Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bribes affect even the most moral of people

Parshat Mishpatim

The Torah tells us in Mishpatim 23:8 not to take bribes, as bribes "blind the eyes of the wise and corrupt the words of the righteous" (my own translation).
Rashi tells us some interesting points, that even if you are being paid off to judge righteously it will corrupt and even if you are a great scholar and a righteous person you will be affected.

The Gemarah is replate with stories about Judges and Rabbis who refused to judge cases that came before them from people they had received favors from, even the most inane and indirect, for fear of not being able to judge objectively.

Nowadays people feel they are better and more moral and more objective and they can apply their objectivity despite having received small or large favors from people. Just look at all the investigations going in in our political scene. The Torah tells us that that is not the way ti works. no matter how objective you think you are, the moment you take a penny, even indirectly, your judgement is clouded.


Fern Sidman said...



My revered Torah teacher explained that this week's parsha, Mishpatim, focuses on the issues of halochos pertaining to a Hebrew slave. A Hebrew slave was someone who may have committed theft and was unable to make financial restitution. He was therefore obligated to pay off his debt by working for the person of whom he had stolen. The master is obligated to support the slave and his family and not to degrade or humiliate him. The slave is not in servitude forever. As a matter of fact, his master must encourage him to leave his master.

If the slave refuses to leave his servitude behind, he must be persistently encouraged to do so. If this is to no avail, and the slave insists on staying on as a slave, then his ear must be pierced. He is now considered to be someone who has chosen to serve a man rather than Hashem. His ear is pierced because this is the ear in which he heard at Sinai, the 10 commandments and the Torah and agreed to abide by these laws and remain committed to them for perpetuity. The slave now acknowledges by his adamant refusal to leave his master, that he has thrown off the yoke of Heaven and wishes to be enslaved to a man.

What can we learn from this. In today's world we are are slaves to our taivas and inclinations. At times we are slaves to our yetzer hara. We make our hobbies and interests our new god. We become enslaved to people and worship them and fear them, more than we do the Almighty. Perhaps these people or interests are meeting our immediate needs and we are afraid to part with them. We forget that our needs are being met by the Almighty and the people in our lives who supply us with material and emotional comforts are sent from Heaven.

Ultimately, it is Hashem who provides for us. Once we place man ahead of G-d, once we fear man and his vacillating will above that of the Almighty, we have voluntarily thrown off the yoke of Heaven and have reneged on our committment to observe Hashem's laws. This can only lead to depression and self destruction. We degrade and humiliate ourselves as we obsequiously grovel before human masters. The master has no respect for the people pleasing slave and even displays contempt toward him that can manifest itself in severe emotional and sometimes physical abuse.

We also bring upon ourselves the wrath of the Almighty, who will punish us for serving humans rather than Him. Every day we say in the Shma Yisroel, "Beware, lest your heart be deceived and you turn and serve other gods, and worship them, for then Hashem's wrath will blaze against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no produce, and you will quickly perish from the good land which Hashem gave you." This can also mean that Hashem will not reveal himself to us in our personal lives and everything that we attempt to do will be frustrated.

Once we come to the realization that it is only Hashem who we must fear, and once we have the courage and faith to take that leap will we truly free ourselves. How liberating it is, to break the shackles of human bondage and serve the One true creator, Hashem Yisborach. His kindness endures forever. His ways are the ways of pleasantness and His paths are the paths of peace. Let us cleave to the Almighty and truly become free.

Rafi G said...

very nice. shkoyach

meier said...

i can't remember exactly how it happened - whether i asked or someone else asked - but the question was how come taking bribes is assur but offering a bribe is mutar

Rafi G said...

why is offering a bribe muttar? I guess the Torah only says not to take a bribe, so maybe offering is good? don't know.. never thought of that before...