[After harsh judgment had been aroused against the world by Korach and his congregation:] "And Moses said to Aaron, 'Take a fire-pan ...and put incense on it….and…run into the congregation…and make an atonement for them…for the plague has begun.' " (Num. 17:11) Rabbi Hiya opened [his commentary on this verse] with: "the wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise [and righteous] man [who is beloved by G‑d] will pacify it [G‑d's anger and He will forgive the sinners]." (Prov. 16:14)

When peoples' acts are not fit for the King, anger arises and judgment is aroused.

How particular people need to be to prevent themselves from iniquities and be careful with their activities, for the world is judged on many occasions. [The world is judged in accordance with the deeds of the majority of mankind, and if found to be mainly guilty, then an investigation is called to see who are they that tilt the scales in that direction.] And on a daily basis, their deeds are entered upon the scale of justice, are monitored from above, and are recorded before Him. [The deeds of each day are summed up by weighing the intention of the sinners to deliberately anger G‑d, versus the intention of those who have performed mitzvoth purely for the sake of fulfilling G‑d’s instructions.] When a peoples' acts are not fit for the King, anger arises and judgment is aroused. [The forces of punishment represented by the Satan, who is responsible to execute judgment, are aroused and want to act against the offender.] This is what is written: "the wrath of a king [and the arousal of judgment] is as messengers of death. Therefore, a person must be careful not to sin, each and every day. [Note that “sin” here includes even performing a mitzvah – but with the intention to receive honor or some other reward other than the pure motive to simply fulfill the commandment of G‑d.]

"But a wise man will pacify it": during the time when prosecutors prevail on the world and anger impends. If there is a righteous man who is distinguished above in that generation, G‑d looks at him [and his merits] and the anger subsides. This is similar to a king who is angry at his servants and demands that the officer carry out justice. In the meantime, the beloved of the king arrives and stands in front of him and, as soon as the king sees him, his face shines. When that friend of the king begins to speak with him, the king is glad. After this, when the police official arrives and sees the king's face in happiness, he departs and no longer carries out the sentence. Then that beloved of the king beseeches the king on behalf of his servants and the king forgives them. As a result of this, "a wise man will pacify it."

If there is a righteous man...G‑d looks at him...and the anger subsides.

Here too, when Moses saw the anger pending [before G‑d], Moses immediately said to Aaron, for he [Aaron] is the groom of the Queen [to bring her to the King in the secret of unity], and the incense does not rise except through his hands, since he increases peace in the world and ties the knot of faith [to unite malchut called 'faith' with Zeir Anpin through the incense. The secret of the] incense has already been explained, that it causes joy above and below, the tying of faith and the disappearance of anger [and judgment, because it causes higher consciousness to be drawn down onto the unification]. This is what is written: "ointment and perfume rejoice the heart." (Mishlei 27:9) [Oil represents chochma and perfume represents bina of Abba and Imma. When these two are combined and drawn to the unification below they cause the lower levels of Zeir Anpin/the heart to rejoice in their now higher consciousness.] Then, "a wise man [Aaron] will pacify it," will clean and purify that anger and compassion will be aroused. [Just as anger “muddies” the mind so wisdom soothes and “cleanses” it.]

Rabbi Elazar said: "Do not cut off the tribe of the families of Kohath from among the Levites," (Num. 4:18) since they are the trunk and root of the Levites. "...but thus do to them, that they may live, and not die..." The priest must rectify them [by placing each one in the work befitting him]. Even though they [the Levites] are [allowed] near the Holy, they should only approach according to the ordering of the kohen, since he is aware of the guideline [where] they can approach and no further. When [the kohen] covers the holy vessels, another cover rests [on it – a spiritual covering of the holiness dwelling over the vessel] from above and it is forbidden [for Levites] to approach and look.

Anything that is done in a quiet voice
[such as whispering that covers secrets from the ears of outsiders] does not apply to them [the Levites] but rather only to the priests, since their speech and activities are in secret and they whisper [since they connect to the meditative intention of the acts of sacrifice in the Tabernacle and Temple, they work in near silence. On the other hand] the Levites' speech and activities are in the raising of the voice [in song and praise].

...all the activities of the priests are performed quietly...

Therefore, all the activities of the priests are performed quietly and reflect higher secrets. Consequently, wine is forbidden to them, since wine effects a raising of the voice and the revelation of secrets1. Therefore, the Levites were given the tasks requiring the voice to be raised [and reveal secrets] because they are connected to judgment and judgment is revealed, in order to be publicized to all. However, all the priest's words are secretive and in a whisper, they are not spoken openly because he is from the right [the side of chesed, likened to water that flows quietly and rooted in chochma, likened to oil that also acts to quieten].

When judgments prevail on the world from the left [side related to the aspect of gevura], the right [side of chesed] brings near. By what means? By the burning of incense, which is done quietly [not accompanied by song like the other sacrifices] in secret [the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies alone to burn the incense], refined [in Hebrew, 'Dakah'2] and [in the] innermost [part of the Sanctuary – just as the sweet smell of incense seems to reach into all the parts of the body].

BeRahamim LeHayyim: What does this mean to you, and why is it revealed now?

This is special advice to help us all deal with anger. After all, anger is our best teacher: it tells us what our limits are, how we react to situations, where the energy flow goes and stops, etc. The terrible plague invoked by G‑d's wrath in this week's parasha was halted through incense. Now we do not have access to this incense, but we do have the incense portions in the Torah — found also in prayerbooks — to chant as a remedy.

The word for "nose" in Hebrew is Af, and the word for Anger is charon-Af/flared nose, for When one gets angry, his nostrils flare. G‑d is called Erech Apayim, literally "long nosed," to describe his patience, as a loving father is to his child who errs.

So, perhaps, just perhaps, the best advice is to focus on breath, specifically through the nose. When one feels the fire of anger ignited, to breathe in deeply through the nose, intending the sweet air to be a soothing savor, as the sweet incense. Intend that just as the incense sweetened supernal wrath, that these breaths do the same.

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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