Mr. Schorr sued Mr. Greenbaum for a very large sum in Rabbi Dayan’s beis din. Mr. Greenbaum denied the charge completely and ultimately prevailed in court.
A week after the ruling, Mr. Greenbaum rang the doorbell at Rabbi Dayan’s house on Friday morning, holding a large bouquet of flowers.
“Good morning, Mr. Greenbaum,” Rabbi Dayan greeted him. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes, thank G-d,” replied Mr. Greenbaum. “These flowers are to decorate your Shabbos table in appreciation for your efforts in ruling in my favor.”
“Thank you very much,” said Rabbi Dayan. “Please come inside.”
“That’s not necessary,” said Mr. Greenbaum. “I just wanted to bring the flowers.”
“Nonetheless, please come inside,” insisted Rabbi Dayan. “I need to talk to you.”
Mr. Greenbaum came inside, and Rabbi Dayan offered him a seat. “I appreciate your gesture,” said Rabbi Dayan. “However, I cannot accept the flowers; it would be like accepting a bribe! You can give them to your wife for Shabbos.”
“How can this be a bribe?” Mr. Greenbaum asked. “The case is behind us!”
“Even so,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Let me show you.” He pulled out chelek alef of Choshen Mishpat. “The Gemara [Kesubos 105a] teaches that bribery is prohibited not only when given to pervert justice,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “Even payment by one party to rule justly if the law is in his favor is prohibited. This is because the dayan will naturally be drawn to his side” [Choshen Mishpat 9:1; Sma 9:2].
“The Rosh [Sanhedrin 3:17] implies that even ‘bribery after the ruling’ (shochad me’uchar) is not allowed based on a case in Sanhedrin ,” Rabbi Dayan continued. “Bar Hama was accused of murder, but Rav Papi advocated on his behalf, and he was exonerated. Bar Hama felt indebted to Rav Papi and committed to pay Rav Papi’s taxes.
“The Rosh explains that his behavior was not a violation of shochad me’uchar since taxes are not supposed to be levied on talmidei chachamim in any event. From this justification, the Rema infers that if a litigant brings a gift after the judgment to a dayan for having exonerated him, the dayan may not receive it [Choshen Mishpat 34:18].
“Others explain that Rav Papi was allowed to receive benefit from Bar Hama since he was not the adjudicating dayan but rather a spectator sitting before the dayan [Pischei Teshuvah 34:27; see, however, Responsa Torah l’Shema #345].
“The prohibition seems patterned after the laws of ribbis. The Torah prohibits interest stipulated at the time of the loan, but the Sages prohibited even gifts granted before or after the loan if they were clearly given on account of the loan. Some deduce from this that shochad me’uchar is similarly prohibited only when the litigant clearly links the gift with the dayan‘s favorable ruling. Although the ruling was already issued, there is concern that the dayan might be swayed by the expectation of receiving a gift afterward” [Gra 34:44; R. Akiva Eiger 34:18; Yoreh De’ah 160:6].
“Some maintain that it is only a middas chassidus [act of righteousness] not to accept a gift,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “but the Rema indicates that it’s actually prohibited to do so” [Dvar Hamishpat, Sanhedrin 23:1; Birkei Yosef, Choshen Mishpat 9:2].