By Rabbi Label Lam
You shall not take a bribe, for the bribe will blind the eye of those who
can see and will make righteous words crooked! (Shemos 23:8)
Imagine- you are reading the label of a delicious looking drink bottle
before taking a sip. There in bold print is inscribed in the strongest
terms, “Warning! This drink contains traces of ‘bribery’ which causes
blindness and slurred-crooked speech!” Would you still drink it?
Bribery sure sounds like nasty stuff for your mental health! It ruins
judgment not only for judges but for everybody.. We all make judgments every
single day about millions of things. In what way are we all judges? How can
bribery cause us blindness?
What’s the difference between a lawyer and a judge? Sound like the lead in
to a good joke but it’s not.. A lawyer is hired by one side to build a
case for one position alone. He sees only the merits of his client while
demonizing the other side. A judge, however, must show equal skepticism to
both litigants to be able to arrive at an equitable determination about the
It was reputed about Thomas Edison, when he was considering hiring a
scientist to work in his lab he would invite him to lunch first and serve
him a bowl of soup. Then he would observe the man’s behavior. If he would
add salt before tasting the soup then he did not get the job..
Sometimes we are bribed by certain false suppositions as a lawyer assumes
his client is innocent or the consumer of the soup assumes it is bland. When
we wrongly assume that things must be a certain way, and then our
expectations are not met, fits of disappointment and resentment can blind us
to the possibility of experiencing any form of happiness!
Rabbi Yisrael Reisman describes on a tape entitled “Great Expectations” his
recollections of an incident that occurred when he was yet a young Yeshiva
student. He had positioned himself in his dorm room so his bed would be
adjacent to the sink for some strategic purpose. The sink, he soon
discovered, had a constant drip which he promptly reported to the powers
that be. Understanding that it was just a matter of a washer or some such
nickel or dime item he assumed it would be taken care of pronto. The next
few nights he lay awake tossing and turning to the dripping faucet becoming
more upset, frustrated and resentful.
Finally after a couple of days, the janitor arrived. It was a loose washer.
The whole thing took a few moments and cost next to nothing. The dripping
was finally was over. That very evening there was huge rain storm and as he
lay there in bed ready for a good night’s sleep he became aware of the
dripping from the roof to the window sill below- the same constant drip-
drip and it didn’t bother him a bit.
He wondered why one drip sound stirred him so and the other had zero effect.
He concluded that the dripping sound was not what was actually annoying him.
The proof is that the water from the rain didn’t wrinkle his psyche at all.
What bothered him about the sink? The answer is that he assumed somebody
would do something about it, it would be done right away, that his request
would be fulfilled and honored swiftly etc. And it wasn’t…it wasn’t true!
I once heard from Rabbi Yitzchok Kirzner ztl two words that he called “the
secret to happiness”. Admittedly, at the time I felt it sounded rather
negative. Over many years, though, I have grown in appreciation for the
wisdom of his insight. I share it often with my children and myself too.
It’s a hard pill, “Expect Nothing!”
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.