We have just read in Mishpatim (Shemot 23:8):

וְשֹׁ֖חַד לֹ֣א תִקָּ֑ח כִּ֤י הַשֹּׁ֨חַד֙ יְעַוֵּ֣ר פִּקְחִ֔ים וִֽיסַלֵּ֖ף דִּבְרֵ֥י צַדִּיקִֽים׃

And thou shalt take no gift; for a gift blindeth them that have sight, and perverteth the words of the righteous.

While in Shofetim a similar argument is discussed with a slightly different phrasing (Devarim 16:19):

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

Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons; neither shalt thou take a gift; for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.

Does the different wording (פִּקְחִים and עֵינֵי חֲכָמִים) have any relevance? Are there any commentators discussing this?

1 Answer 1


The Vilna Gaon, in his comment on Deuteronomy 16:19 in Aderet Eliyahu, says that חֲכָמִים refers to experts in all aspects of Torah, while פִּקְחִים refers to experts in interrogation and investigation, with the ability to see through tricks. The Gaon says that judges are required to maintain both of these types of expertise, so that they can render judgements that are clearly correct.

I would add that the implication of these two requirements being mentioned in this context is that a judge who accepts a bribe impairs both his Torah knowledge and his investigative sharpness, leaving him unfit to render worthy judgements.

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