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This week’s parsha, Shoftim, is apt to the subject at hand: Shoftim v’Shotrim…it begins. Appoint yourself judges and law enforcers in all your cities. It hardly stops there.

The admonishment is straightforward. Lo sateh mishpat, lo sakir panim v’lo sikach shochad – You shall not bend (pervert) justice, you shall not show favoritism and you shall not take a bribe.

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Bribery (shochad), according to our Chachamim, does not refer only to a financial incentive. The prohibition of bribery can be transgressed with verbal communication, such as with sweet-talk and flattery. Despite a dayan’s non-intent of doling out preferential treatment, the acceptance/enjoyment of the slightest favor or favorable impression made upon him will inadvertently lead to a biased judgment.

As reluctant as most of us are to say goodbye to summer and its carefree days, Elul has crept up on us. And as confident as we are that Hashem reveled in our massive celebration of the recent Siyum HaShas and loves us dearly, who dares deny that He keeps close tabs on all who actually and truly live the “daily learned” lessons — and on those who merely go through the motions.

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