וְיָתֵד תִּהְיֶה לְךָ, עַל-אֲזֵנֶךָ; וְהָיָה, בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ חוּץ, וְחָפַרְתָּה בָהּ, וְשַׁבְתָּ וְכִסִּיתָ אֶת-צֵאָתֶךָ.
And thou shalt have a paddle among thy weapons; and it shall be, when thou sittest down abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee. (Devarim 23:14)
The pasuk says that a person has to carry his spade with him when he goes to battle, so that if he has to go to the facilities, he can cover it up.
The Torah tells us that, even in the most pressing of times, a Jew can never lose his sense of decency. When bullets are flying all around, a person must not only must be concerned with his safety, but also with his dignity. It seems that the important message being conveyed is that no matter what happens, we cannot lose ourselves. The Gemara relates an alternative interpretation of וְיָתֵד תִּהְיֶה לְךָ, which refers to your ears. The Gemara explains that the curvature of the fingers were made especially so that they fit into one’s ear, enabling one to turn off his hearing when necessary. Many times people find themselves in situations where inappropriate speech is being said, and the Torah is giving us a directive ‘use your fingers to escape the reality that you find yourself in’ (by putting one’s fingers in one’s ear). It seems to me that the Torah is expressing to us that just as the simple understanding of the passuk is about ‘human dignity’, so too by hearing forbidden words one belittles himself to the same degree.
I think there is another parallel as well. The Torah is trying to strengthen us against the yetzer hara. Just as in the battlefield, a person may say “there are more important things to worry about than covering my own excrement. Certainly there are greater issues at hand, such as winning the war”. So too the yetzer hara tells us that when we find ourselves in the company of important people (employers, dear friends, or relatives), as long as I pretend not to pay attention to what is being said (even though I really do hear), it is ok. The Torah is telling us that one can lose his spiritual respectability to the same degree by being part of such a discussion.
Whether with friend or foe, one must retain his dignity, physical and spiritual, because at all times we are soldiers in Hashem’s army.