Traits of the kohen

Can you tell a kohen from across the room? some people swear that they can.  Many are quick to quote the known talmudic phrase that kohanim are strict by nature, but from this torah and chazal point of view, is this the only quoted trait that kohanim have? is it really possible to “know” who is a kohen without actually getting to know the kohen? lets have a look;

Kohanim are quick

Kohanim are quick is a known phrase in talmud; “כהנים זריזין הם” “kohanim -they are quick”.  The phrase is quoted at least eight times1)2 in terms of kohanim being quick and careful in carrying about their duties in the bet hamikdash and aren’t prone to laziness or forgetfulness.  In chazalic terms, the word זריזין implies also carefulness as to not err.  Also, the term זריזות is not equivalent to פחיזות, since פחז implies rushing into something before being all that ready.

The “zrizut” of the kohanim is specified in terms of hilchot kehuna and halachot of the bet hamikdash, including remembering necessary nuances involved in the daily avodah and being careful in regards to matters of tumah and tahara.

But, this may not necessarily be a character trait of the kohen specifically but a product of the responsibilities the torah requires of the kohen.  Thus, the kohen gadol -who has more mitzvot than the regular kohen- has greater zrizut than the regular kohen.

 

Kohanim are kind

Ma’Arechet H’Elokuth

The strict kohen

Regarding Pinchas, the sifri writes; פינחס בן אלעזר בן אהרן הכהן השיב את חמתי מעל בני ישראל; כהן בן כהן, קנאי בן קנאי, משיב חמה בן משיב חמה, השיב את חמתי מעל בני ישראל.  So, it would be difficult not to concede that torah sources do portray the kohen as carrying an element of zealousness.

Regarding that a kohen is forbidden to marry a divorcee -even his own wife where he to give her a get (bill of divorce),  The talmud relates how there was a town of kohanim residents who where overly strict and would get angry with their wives over trivial matters and go ahead with the get, but upon getting over their anger would regret that it was too late.  Thus, chazal enacted that the get a kohen gives must be “tied” -a “get mekushar”.

There are times the kohen is strict, one example is regarding tzoraath, the posuk reads וּבָא אֲשֶׁר לוֹ הַבַּיִת וְהִגִּיד לַכֹּהֵן seeing the word is “והגיד” and not “ואמר” it is inferred that the kohen needs to probe the afflicted homeowner to get to the root of why the house was affected by this heavenly message2)3.

Some fruits are not always that exciting

חרוב, the carob trumah- isn’t always cause for קפידא

However, the kohen isn’t thought of by chazal to be strict all the time.  For example, Rabbi Shimon says that any trumah variety that the kohanim aren’t stringent about receiving the yisroel needn’t pay the extra fifth normally levied as penalty for unlawfully eating trumah.

Group of the חרוב tree in northern Israel

Group of the חרוב tree, growing at the Horbat Qarta nature reserve in northern Israel.

-מבאר שכהנים היו שומרים בג’ מקומות כנגד ג’ מכ”ד צירופי שם הוי’ כי הם נקראו לויים ג”כ וזה שייכותם לגבורה לכן עשו שמירה ג”כ (כדוג’ קפידת אב על בנו ולא בן חבירו).-מאדמו”ז תקעא נב

-“ועמך כמריבי כהן” שכהנים הם קפדנים בעניני גיטין היינו מאחר שניטלו מהם הבכורה להישראל ע”י ה’ סלעים (ה’ חסדים) וה’ חסדים האלה הם חזקים יותר מה’ גבורות (שורש הנוקבא) לכן לענין גיטין בלבד הם קפדנים (עד שניתן להם ה’ סלעים (או הבכור) ואז נשקט רוגזם, ונטילת דבר מהם אולי הוא ענין ‘גירושין’ -פ.א.ה.).-מאמאזמ”ז תקסו צט

“לםרבה המשרה..על כסא דוד.. לסעדה..קנאת י’ צבאות תעשה זאת”(נמצינו ענין הקנאות של י’ צבאות אצל הקמת המשיח).-יש’ ט ו

The brazen kohen

What about the acting with עזות -brazenness? is this a telling character trait of the kohen?  This question is left unanswered in a talmudic discussion between Rabbi Elazar and/or Shmuel/Rabbi Yehoushua ben Levi -with both sides presenting sound arguments.  Rabbi Elazar claims that brazenness is a familiar trait of the kohen as the posuk reads ועמך כמריבי כהן, with Shmuel/Rabbi Yehoushua ben Levi stating that this trait isn’t at all that of the authentic kohen.3)1

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References   [ + ]

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