People say that Kohanim are generally known to be ka’asanim, angry people. How can we reconcile this attitude with what we know are the consequences of anger?
Kohanim are not necessarily angry. They have a quality of enthusiasm within them (Shabbos 20a). Of course I’m going to be partial because I’m a Kohen but nevertheless I think everyone understands that when Pinchas arose in his wrath and he smote Zimri, he was serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu with his wrath. If he hadn’t had wrath then he wouldn’t have had the boldness to do that.
Zimri was a prince and when he took a foreign female into his tent in the presence of the leaders of the Jewish people they were shocked. They were outraged that Zimri should do that and for the moment they didn’t know what to do. Now that was min hashamayim. Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted to leave a place for Pinchas to become great. And he did become great.
How? Because he was motivated by anger. This we know. Sometimes anger is an opportunity to utilize that middah to do great deeds. So Pinchas, in his anger, took his spear and he strode into the tent where Zimri was with this woman and he pierced them through with his spear. And Hakodosh Boruch Hu said, “I send My greetings to him – הנני נותן לו את בריתי שלום – because he saved My honor on this day.” It means that it was an opportunity to use anger.
Same thing when Moshe Rabeinu came down from Har Sinai and he saw them dancing around the golden calf. Moshe Rabeinu became angry and he took those precious tablets that he waited so long to get from Hashem and he smashed them to pieces. And the people were shocked when they saw that. They were waiting for him to come down with the tablets from on high and now they were shattered.
And then Moshe Rabeinu said, מי להשם אלי – “Who is for Hashem should come to me?”And who came? ויאספו אליו כל בני לוי – the whole Shevet Levi. That’s the angry tribe.
Way back their father Yaakov had cursed them for their anger (Vayechi 49:7). So what did they do? They said, “Our father cursed us for misusing our anger? So we’ll take our anger and we’ll channel it for good purposes.” And now when Moshe Rabeinusaid “Mi laHashem eilai,” all the Bnei Levi came to him. And Moshe told them, “Get busy!” And they made courts right away, and they judged all the sinners and they executed three thousand people on the spot. And that’s how they changed the tide. With their anger they turned the tide.
The same happened in the days of Matisyahu Hakohen and the Chashmonaim. Matisyahu saw the Jewish nation being oppressed. The Syrian Greeks and their wicked Jewish allies, the quislings, had assembled in his town of Modi’in. They built an altar for an idol and they wanted to offer a pig. And now the Greek officer stepped forward and he urged some Jew to come and bring the offering. He wanted a Jew to bring the offering to the idol. The Jews were aghast. Such a thing, idolatry among the Jews?! No Jew moved except one, a fifth columnist, a Hellenizer, and he stepped forward. He volunteered.
It states in the Book of Maccabees, it states openly that at that moment Matisyahu lost his temper. Now it’s not true. He didn’t lose his temper but he became full of wrath. Now he had already prepared a knife under his jacket. That’s the truth; he was prepared. But it was his wrath that gave him the energy to do this because it was a very daring deed. Here is a Greek officer with his army. He has soldiers with him. Of course there were a lot of Jews, but they were afraid to open their mouths. They knew if they would open their mouths they would be tortured to death because the Greeks were very cruel against their opponents. So it was Matisyahu’s anger that raised him, that made him high – as if he had taken narcotics – and he pulled out his sword and he plunged it into the heart of this quisling.
And the people were shocked. They gasped when they saw this. Revolt against the Greeks?! And Matisyahu said “Let’s take to the hills,” and they all ran away. They left over everything in order to save their lives. And you could be sure that as they were running people were scolding him. I don’t know what his wife said to him, maybe she approved, but I’m sure there were some who were scolding him and saying, “You’re murdering us! You ruined us by this act!”
But Matisyahu said, “No! We can’t let them trample on the Torah!” And so he used his anger to be energetic and that’s how Matisyahu turned the tide finally.
Of course you have to be very careful. It’s like dynamite. If you have to dynamite a rock that’s in the way of those who are building a road, yes, you use it. But you wouldn’t use dynamite if you lost your key and can’t get into the door at night.
And that’s the purpose of anger in Kohanim. We need Kohanim to be energetic for Hashem. When a Kohen is in a mikdash and somebody is irreverent, the Kohen becomes angry. We need that.
That’s how a rabbi should be. If a rabbi is standing in the synagogue and sees people talking, the rabbi should become angry. “Shaa! It’s not permitted!” But if the rabbi is kind hearted so the plague spreads, and after a while you have irreverence and disrespect. And what happens in the synagogues today? It’s a shame. It’s a disgrace for the honor of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. People are busy talking in the synagogue. If you had rabbis who were angry, it wouldn’t happen. We need angry rabbis but go find angry rabbis.
That’s why the Kohanim should get angry, for a good cause.
TAPE # 312 (May 1980)