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Mishlei 21-14 (Covert Gifts)

Mishlei 21-14

Covert Gifts

Key Concepts

A person giving a gift in secrecy is doing so for worthy reasons if it is a charitable gift, given anonymously. The giver seeks neither recognition nor gratitude. His motives are pure and in giving this gift, he pleases Hashem.

But another kind of secret gift is a bribe given to a judge. The giver is motivated by the intent to distort justice. His motives are shameful, and instead of pleasing Hashem, he has aroused Hashem’s strong wrath.

Exploring Mishlei

יד = מַתָּן בַּסֵּתֶר יִכְפֶּה אָף וְשֹׁחַד בַּחֵק חֵמָה עַזָּה

(14) An anonymous gift to charity can overcome anger,
but a covert bribe
to a judge to distort justice, arouses strong wrath

The proverb begins with an anonymous gift to charity that pleases Hashem. In fact, if the giver was guilty of a sin, the effect of the donation is to pacify Hashem’s anger.

Mishlei compares this with a covert gift in the form of a bribe given to a judge. The handover is typically done by slipping the shameful gift into the bosom of the judge without formal acknowledgement. Such a gift has the opposite effect, arousing Hashem’s strong wrath against both the giver and the receiver.

Learning Mishlei

(14) An anonymous gift מַתָּן בַּסֵּתֶר
presented quietly to charity
can overcome anger. יִכְפֶּה אָף
But a bribe in the bosom —
וְשֹׁחַד בַּחֵק
will arouse
strong wrath חֵמָה עַזָּה.

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