Thursday, June 27, 2013

How can Killing a Fellow Jew Restore Peace???

Summer Session - Torah and Healing - Herbal Workshop Hike
I’ve always been a “peacenik”, even before I turned teenager. I never could understand why the whole world wasn’t able to get along in universal peace and brotherhood. I grew up in the aftermath of the 60ties and had badges of “Make love not War” everywhere. At our family dinner tables we had long discussions. I couldn’t relate when my father called the Arabs “a harsh and cruel enemy.” Then my mother said something so simple I’ll never forget it. “As long as you sisters won’t stop fighting, there won’t be peace in the world.” Baruch Hashem as much as I used to fight with my sister, we are now the very best and closest friends. So now wouldn’t my mother agree that we are ready for redemption and world-peace? 

Actually, this week’s parasha interestingly enough teaches that sometimes it is necessary to distance ourselves from negative relationships even if it’s our own brother or sister. Surprisingly, at times a violent act, which may seem cruel on the outside, brings the greatest peace in the world, when the inner intention is most selfless and holy. 

It’s hard to understand, but our parasha clearly teaches that Pinchas from the tribe of Levi brought peace by slaying the prince of the tribe of Shimon, his brother. 

I invite you to read on to get a glimpse on why the Torah condones Pinchas’s exceptional act which regular people are unable to emulate in any way. Today, we are not on the level to transform jealousy and vengeance in its root into rectified zealousness. Yet, we can aspire to work on our jealousy by means of the meditation I share with you below.

With blessings of a fruitful summer,
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin’s commentary to Haftorat Pinchas - "Soul Reincarnations"

Parasha Meditation Pinchas
Bamidbar 25:10-29:39
Severing Unhealthy Relationship for the sake of Restoring Peace
Parashat Pinchas teaches us about rectifying jealousy and anger – קִנְאָה/kinah, by unifying judgment – דִין/din with its source in Hashem’s infinite kindness – חֶסֶד/chesed. Pinchas succeeded in restoring Shalom (peace) to the world, by separating the undesirable elements of the tribe of Shimon from the Jewish people, and thus severing the tribe of Levi from its unhealthy relationship with Shimon. Pinchas’ act of rectified zealousness enabled the Levites to serve as a conduit for peace and brotherhood for the entire people, through their subsequent Temple service. Pinchas also succeeded in rectifying his tribe’s previous expressions of anger, after Levi and Shimon took vengeance on the people of Shechem for raping their sister, Dinah.[1] When the tribes of Shimon and Levi are joined together, their tendency for anger and vengeance can go overboard. Therefore, on his deathbed, Ya’acov reproached them saying: “Shimon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence is their kinship.”[2] Pinchas did not act out of personal spite, but only for the sake of allowing Hashem’s kindness to shine, by means of removing the blocks standing in the way. By expressing rectified kinah – (jealousy/vengeance), completely devoid of any ego, he unified judgment with mercy, and was consequently rewarded with Hashem’s “covenant of Shalom.”[3] Shalom with its letter ש/shin standing for אֶש/esh – fire and its letter מ/mem standing for מָיִם/mayim – water denotes the unification of opposite elements.

Overcoming Anger through Invoking Hashem’s Perpetual Presence
The word קִנְאָה/kinah usually translated as jealousy is also linked to judgment and anger. The root of this word mentioned three times in the opening verse of Parashat Pinchas alludes to three aspects of anger/jealousy/vengeance: “בְּקַנְאוֹ /By avenging,” “קִנְאָתִי/My jealousy,” and וְלֹא כִלִּיתִי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקִנְאָתִי/“I did not destroy the children of Israel in My judgment.”[4] The numerical value of the root קנא/kina 151[5] equals the Name of G*d – E-k-yeh/ א-ק-י-ה when each of its letters are spelled out a certain way.[6] This Name of G*d ((א-ק-י-ה meaning: “I will be,” which was first revealed to Moshe at the burning bush, gives us the reassurance that Hashem will always be with us.[7] Meditating on this Name enables us to overcome anger.[8] Arizal recommends, when one gets angry, to meditate during the Morning Prayer on the Name א-ק-י-ה/E-k-yeh spelled out as mentioned above. He reveals that the numerical value of this Name קנא/kuf nun alef – 151 also equals that of the Hebrew word for “anger” כַּעַס/ka’as with the kollel.[9]

Cracking the Nut of Jealousy and Anger, Removing the Peal of Judgment
The three aspects of vengeance are alluded to in the verse: “I descended to the garden of nuts.”[10] The numerical value of the word for “garden of” – “ginat,”/gimel-nun-tav is 453, which is 3 times 151. The nut actually has three klipot (husks) the outer soft husk that disintegrates when the nut is ripe, the hard outer shell, and the soft inner peal that adheres to the nut itself. In order to reveal the inner goodness of the soul, we must discard each of the shells of קִנְאָה/kinah. Learning not to judge others is the most difficult aspect of קִנְאָה/kinah to overcome. It is characterized by the inner peal which we usually eat together with the nut. Although I didn’t find in the Arizal’s writing explicit differentiation between each of the three aspects ofקִנְאָה /kinah, it seems to me that the outer aspect is anger, going deeper into the anger one arrives at jealousy, underneath which the negative emotion of being overly judgmental is situated.

