This week I study in the hope of a complete recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Laura in Louisiana and Texas, and the fires in California.
This week, we read Parashat Ki Seitzei. This portion instructs the Children of Israel for many situations they will find ki seitzei, “when you go out.”
The first sentence talks about a soldier who encounters a beautiful woman when he goes out to war. There are instructions for what to do when one goes out into the world and encounters a rebellious son, or a lost animal, or a beast of burden that has fallen, or a nest with a mother bird and her young.
One of these instructions could be right out of the Boy Scout Handbook: “You shall have a shovel in addition to your weapons, and it will be that when you sit outside, you shall dig with it; you shall go back and cover your leavings.”
When we’re camping, we’re supposed to build a latrine away from the campsite. Of course, this instruction serves to keep the campsite clean and sanitary. Deuteronomy 23:14.
Perhaps the instruction also works in other ways. When we “go out” we generally encounter other people, and we also leave things. We leave our words, our facial expressions, our body language and our acts.
Usually the things we leave are positive – a cheerful greeting, a word of encouragement, a good deed. If the things we leave are not good, we need to “go back and cover our leavings.” We have tools to clean them up, just like the camper’s shovel. These tools are our smile, our kind words, our look of sincerity, our expressions of apology, and our acts to correct whatever we did wrong.
In the next few weeks, as we prepare to begin a new year on Rosh Hashonah and to ask forgiveness on Yom Kippur, think about the tools you have if your encounters with other people leave them with something unpleasant and how you can go back and clean up what you’ve left.