The Orderliness or Non-orderliness of Justice: Reflections on Mishpat

Phillip Lasater

This paper will address the expression לא תטה משׁפט, which appears in a range of legalistic texts regarding mishpat or justice (Exodus 23; Deuteronomy 16; 24; and 27; Temple Scroll 51 and 57). The use of the verb נטה (Hif.) indicates a kind of manipulation which, despite being used neutrally or positively of other virtues and abstractions, is routinely prohibited for mishpat. I will suggest that these verbal formulations convey conceptual thinking about the nature of justice as something “fragile.” The fragility of justice could have implications for scholarly theories about justice as a stable order characterizing the world’s makeup.

Phillip Lasater (Oxford)