CHAMISHOH MI YODEI'A - FIVE QUESTIONS ON THE WEEKLY SEDRAH - PARSHAS SHOFTIM 5771 - BS"D
1) Ch. 16, v. 18: "B'chol sh'o'recho" - Why does the Torah require that we set up courts in so many places?
2) Ch. 16, v. 19: "Ki hashochad y'a'veir einei chachomim vi'sa'leif divrei tzadikim" - What are these two negative results, "blinding the eyes of wise men and distorting the words of righteous men," that arise from accepting a bribe?
3) Ch. 16, v. 20: "Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof L'maan Tich'yeh V'yorashto Es Ho'oretz" - Why are specific these two benefits the result of "tzedek tzedek tirdof?"
4) Ch. 17, v. 1: "Lo sizbach laShem shor vo'seh asher yi'h'yeh vo moom" - Why does this prohibition come on the heels of the laws of appointing judges and setting up courts?
5) Ch. 18, v. 22: "Asher y'da'beir hanovi b'sheim Hashem v'lo yi'h'yeh hadovor" - As per the gemara Shabbos 55a, if someone claims to have heard a prophecy from Hashem that is detrimental and it does not come to fruition, this is no proof of a false prophet. Perhaps the decree has been retracted by virtue of repentance (see Rashbam). However, when a person claims that he has received a prophecy for the good and it does not come to fruition, this is a clear indication that he is a false prophet and the end of this verse, "Lo sogur mi'menu" should be applied to him. Where is there an indication in our verse that this rule only applies to a positive prophecy?
Establishing courts in all communities lightens the work load of each court, thus relieving the judges of having to rush through the cases brought for adjudication. They are thus less likely to make mistakes. As well, by knowing that there are numerous other courts, the judges will be prompted to thoroughly study the information brought in front of them, so as to come to a proper conclusion, since litigants who might feel that they were judged improperly have the option to take their case to another court. This insight explains how the verse begins with the appointment of judges, "ti'ten l'cho" and switches to the responsibility of the judges, "v'shoftu es ho'om mishpat tzedek." (Rabbi Shmuel Alter)
The Yalkut Shimoni remez #353 and #907 gives numerous insights.
Possibly this can also be explained with the words of the R"I of Goche translated from the Arabic in the Shitoh M'ku'betzes on B.K. 92b. He writes that the Torah teaches us the moral lesson of gratitude even in regard to an inanimate object, as we find that Moshe did not activate the plagues of blood, frogs, and lice, since the Nile River provided him with safe harbour and the earth provided him with a place to hide the body of the Egyptian whom he slew. Rather, Aharon brought about these plagues. He then relates a happening that transpired with the RI"F. The RI"F was ill and his doctor advised him that he required daily hot baths and complete rest. There was a very wealthy person in his community of Fez who offered him to move into his home and to bathe daily in his in-home bathhouse, an almost unheard of rarity in those days. As well, all his needs would be taken care of, including being wined and dined. The RI"F took him up on his most generous offer, and after a few months recovered from his illness and totally came back to his full strength.
The wealthy man fell upon hard times and because of his business dealings, which included cosigning for loans and offering his assets and properties as surety, debtors came with claims, nibbling away at his holdings. It came to the point that even his personal home property was being collected. One debtor had a claim that he wanted to collect by receiving the bathing facilities that had been availed to the RI"F during his convalescence. Naturally, establishing its proper value involved going to court. The RI"F was asked to be the adjudicator in this case. The RI"F declined, saying that it was improper for him to judge, since by doing so he would thus help facilitate the loss of the bathing facilities to his benefactor. He said that not only would he be repaying a favour with bad by helping to relieve his benefactor of his property, but as well, he would be doing an injustice to the bathing facility itself, which had served him so well in his time of need. He added that there are two reasons for a person to not judge someone who has given him a bribe. First, and more obvious, is that the judge is swayed to rule in favour of the one who gives a bribe, and secondly, once a person has given a bribe and thus has monetarily been a benefactor to the judge, it is morally wrong to judge against him, paying back bad for good, even if the judgement should deservingly go against him. Obviously if it is improper to judge against one party, you may not judge. The RI"F ends by saying that if we realize that it is improper to act negatively against an inanimate object, and even more obvious to do so against a person who has emotions, then surely to sin against Hashem, Who is our greatest Benefactor, is a most grievous act.
Possibly, we can now explain the two statements in our verse, "y'a'veir einei chachomim vi'sa'leif divrei tzadikim," with the words of the RI"F. A judge should not accept a bribe because:
1) It blinds the eyes of the wise man, and there is the fear that he will judge his bribing benefactor favourably even though he deserves to lose the case.
2) It distorts the words of the RIGHTEOUS, even if the judge has the strength of character to judge fairly and might rule against the person who bribed him, but to rule against a person who has benefited you is not righteous.
It is interesting to note that in two of the places where Aharon initiated the plagues, frogs and lice, where it was morally improper for Moshe to do so because he had derived benefit from the Nile River and the earth, the verse says "Va'yeit AHARON ES yodo" (Shmos 8:2 and 8:13). The numeric value of AHARON ES (i"h) is equal to that of VI'SA'LEIF DIVREI TZADIKIM, as both indicate the same point, to not pay back good with bad.
The Chid"o, in Nachal K'dumim cites the gemara Rosh Hashonoh 4a and P'sochim 8a that says that one who says that this coin is for charity so that the merit of this mitzvoh should keep his son alive, or that the merit should bring him to Olam Habo, is considered a complete tzaddik, in spite of having his own agenda. The Tosfos ask from a mishnoh in Pirkei Avos 1:3 "Don't be as servants who serve their master for compensation, etc." If so, how can he be considered a complete tzaddik?
The Chid"o differentiates between one who has not yet given a sufficient amount of charity to fulfill his responsibility of tzedokoh, and one who has already given sufficiently, but is giving even more. If one hasn't given his full quota, and has his own needs in mind, indeed he is not a complete tzaddik, as per the previously mentioned Mishna. If, however, one has fulfilled his tzedokoh obligations and is giving extra, then the personal gains he envisions through the merit of giving tzedokoh do not detract from his righteousness, and the Mishna does not apply.
This, he points out, is alluded to in our verse. Tzedek tzedek, if you've given tzedokoh beyond the basic requirement of tzedokoh, then, tirdof, you may do so, even if you pursue (your personal benefit of), l'maan tich'yeh, so that your son may live, or for the purpose of, v'yorashto es ho'oretz, so that you may inherit the permanent land (Olam Habo). This would also explain why the gemara specifically gives these two examples.
The Sha"ch says that the juxtaposition of this verse to the rules of judges, is to teach us that a judge should not justify his taking bribes and using this income for a holy purpose, such as to bring sacrifices. Our verse tells us that this is considered a flawed offering, "asher yi'h'yeh vo moom." (See Ramban on Dvorim 23:19)
The Holy Admor of Dinov in Agro d'Kaloh says that this is alluded to in our verse. It says "Asher y'da'beir hanovi b'sheim HASHEM," a term used for good decrees, rather than "b'sheim ELOKIM," indicating a decree that is harsh.
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