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    Blinding bribes – Shof’tim

    Laws about judges inevitably speak about judicial impartiality and attempts to bribe a judge.

    Bribes, we are told (Deut. 16:19) “blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous”.

    Why the reference to eyes and to words, i.e. the mouth?

    The wise person uses his or her eyes to see and take in the whole situation, not seeing only what the giver of the bribe wants the person to see.

    The wise person is also careful in the use of speech and says what needs to be said – tactfully, to be sure – without tailoring their remarks to the interests of one party.

    A Chassidic story tells of an attempt to bribe the Rabbi of Apt in the hope of securing a verdict that would go a certain way.

    Knowing that the rabbi was not amenable to open bribery, the party concerned put money in the rabbi’s pocket, feeling that this would achieve the desired result.

    The rabbi, however, did not empty his pockets and was unaware of what had been tried. Nonetheless, he had a strange feeling at the following day’s judicial session that he was leaning too much towards the case of the person from whom the money had come. He closed the session, went home and wept, asking God for wisdom and guidance.

    Only some days later did he find the money in his pocket and he immediately realised what had inadvertently begun to affect his thinking.

    The Chassidim tell the story in order to urge a rabbi or any other judge to be aware of even the inadvertent bias that can result from an unconscious attempt at bribery.

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