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"Do not accept a bribe, for the bribe will blind those who see and corrupt words that are just" (Mishpatim 23:8).

The Torah warns us that it is the very nature of man, that if he receives a bribe, he becomes blind and corrupt. This is true even of one who wants to be honest in spite of what he has received.

The Sages went to great lengths to distance themselves from anything even slightly related to bribery and warned us to do the same.

The Gemara (Kesuvos 105b) tells a story of Rabbi Yishmael the son of Rabbi Yosi, whose sharecropper would bring him a basket of fruit from the Rabbi's own field every Friday. One week, he brought the basket on Thursday and explained that he has a din Torah (law suit) to present before the Rabbi so he decided to save a trip and bring along the fruits with him today The Rabbi did not receive the fruits and exclaimed that he was disqualified from presiding over the case since he had been offered "a bribe." Other rabbis presided instead. Nevertheless, the whole time, Rabbi Yishmael found himself thinking of arguments his worker could present in order to win the case. He then exclaimed, "Cursed be those who take bribes. Look at me. I did not accept anything from him; and even if I had, I would only have been accepting my own fruits which he brought me. Even so, I feel that I am completely on his side. Those who actually take bribes and accept something which is not theirs, most certainly will be influenced and biased towards their benefactors."

Knowing the power of bribery, the Torah advised us to use this tool when dealing with Anti-Semites who wish to do us harm. It is amazing how even the biggest Jew hater can be softened by putting some money into his pockets. History has confirmed this time and time again. Usually it is not difficult to offer them what they are craving for anyway. Sometimes, though, we come across a person whom it is more difficult to "schmear." In those very rare instances, it takes Jewish ingenuity to solve the problem.

In Russia, at the time of Reb Chaim Soloveichik ztvk"l, Chief Rabbi of Brisk, an evil edict against the Jews was decreed. The minister who had the power to abolish the decree was known as a very stubborn person who could not be dissuaded. To make things worse, everyone knew that it is absolutely impossible to bribe him. He will not accept any type of gratuity from anyone.

The Jewish community was distressed and could not find any way to protect themselves. When they asked their great Rabbi for advice, he immediately suggested that they use the Torah's foolproof method and bribe the government official who could help them. They explained to him that that is exactly the crux of the problem. There is simply no way to get him to accept anything from them and it is extremely dangerous to even try. Reb Chaim told them to make an appointment for him to meet the minister and he promised that he would take care of things properly.

It was a hot day, in the midst of July, when Reb Chaim came to the fellow's office. The minister had heard about the Rabbi of the Jews, who was known as a remarkable genius, and looked forward to an interesting meeting and perhaps a match of wits. He was overwhelmed when the venerable sage entered the room wearing a heavy fur coat. He was even more amazed at the Rabbi's answer when he asked him why he is wearing a Russian winter coat in the middle of the summer.

"My grandmother came to me in a dream," the Rabbi explained, "and warned me that it would snow today and that I should dress properly."

"But Rabbi," protested the minister, "you see for yourself that it is a sweltering summer day with no snow in sight for months!

"That's true for now," said Reb Chaim, "but you know how weather changes abruptly. I have to be prepared."

When the official asked him if he really believes in dreams, the Rabbi explained that this was not an ordinary dream. His own grandmother, of blessed memory, had come from the Other World to advise him, and she wouldn't play games with him.

As the conversation continued along the lines of the authenticity of the Rabbi's dream, Reb Chaim suddenly challenged the official to a bet.

"I am so sure that the message I received is true, that I'm willing to bet 50,000 rubles with your honor that it will, indeed, snow today before sunset!"

The minister was taken aback. He couldn't believe that the famous rabbi of the Jews was so gullible and would so easily part with such an enormous sum. "I must warn you," he said, "that if I win the bet, I don't intend to return the money to you under any circumstances."

"It is understood," said the Rabbi, adding that he did not intend to lose the money. And with that, Reb Chaim placed an envelope with 50,000 rubles on the desk of the Russian minister.

After some more talk about other things, the Chief Rabbi of Brisk left and rejoined the delegation of Jews who had accompanied him to the government office. Seeing the worried look on their faces he reassured them. "I have taken care of the matter," he told them. "He received the 'bribery money,' and everything will be fine. Wait a few days and then beg him again to rescind the evil decree. You will see that, against his will, he will treat you differently now."

A week later the minister abolished the decree!

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel