Constructing the kingdom of Israel
Following the incident in which Pinchas avenged God’s Name by swiftly killing Zimri and the Midianite princess who seduced him, God told Moses to take revenge on the Midianite nation for sending their daughters to seduce the Jewish men. Pinchas was chosen to lead the Jewish army to war and he returned victorious after killing all the adult males. The Jewish army returned with the war booty, including all the women and children and they brought them before Moses. But when Moses saw that they had taken the adult women into captivity, he rebuked the soldiers, because these very women had been the instruments of seduction that caused the plague in which so many Jews had died. The only captives to be kept alive were the “the baby women,” i.e. females under three years old, who were not yet capable of having marital relations.
The numerical value of the phrase “the baby women” (הַטַּף בַּנָּשִׁים) is 496, which is also the gematria of the word “kingdom” (מַלְכוּת), referring to the feminine sefirah of kingdom. The Arizal explains that the sefirah of kingdom is constructed out of judgments (gevurot), the same judgments whose pristine state is symbolized by the baby women of Midian
The Zohar describes how in order to be rectified and compassionate, female judgments need to be sweetened by reconstructing them with male loving-kindness. A woman who marries a Jew connects to his innate attribute of compassion and loving-kindness and her judgment is thus sweetened. This was the reason why only the baby girls who could not have had any interaction with non-Jewish males were spared.
The Zohar teaches us that kingdom can either be constructed from judgment and might, or from loving-kindness. Although we could understand this to mean that a government can either rule by force or with compassion, this case of the Midianite girls teaches us that kingdom being constructed from might actually means that the feminine judgments must be taken captive while still in their pure state of being, before they are even capable of marital relations. A woman who marries a Jewish male (whether she is a Jew from birth or a convert) is affected by his innate attribute of loving-kindness and her judgments are sweetened; likewise for these young Midianite girls. Once they had converted they could marry a Jewish man, as the Or Hachayim explains. In this way, all their harsh judgments are sweetened at their source. It is specifically the sweetened state of the Midianite chaotic and unruly judgments that is needed to construct the redemptive and rectified society we yearn for in thekingdom ofMashiach.
Constructing the kingdom of my soul
Translating this idea into the psychological realm, we can understand that once we are victorious in our battle against the evil powers of the soul that wish to seduce us away from serving the Almighty, we must take captive the “baby girl” inside us (this is true for men and women alike). The “baby girl” represents the primal and pristine state of nothingness that is the raw material of pure judgment. Once we have returned to this formless state of judgment, our innate Jewish quality of kindness comes to the fore and forms the raw material into an ability to contribute with loving-kindness to our community.