Taking the Law in His own Hand
If קִנְאָה/kinah alludes to these three negative character traits what was so good about Pinchas applying them in his violent act towards the head of the tribe of Shimon? How could it be right for a Jew to take the law in his own hand and kill his fellow Jew? I believe the answer lies in Pinchas’ motivation. His קִנְאָה/kinah was not his own, but Hashem’s as the verse testifies: “…בְּקַנְאוֹ /by avenging קִנְאָתִי/My vengeance.” His motivation was solely for Hashem and for the sake of saving the lives of the Israelites who were dying by the numbers in the plague. By having reached a place in himself completely beyond the ego, Pinchas’ vision was not tainted by petty self-interest and therefore he was able to perceive the root cause of the plague and clearly fathom the only way to stop it. The level of his consciousness bridged between that of a prophet and a Torah scholar. Therefore, Pinchas’ action was able to sweeten the judgment in its root through his deepest care and mercy for the children of Israel, who were dying in the plague. By acting with this motivation, he channeled judgment to serve as a means of separating between ultimately good and evil – life and death. Thus Pinchas succeeded in alleviating Hashem’s anger, stop the plague,[11] and atone for the children of Israel.[12]

Make yourself comfortable in your place, and take some deep healing breaths.

1. Keep breathing as you tune into remembering the last time you felt jealous, or any particular time that you especially remember being jealous at someone. Jealousy is a combination of fear and anger. Fear of losing something, and anger at someone who seems to be taking away what you feel belongs only to you.

2. Recognize and accept your emotions. Tell yourself, as you breathe deeply, even if I am jealous I still truly love and appreciate myself. Get in touch with and dissect your feelings.

3. Ask yourself whether your jealousy consists of more anger or fear, and why. Where in your body exactly does your jealousy reside? A gripping sensation in your stomach is a sign of fear, burning tightness in your shoulders and jar is most likely anger.

4. Breathe deeply and relax your jar, shoulders and stomach. Do not allow your face to express jealousy or anger.

5. Identify what your jealousy is teaching you about yourself and the things that are important to you. If someone talking to a friend of yours makes you jealous, personal relationships may be important to you. If you’re jealous about money, you may have an underlying need for financial security.

6. Ask yourself, “Why am I jealous over this? What is making me jealous? What am I trying to keep? Why do I feel threatened?” When you begin to understand what makes you jealous, you can begin to take positive steps to remove the cloud of negative emotion that accompanies jealousy.

7. Search for underlying false beliefs that make your jealousy flare up. Everyone walk around with negative “stories” such as, “I don’t deserve to get married.” “People only befriend me when they can get something out of me.” You can change your feelings by changing your “stories.” Choose nurturing and supportive beliefs and gradually your anger and jealousy will disappear.

8. Now visualize the Name of Hashem א-ק-י-ה/E-k-yeh. The letter א/alef- then ה/heh, then י/yud and again ה/heh. Inhale א/alef, exhale ה/heh, inhale י/yud, exhale ה/heh. Repeat four times. If you are able to, visualize the Name א-ק-י-ה/E-k-yeh spelled out,
א-ל-ף – ה-ה – י-ו-ד – ה-ה with appropriate breathing.

9. Inhale and feel how Hashem is always with you. Exhale feel how He provides you with exactly what you need in order to fulfill your mission in life.

10. Look for your own good qualities and make a mental list of all the blessings in your life for which you are grateful. Keep breathing slowly and deeply as you thank Hashem for each of His gifts to you.

11. When you emerge from this meditation into real life, put on a non-jealous facade, while you work on overcoming jealousy. Eventually, working your way through your feelings, the facade will become real. In the meantime you will protect yourself from appearing jealous to others.

An additional way to overcome jealousy and anger is through immersing in a mikvah. The numerical value of the word מקוה/mikveh (mem-kuf-vav-heh), is also 151, the same as that of the word for jealousy קִנְאָה/kinah, or anger כַּעַס/ka’as, plus the kolel.[13] After working on your jealousy and anger and after trying the above meditation, going to the mikvah will work wonders, why not try it?!

[1] Bereishit 34:25.
[2] Ibid. 49:5.
[3] Bamidbar 25:12.
[4] Bamidbar 25:11.
[5] kuf =100, nun =50, alef = 1.
[6] The Name of G*d א-ק-י-ה spelled out as follows: alef spelled out alef, peh, lamed =111+ heh spelled out heh, heh = 10 + yud spelled out yud, vav, dalet = 20 + heh spelled out heh, heh = 10. Together (111+10+ 20+10) – adds up to 151 the exact gematria of the word קִנְאָה/kinah.
[7] See Rashi on Shemot 3:14, “אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה” – “Just as I am with you in the current exile so will I be with you in all future exiles.”
[8] Based on Arizal,Sha’ar HaPesukim, parashat Pinchas.
[9] Including counting the word itself as one. Arizal, Sha’ar Ruach HaKodesh, Remedy #13.
[10] Song of Songs 6:11.
[11] Bamidbar 25:8.
[12] Ibid 13.
[13] Arizal, Sha’ar Ruach HaKodesh, Remedy #15.


  1. This is so true, the fear and anger. I have a sister who is jeolous of me in her 40's and it never stopped. I couldnt put together the two words that jeolousy is and its true that its fear and anger. the fear is an interesting one. it has to do with insecurities. thank you for the clarity.