"Arm men from among yourselves for the legion. And they shall be against Midian to bring G‑d's vengeance upon Midian. A thousand from a tribe, a thousand from a tribe…" (Num. 31:3-4)

The spiritual significance of this war against Midian is the suppression of the negative energy of Midian, which is strife and discord. (Zohar 2:68) The war against Midian is the rectification of discord, i.e. peace and unity.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman (Likutei Torah) elaborates that our Sages say that in the First Temple era the Jews had committed idolatry, adultery and murder. During the Second Temple era, the primary sin of the Jews was senseless hatred (Jerusalem Talmud Chagigah 1:5; Yoma 9b) and for this the Second Temple was destroyed. Yet the current exile, which grew out of the second destruction has lasted over 1,700 years, while the first exile, which came because of sins of much greater severity, lasted only seventy years!

The sin of senseless hatred…is subtler and more difficult to correct….

Why such an extended period of exile? When the Israelites entered Canaan they were supposed to rid the land of the seven nations that lived there - the Canaanites, Hittites, etc. (unless they would accept the seven Noahide laws). But the Israelites had left some of them in the land and were influenced by them. (Num. 33:55) These nations had committed gross abominations because they represent the negative counterparts of the seven emotions (Kindness, Strength, etc.) - "waste" of the fallen kings of Tohu. Because, even throughout the time of the First Temple, the Jews were influenced by these forces, the first exile lasted for seventy years - ten years for each of the seven traits.

In the Second Temple era, however, the sins were not related to the seven negative traits but only to senseless hatred. This was the negativity of Midian, which is not one of the seven nations and is a subtler evil.

Thus our Sages say: "The firsts ones, whose sins were revealed - the end of their exile is revealed as well. But the later ones, whose sins were not revealed - the end of their exile is not revealed." (Yoma 9b) In other words, the sins of the First Temple era were clearly evil and were therefore easily recognized and repented of. The sin of senseless hatred, however, is subtler and more difficult to correct, since its practitioner fools himself into thinking that it is not really a sin.

Thus "their end is not revealed" - the second exile lasts much longer because of the length of time necessary to recognize the evil and repent of it. Similarly, it takes longer to remove tiny particles of unwanted substance than it takes to remove large, coarse elements. Another example in the study of Torah law: To rule that a dove is kosher and a raven is not does not require any study. But to rule on subtle cases where it is not clear that it is forbidden requires much time and effort until the student realizes that it is indeed forbidden. Similarly, the rectification of the sin of senseless hatred requires a lengthy period of time because people do not consider it complete evil - they are convinced that their hatred is justified.

It takes longer to remove tiny particles of unwanted substance than...to remove large, coarse elements….

In truth, however, hatred and discord are the opposite of divinity and holiness, which is epitomized by unity - G‑d is one. Unity is the basis of the whole Torah, as Hillel the Elder said: "What is hateful to you do not do to your fellow." (Shabbat 31a )


In fact, this war on Midian achieved more than just the suppression of Midian; the energies that had been previously in the domain of Midian were transferred to the realm of holiness - darkness was turned to light.

This was expressed on the physical plane in the form of the captives and spoils that became the property of the Israelites, even that of the Levites and Priests. (Indeed from the Torah's description of the particulars of the division process on the physical plane we can glean some understanding of their spiritual antecedents.) This transformation is achieved through Torah, whose purpose is to bring peace (see Rambam end of laws of Chanuka), so much so that even in "Torah battles", the "combatants" ultimately become friends. This is true when Torah is studied for its own sake, not in a competitive spirit, where the student wishes only that his opinion should be accepted. Torah study for its own sake breeds friendship even among those on the opposite side of an argument.

The importance of selflessness in Torah study is even more pronounced in regard to final Jewish legal rulings. The Talmud states that the law follows King David's opinion. This was because David studied with extreme humility. King Saul, on the other hand, allowed his own "biases" to interfere. (Sanhedrin 93b)

Now we can understand why Moses was so involved in this war against Midian, since Moses personifies Torah - as in the verse "Remember the Torah of Moses my servant". (Shemot Rabba, 30:4) For it is through Torah that the negativity of Midian is defeated.

Two Pamalyas

The selfless student of Torah brings peace to both of these realms….

In a similar vein our Sages say: Anyone who studies Torah for its own sake brings peace to the Higher "Pamalya" (ancient Aramaic for "host") and the Lower Pamalya. (Sanhedrin 99b) In its literal sense, the Higher Pamalya refers to the supernal worlds, while the Lower Pamalya refers to this lowest world. But in a broader sense, all of reality contains a higher and lower "pamalya", including the human reality. The selfless student of Torah brings peace to both of these realms in all their manifestations.

In the human sense, the two levels are the mind and heart. When peace is made between them, the mind rules the heart. The emotions are guided by the intellect.

An example of a lack of peace between mind and heart - where the heart rules the mind - is that of some early Chassidim who would dance and summersault in the streets. The Alter Rebbe disapproved of these and demanded a more internal worship of G‑d and discouraged the exhibition of fervor. The Alter Rebbe's philosophy emphasized the supremacy of mind over heart and the former's ability to rule its less-responsible partner.

Among the Jewish people, those who "dwell in the tent of Torah", Issachar, are the higher pamalya, while those who engage in business, Zebulun, are the lower pamalya. There must be peace and partnership between them. As the Code of Jewish Law explains: The two can stipulate that the Torah study of Issachar is for the sake of Zebulun. (Yoreh Deah 246:1)

The Lesson

The war against "Midian" must be fought; we must have peace and love.

All of the Chabad masters had a few discourses that they would repeat from time to time in order to cleanse the atmosphere of the world. This discourse, known as Heichaltzu, was originally said by Rabbi Schneur Zalman in the year 1768, when he was traveling home from visiting his master, Rabbi Dovber of Mezrich and was one of those that he would repeat at times.

Since then, the masters repeated the discourse on this subject on specific occasions in order to quell sentiments of discord. In 1898, Rabbi Shalom Dovber, the fifth Chabad master, delivered the most famous version of this discourse on Simchat Torah and then again on parshat Noach at a family gathering.

May it be G‑d's will that there be peace in the Lower Pamalya and the Higher Pamalya, including peace between the soul as it exists on high - where it is referred to as "the soul that you have placed in me [which] is pure" - and the soul as it descends below - where it is referred to as "You created, formed and blew it into me" - and finally may we have the ultimate peace, which will take place in the Future Era.

Adapted by Yosef Marcus from a 1987 discourse

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