Today, December 9th, has been designated as International Anti-Corruption Day. Corruption is a terrible blight on organized civilization. Anyone with even a small amount of power, can misuse that power to cause great harm. Using one’s position to improperly influence others is especially common. Corruption, such as placing an unqualified relative or a friend in a job without proper authority or oversight or accepting bribes, undermines the society in which we live.

Corruption is not a recent problem of the modern world, but a problem that has impacted every era of history and almost every culture. The words of the prophet Isaiah, who spoke out against the corruption of Jerusalem during the era of the First Temple, powerfully capture how far society can fall: “How is the faithful city [Jerusalem] become a harlot! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. Your silver has become worthless, your wine mixed with water. Your princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves; every one loves bribes, and follows after rewards; they judge not the fatherless, neither does the cause of the widow come before them” (Isaiah 1:21-23).

Throughout both the written and the oral Torah there are numerous laws and strictures meant to warn against corruption. The Torah particularly stresses the issue when it pertains to judges. Indeed, even complimenting a judge on the day of one’s trial is reason for the judge to recuse himself from the judgment. Additionally, there are a host of laws against corrupt business practices and laws against those who try to corrupt the Jewish faith.

While many of us may not be in positions of power or authority, there are many ways that we can become more sensitive to our improper actions and prevent corruption. Of primary importance is to always follow the law precisely and never allow yourself to rationalize why you or someone close to you deserves to be above the law.

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