The Torah says:

לֹא־תַטֶּ֣ה מִשְׁפָּ֔ט לֹ֥א תַכִּ֖יר פָּנִ֑ים וְלֹא־תִקַּ֣ח שֹׁ֔חַד כִּ֣י הַשֹּׁ֗חַד יְעַוֵּר֙ עֵינֵ֣י חֲכָמִ֔ים וִֽיסַלֵּ֖ף דִּבְרֵ֥י צַדִּיקִֽם׃

You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just. (Devarim 16:19)

Rashi comments on this verse:

כי השחד יעור. מִשֶּׁקִּבֵּל שֹׁחַד מִמֶּנּוּ אִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁלֹּא יַטֶּה אֶת לִבּוֹ אֶצְלוֹ לַהֲפֹךְ בִּזְכוּתוֹ:‏

כי השחד יעור FOR BRIBERY DOES BLIND — As soon as he (the judge) has accepted a bribe from him (from one of the parties) it is impossible for him not to incline his heart to him trying to find something in his favor.

This would probably be enough to ask my question, but the gemara (Ketubot 105a-b) has a whole discussion about how accepting bribes will lead to unjust rulings. This all seems rather obvious. It seems to me like we don't need the Torah or Rashi or the gemara to explain to us why bribery is bad and will lead to improper judgements. It should have been sufficient for the Torah to say ״לא תקח שחד״ and leave it at that. So why does the Torah and subsequent commentaries elaborate to such an extent?

  • 3
    It's human nature to come up with all sorts of justifications for accepting various types of bribes/favors - e.g. "I won't let it affect my reasoning" etc. Perhaps the Torah is teaching that there is no such thing, that it's human nature to be biased even subconsciously.
    – Loewian
    Sep 10, 2019 at 14:46
  • 3
    The Torah was not written in 2019. as way of comparison, none of us was born knowing anything. What is obvious now is because we were taught. Also, what Loewian said.
    – Damila
    Sep 10, 2019 at 15:38
  • It's a good question. However, I don't see the strategy of the Torah giving a reason, here, different than many other places where the Torah gives a reason. Notably, the Torah says, "You shall love the ger because you were one, yourself, in Egypt." Well, if the Torah has already stated to love your neighbor as yourself, and the ger is "your neighbor", why does it have to give a reason for that?
    – DanF
    Sep 10, 2019 at 15:55
  • 1
    The Halachah is that a judge can't accept a bribe even if he ends up ruling properly. Maybe this Passuk is hinting to that, even when ruling 'correctly', a judge who accepted a bribe can't truly view the case properly (even if the results end up being correct)? Sep 10, 2019 at 17:00
  • @Salmononius2 I think that rashi on the passuk says exactly that.
    – mroll
    Sep 10, 2019 at 17:33

1 Answer 1


Rav Hirsch explains this in Mishpatim 23:8

You shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe will blind the clear sighted and corrupt words that are right.


You shall not accept a bribe: Even [in order] to judge fairly, and surely [not] to pervert the judgment, for [in fact, taking a bribe] in order to pervert the judgment is already mentioned: “You shall not pervert judgment” (Deut. 16:19). -[From Keth. 105a]

for a bribe will blind the clear-sighted: Even if one is wise in Torah, and he accepts a bribe, he will eventually become deranged, forget his studies, and lose his eyesight. -[From Keth. 105a, Mechilta]

and corrupt: Heb. וִיסַלֵף, as the Targum [Onkelos and Jonathan] renders: וּמְקַלְקֵל, [meaning] and spoils.

words that are right: Heb. דִבְרֵי צַדִּיקִים, words that are just, true judgments, and so is its Aramaic translation: פִּתְגָמִין ךְתְּרִיצִין, [meaning words that are] straight.

Rav Hirsch explains that even if the judge is taking the present with the intention of judging correctly anyways, the very fact of accepting something will cause his sight to become twisted. That is why one amorah refused to judge the case of atenant of his who had given him the rent money that he owed. This type of case might not have been understood without the expansion.

שחד related to שחט and שחת. From this relationship we get the basic idea of its meaning " to bring about the destruction of the spiritual and moral force of life of somebody." Bribery kills the intellectual and moral force of the one who receives it. The intellectual force which makes a man fit to be a judge is called פקח, a clear open sight for the right way to look at the facts, and the laws which apply to them. The moral force is called צדק righteousness, which only recognizes what is right, and which wishes to express nothing that is not right. Bribery blinds the sight of one who otherwise sees clearly, unconsciously prejudices his way of looking at the case and ויסלף וגו.

Rav Hirsch continues:

Bribery would make even an honest judge, who wishes nothing but what is right and just, not as clear and firm and decisive as he should be in giving expression to what is right. His sight becomes clouded, his word faltering.

That is why the Bais Din must be paid by the community and not receive any money from any of the litigants.

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