For the week of September 2, 2000 / 2 Elul 5760
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9
Haftarah: Isaiah 51:12 - 52:12

You Are Being Bribed!

Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous (Devarim 16:19).

Have you ever taken a bribe? God says not to. The Torah explains how bribes affect people. We tend to think that good people rise above evil influences. We think that goodness inoculates us from the evil around us. But that is not so. If someone takes a bribe, even if one is a generally good and upright person, they will make bad judgements.

When someone bribes someone else, they do so in order to influence the other party to act in their favor regardless of what may be right or wrong. Sometimes bribery is obvious in that the person offering the bribe will state clearly what their intention is. It may be conditional: "I will give you a certain amount of money, if you do what I want." It may be unconditional: "Here is a gift. I hope things work out such and such a way." Other times the desired result is unspoken. A gift is given in order to win your favor with no mention of the actual objective..

But what is wrong with giving and accepting gifts? Nothing, unless it is a bribe. So what makes the bribe a bribe? It is a bribe when its purpose is to influence a decision.

The main point of the Torah's teaching on the matter is that no one should think that they can accept bribes and not be affected. The receiving of a bribe will cloud your thinking in spite of yourself.

Now this teaching is clearly about matters of justice. But I would like to explore how it may be applied to business. Businesses constantly offer incentives to customers. Free items, contests, and discounts are all designed to get you to do one thing - spend your money on that company's goods or services.

Most of us are more than happy to take advantage of these incentives. But clearly these companies are not giving anything away out of generosity. Far from it! For example, offering free items to the first 100 shoppers on a particular day is not so you could have that item, but that you and hundreds of others would buy other things from them.

You may not think this should be a big concern. Maybe if it were you, you would go and only get the free item. But these schemes must work, or else they wouldn't do them.

What most of us don't realize is that these offers are actually clouding your thinking. You are being bribed so that you will do what these companies want you to - buy from them.

When we receive these incentives, something happens inside of us and we get influenced against our better judgement. How many of you decided to take the gift and bought that appliance after planning not to, or you went on that free holiday never thinking that you buy into that property they showcased?

What would happen if we made purchases solely based on what we think we should rather than in response to the great many incentives offered us?

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