There is an interesting comment from the Meshech Chochmah in this week’s parsha:-- Shmos (21:14) וְכִי-יָזִד אִישׁ עַל-רֵעֵהוּ לְהָרְגוֹ בְעָרְמָה מֵעִם מִזְבְּחִי תִּקָּחֶנּוּ לָמוּת
And if a man will come purposefully upon his fellow to kill him deviously, you shall take him from My altar to die.========It is not strange to say that the intent of the verse is regarding that which is practiced among the nations and recorded in the Torah, “lest the people of the place will kill me” by Pharaoh (Genesis 12) and Avimelech (ibid. 26). And the term “עָרְמָה” we find by the snake (ibid. 3:1), and he set his eyes on Eve, as the gemara says in the first chapter of Tractate Sotah (Tosefta chap. 4): he said “I shall kill Adam and marry Eve.”And that is what is meant by “וְכִי-יָזִד אִישׁ עַל-רֵעֵהוּ [בְעָרְמָה]” – that he shall covet his fellow’s wife and kill him in order to marry her [just as did the snake, who is hinted to by the word עָרְמָה]. Therefore the verse says “מֵעִם מִזְבְּחִי תִּקָּחֶנּוּ לָמוּת” – because this situation is most likely to happen among the kohanim, since they are forbidden to marry a divorcee, and therefore at times they have no alternative but to kill the husband [in order to be able to have his wife – as opposed to finding some way of causing them to divorce]. Furthermore, married women [are frequently in contact with the kohanim because they] need them for matters of sacrifices of zavah and yoledes, and thus the verse says “מֵעִם מִזְבְּחִי” [to hint to this] . . .
This is a fascinating Meshech Chochmah on several counts. The real eye-popper is when he states that a kohen “has no alternative” (אין להם עצה) but to kill a husband whose wife he is after. Naturally he means that this is the kohen’s perspective, but it’s a pretty extraordinary comment nonetheless.
I think the take-away though is the attitude towards “holy men” taken by the Meshech Chochmah. The kohanim, after all, are supposed to be the role models for the Jewish people, showing them how a Torah personality acts, inspiring them to greater kedushah, etc. Yet the Meshech Chochmah hardly blinks an eye in saying that they are prone to killing men in order to marry their wives; in fact, he states that it is likely more common among kohanim than among the general population, because of their particular halachic situation!
This brings out another interesting observation, which is that the Meshech Chochmah is very cognizant of the phenomenon of apparently frum people who are meticulous in observing some aspect of halachah or other but who don’t hesitate to blow other rules out of the water (such as, say, the man who beats his daughters to ensure compliance with the laws of tznius). So kohanim are apparently in fact more likely than the general population to be lechers, murderers, and hypocrites. (Perhaps this is in line with Chazal’s statement that the greater a person, the greater his yetzer hara?)
There is a lot of debate today between various camps on how we view our leaders. It seems that our forebears had no problem suggesting that our clergymen could very well be among the worst sinners as well.