Chazal tell us that kohanim are easily angered. Why is that so?
The answer is that kohanim zerizim heim – kohanim by nature act with an emotional alacrity (Shabbos 20a). You know, kohanim have a very big responsibility. They are the designated Torah teachers – the spiritual leaders of Klal Yisroel. Now, that responsibilty requires that they should respond quickly to every situation. They must be on constant guard to defend the Torah ideals. Avodas Hashem is so important to them that they are zerizim. They are all “bnei Torah and chareidim li’dvar Hashem.” That’s what Rashi says “zerizim” means (Rashi, ibid.).
Now, when people are zerizim they can be zerizim for all good things – chesed, mitzvos. But once you’re a zariz your emotions are always on edge. Even though you are emotionally on edge to do good things, sometimes people misuse their emotional fervor and they become emotional and excited for wrong things as well. But kohanim are not emotional for wrong things b’etzem. B’etzem they are emotional and excited for good things. That’s how they are supposed to use these emotions. But sometimes because of this emotional sensitivity, a kohen will get angry. A kohen might tell his wife, “I’m going to give you a get.” Now, he doesn’t mean it. He got overly excited. Therefore the gemara tells us that when a kohen gives a get it must be get mekushar, not a get pashut. A get mekushar you have to write one line and then sew it up. Then you write another line and sew it up. Hopefully by the time the sofer is almost done writing, so the kohen has already cooled off and changed his mind. We want to give him a chance to cool off and change his mind.
But not because kohanim should be that way. Kohanim are zerizim – emotional zerizim. Hashem made them with a certain nervous excitement. But they can just as well use it for good things too. That’s really the purpose. Some tzadikim are full of nervous excitement to do good things. Not to do something that’s not good. It’s only that when you have that teva, that nature of a nervous excitement, you have to beware that it should be used only in a good way.
TAPE # E-268 (March 2001)