“Pinchas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned My wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was very jealous for My sake among them so that I consumed not the children of Israel in My jealousy.” (Numbers 25:11)
We have referred frequently in previous commentaries on this portion of the Torah, to what our Sages explain about jealousy. Contrary to the negative connotation the term has been given as a possessive, controlling and often insane feeling or emotion doomed to destroy others, they underscore it as the solid foundation of true love.
In other words, our Sages sanitize jealousy precisely based on what the Torah tells us when the term is quoted in numerous circumstances and scenarios.
In the Torah context, this word has an entirely different meaning than the one we indicated before. Every time we study Torah we must be constantly aware that it communicates to us only in a way that we may be able to understand its messages, which is the human way that encompasses intellect, reasoning, thinking, along with emotion, feeling and instinct.
This doesn’t make easy to understand messages and instructions coming from a Divine source that is undefinable and impossible to conceive in any human way. Nonetheless, this is part of the Jewish inheritance from the Creator of all, and fortunately our Sages gave us the Oral Torah to make the transferring from divine to human relatively easier to process and assimilate.
For those who think that learning Torah is an easy task, welcome to the real world of dealing with living in the truth according to Judaism.
After this necessary introduction, let’s dive into the nuances of jealousy in the context of the Torah. We mentioned love as the root of jealousy because the definitions of love encompass caring, protection, nurturing, healing, guidance, as some of the traits and qualities inherent in the ethical frame of goodness.
Hence jealousy is the consequent protecting response to keep goodness close to us. Righteousness and justice exist as jealous expressions to preserve the benefits of living in goodness, opposite to transgressing and corrupting what makes goodness the ways it is.
An image on one of the popular social media outlets said, “I am not jealous. I just protect what is mine”. The key word in this quotation in order to properly understand it, free from the usual negative connotation of jealousy, is “protect”.
We are talking about here of jealousy as the protection of goodness against the negative traits and trends in consciousness that frame jealousy as the outcome of lust, coveting, envy, wrath, arrogance, indifference and indolence.
When the Creator tells Israel that He is a “jealous” and “wrathful” God, jealousy and wrath are presented as emotional human reactions to reject what is alien to the goodness by which He relates to His creation, that He also wants us to relate to one another, by first treating ourselves with goodness.
In this sense we assimilate that goodness is exclusive to anything different from its ways and attributes, and this exclusiveness must be also understood as jealousy.
One of the lines of a popular Caribbean song says, “Si me quieres de verdad, dame la exclusividad” (If you truly love me, be exclusive only to me). This statement does not suggest or implies jealousy but the exclusivity inherent in the love from which goodness emanates.
“Wherefore say, behold, I give to him My covenant of peace (…) because he was jealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.” (25:12-13)
Our Sages insist on peace as the completion, totality and wholeness that make us bond permanently with our Creator, “from Whom peace belongs”, as King Solomon said. This peace we acquire it and achieve it in goodness as the powerful jealousy that makes us atone for all that separates us from the ways and attributes of goodness.
Thus we also understand that atonement is the process by which we come to the full awareness that goodness is our bond with God.