Parsha Mitzvot: Ki Teitzei: Mitzvot 543 & 544 – Concepts 605 & 606
“You shall have a place outside the camp, and to it you shall go out. You shall have a shovel in additions to your weapons, and it will be that when you sit outside, you shall dig with it; you shall go back and cover your excrement. For God, your Lord, walks in the midst of your camp to rescue you and to deliver your enemies before you; so your camp shall be holy, so that He will not see a shameful thing among you and turn away from behind you.” (Deuteronomy 23:13-15) The army must prepare latrines outside the camp. (Concept #605) Prepare a shovel for each soldier to dig with. (Concept #606, Rambam Hilchot Melachim – The Laws of Kings and Their Wars)
My father zt’l often pointed out that the “shameful thing” was not the human excrement, but the way we dealt with its disposal: If both the community (Mitzvah 543 – Concept 605) and the individual (544 – 606) prepare ways to maintain the cleanliness and proper sanitation, there is no “shameful thing.” Both the community and individual are responsible to prepare. The shame is a community or individual that does not prepare a system to maintain cleanliness and sanitation.
My father would always prepare a garbage bag for the entire family, and ask each of the kids to prepare an individual garbage bag before we left on the long car drive from Toronto to Baltimore. He would remind us that it is not enough to refrain from littering; we could observe these commandments as we prepared for our trip!