This week’s parsha, Shoftim, contains the famous passage extolling justice. “Justice, justice you shall pursue, so that you shall live and inherit the land that Hashem your god has given you.” (16:20, emphasis mine). While this verse is so often quoted as if it contained only the first five words, it is important to note that the verse is what logicians call a conditional statement. If you pursue justice, then you will be rewarded with the inheritance of Cana’an. It is not by mistake that this verse usually arises containing only the first part of the conditional, as common modern understandings of justice would imply that justice is not pursued for any ulterior motive, but (as Kant put it, not referring to justice) “as an end in itself”. So is justice intrinsically good, or only good because of what it brings to humans, namely life and political freedom, as the verse implies?
As a means to an end
Is it still justice?