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Friday, September 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Shofetim

In parshas Mishpatim we are taught of the prohibition against the accepting of bribes as well as the drastic ramifications thereof. Here we are told that (Shemos 23:8) "bribery blinds the open-eyed and perverts the words of the righteous." In a very similar pasuk in this week's parsha we are told that (16:19) "bribery blinds the eyes of the wise man and perverts the words of the righteous."  The word "pikchim" is replaced with "chachamim."


The GR"A explains that the references to a judge as a "pikei'ach" and a "chacham" pertain to two separate requirements a judge must meet. The word chacham always refers to Torah wisdom. A judge must always be aware of the pertinent laws and know how to judge a case in accordance with the Torah. However, there may be times when the law will dictate a certain judgement in a case, but the judge senses an element of corruption in the testimony. Indeed, the gemara (Shevuos 30b) teaches that in such a case, a judge should go with his senses. For this, a judge must be worldly and understand the people in order to accurately analyze the testimony. This is the meaning of a "pikei'ach."


To explain why each pasuk is found in its specific parsha, it is interesting to note that the names of the two parshios are very similar. Mishpatim refers principally to the laws by which we are governed. Therefore, the commandments tend to address the nation more generally. Shofetim refers to the individuals who are to carry out those laws. Therefore, the prohibition against bribery addresses the chachamim only.


There is another discrepancy between the two pesukim that the GR"A does not deal with.  The pasuk in our parsha refers to the "eyes of the chachamim" whereas with regards to "pikchim" in Mishpatim there is no mention of the eyes, rather the "pikchim" will be blinded. Perhaps this may be understood based on the GR"A's explanation. That which is seen by the eyes represents a certain degree of reality. As the saying goes, "seeing is believing." Likewise, the Torah laws that govern the judgement are absolute, undebatable truths. Nevertheless, a bribe can distort one's perception of reality to the point that he is blinded even to these truths. This is reflected in the pasuk in Shofetim.


The vision of a "pikei'ach" is much more abstract. His perception of the testimony is his own judgement call. There are no absolute rights and wrongs. Thus, the blinding is less severe. For this reason, the "pikei'ach" is not referred to with regards to his eyes like the "chacham" is.


Furthermore, we find that the chachamim are referred to (Vayikra 4:13) as "eini hakahal," the eyes of the community. In a spiritual sense, the chachamim represent the eyes of the nation, leading and guiding us with their vision. For this reason, the eyes are mentioned regarding the chachamim and not the pikchim.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka


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