Parshat Ki Teitzei: Grounded
Deuteronomy 23:14

וְיָתֵ֛ד תִּהְיֶ֥ה לְךָ֖ עַל־אֲזֵנֶ֑ךָ וְהָיָה֙ בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ֣ ח֔וּץ וְחָפַרְתָּ֣ה בָ֔הּ וְשַׁבְתָּ֖ וְכִסִּ֥יתָ אֶת־צֵאָתֶֽךָ׃

“You shall have a spike in addition to your gear, and it will be that when you sit outside, you shall dig with it; you shall cover up your excrement”

First, let’s applaud the Rabbi’s courage for choosing the verse that refers to excrement. Of course this is not an easy verse to highlight, but are we not all human? Indeed this is the lesson of this verse:

Again we find the Torah giving instruction to warriors: In addition to your sword and shield, always carry a spike for when you have to…dig a hole.

There is a problem we face as humans. We are, as poetically expressed in Genesis, dust and ashes mixed with the life-breath of God. Yet, in celebrating our Godly side, we tend to hide those human parts of ourselves. Clothing hides our nakedness. Makeup hides our wrinkles. Deodorant hides our odors. One can get so good at hiding their humanness that ego takes over, and one sees themselves equal to God. 

The word יָתֵד in our verse, “spike”, is the same word as the spike used to anchor the walls of the tabernacle. Both have the same purpose: they are grounding. For the tabernacle, the tent in which God’s presence was acutely felt, these spikes were the lowest part. Without these spikes anchored in the reality of the dirt and earth the tabernacle sat upon, the tent would fly away. To the ecstatic warrior victorious in battle, this spike likewise anchored them to the most humble human qualities. As they put their swords away, they would see this spike in their bag and remember they were human. Without being anchored in the reality that they are dust and ashes, their ego might rise out of control. It was easier when we were all carrying around spikes, but let’s do our best to remember that we are all human, prone to error, imperfect. It is only when we have internalized this reality that we have the grounding to build something holy, and give meaning to an eternal soul.