all that.
It's another tool from the toolbox of emunah.
If, in a painful situation, we can visualize ourselves not as the victim, but as the tycoon of a wildly successful & highly lucrative endeavor, this can help us achieve emotional equilibrium.
(Note: This is not meant to deny the reality of victims. Someone who is victimized has every right to acknowledge their feelings of victimization. It's the truth of their situation! Again, this mashal is a tool to utilize, and not meant to deny anyone the empathy & compassion they deserve.)
Ooh, it sounds so nice. Right?
Just perform this simple visualization and...bibbity-bobbity-boo—your suffering disappears!
It's Not All Rainbows-&-Unicorns at the Shoe Store...What If YOUR 'Customers' are All Narcissists & Sociopaths?
They certainly aren't coming to you for help or service—in fact, they don't seem to need you at all...except as target practice.
The answer is that on the soul level, they really are your customers. THEY are dependent on YOU for your products & services unavailable anywhere else.
They are forking out massive amounts of capital for your "shoes"—maybe even going into your debt to acquire your product.
They don't know it, they don't feel it (and probably you don't feel it either)—but according to the mashal, that's exactly what's going on.
(The Chafetz Chaim states this outright with regard to lashon hara: When someone slanders you, Hashem channels all their merits to your storehouse of merits. [source] Now THAT'S a well-paying "customer"!)
Needless to say, this idea goes deep. It's far more complex than anything that can be written in a regular blog post.
Are these people simply bad seed here to challenge us into exquisite silver refinement?
Are they here to cleanse us of our sins?
Or are they people whom we tormented in a past life & now that the tables have turned, we face a type of spiritual payback to allow us to enter Gan Eden rather than Gehinnom?
Or is it a combination of the above—or perhaps something else entirely?
We can't know everything. (Not right now, anyway...)
But on the soul level & in the upper realms, you are the fabulously prosperous shoe magnate.
The Wearisome Disclaimer regarding Spiritual Endeavors...which Means You Should Feel Good about ANY Step You Take in the Right Direction!
Like with a lot of spiritual endeavors...
...applying the above mashal to your own situations is EASIER SAID THAN DONE.
In the thick of it, you feel however you feel because that is the reality of your situation in This World.
It's only natural to feel that way—no need to feel ashamed or like a failure because of it.
The shoe-store mashal is simply another item in your emunah armory.
And just like with the equipment in any armory, you need to learn to fence in order to use a sword.
You need to practice with a gun or rifle or crossbow or slingshot until you can use it in battle and emerge the victor.
So you just keep trying and feel really good about the fact that you even want to try.
Or feel good about the fact that you DON'T even WANT to even try...but YOU TRY ANYWAY!
B'ezrat Hashem, looking forward to seeing you all sitting on a heap of wealth earned from your brilliantly successful "shoe" enterprise!