1) ACCEPTING MONEY FOR TEACHING TORAH
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that the "Gozrei Gezeiros," those who were responsible for making Halachic enactments in Yerushalayim, received remuneration from the funds of the Terumas ha'Lishkah.
The Rishonim ask that the Gemara in Nedarim (37a) prohibits one from taking payment in return for teaching Torah, except for "Sechar Batalah," the amount he would have been paid for working, which one may take only when it is clear that he would have earned that money had he not been involved in teaching Torah. When it is not clear that he would have earned that money by working, he should not accept money for teaching Torah. Why were the Gozrei Gezeiros permitted to take money if there was no certainty that they would have earned money through working?
(a) TOSFOS explains that since they had no work at all due to their exclusive involvement in teaching Torah, they certainly were entitled to Sechar Batalah. Only one who is only occasionally involved in teaching Torah (such as Karna) must incur a definite loss from not working in order to receive Sechar Batalah.
(b) Tosfos answers further that the Heter of Sechar Batalah was not necessary in the case of the Gozrei Gezeiros. The public needed scholars to be involved in full-time Halachic research without being encumbered by the burden of Parnasah. Therefore, the public is obligated to support them. Only one who is not involved in Halachic study at all times (such as Karna) needs the Heter of Sechar Batalah.
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:10) writes that one who learns Torah exclusively and, instead of working, receives his Parnasah from the public funds, commits a Chilul Hash-m and disgraces the Torah, and he transgresses the prohibition against gaining monetary benefit from the Torah in this world. How does the Rambam justify the conduct of the Gozrei Gezeiros, who were supported by public funds?
Apparently, the Rambam follows the second answer of Tosfos. Since the community needed the Gozrei Gezeiros, their involvement in learning was for the sake of the wellbeing of the community and not with intent to make money. Therefore, the community was obligated to support them.
This approach answers the question of the KESEF MISHNEH, who asks that the Rambam's opinion is clearly contradicted by the widespread practice of Talmidei Chachamim dedicating their lives exclusively to Torah study and receiving support from the community. The Rambam earlier (Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:9) writes that the "greatest of the sages" worked for a living and at the same time reach the loftiest levels of Torah scholarship. In a society where the environment is conducive to such accomplishment, it is not necessary for the community to support Talmidei Chachamim who learn Torah exclusively. On the contrary, one who insists on receiving funds from charity in order not to work disgraces the Torah. However, in today's environment (and in the times of the Kesef Mishneh as well) it is not possible to reach a high level of Torah scholarship unless one devotes himself exclusively to Torah study. Accordingly, the community certainly needs people devoted exclusively to learning Torah and it is the community's responsibility to provide for them. (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)
2) THE REASONING FOR THE PROHIBITION OF "SHOCHAD"
QUESTION: The Gemara explains that the reasoning behind the prohibition of "Shochad" is that the judge who accepts a bribe becomes like the litigant himself, and a person is unable to see himself as guilty.
The Gemara implies that a judge certainly may not rule in a case in which he is an actual litigant. However, there is no such Halachah; rather, a Chacham is permitted to rule for himself. Why is he permitted to rule for himself, but he is not permitted to rule when he accepts a bribe?
ANSWER: The CHAZON ISH addresses this question (in SEFER EMUNAH U'BITACHON). He writes that a Chacham certainly is not suspected of following his personal interest when he rules, and therefore he may rule for himself. Why, then, does the Torah prohibit him from ruling when he accepts a bribe? Just as a Chacham may rule for himself and is not suspected of altering the ruling for his benefit, he should not be suspected of altering the ruling for the benefit of a litigant who gives him a bribe.
The answer is that by prohibiting a judge from taking a bribe, the Torah introduced a special Yetzer ha'Ra into the world, affecting everyone. One who transgresses the prohibition of Shochad will find that he uncontrollably wants to help the litigant who gave him the bribe. The prohibition of Shochad is not a "Mishpat," a law that has logical basis, but rather a "Chok," a law whose reasoning is beyond human comprehension, because a Shochad blinds a person regardless of his level of Chochmah.
However, a Chacham is blinded only if he transgresses the prohibition against taking a bribe. If he takes no bribe, he may rule for himself and he is not suspected of altering the ruling for his benefit. (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)