Justice is a theme that courses throughout the literature of Judaism, and yet, it would be difficult to find anything beyond an occasional journal or book article that directly addresses the subject for a variety of reasons that are discussed in this book. Writing on a topic like justice in Judaism entails a number of special problems. Because there are no classical traditional works specifically addressed to the subject, notwithstanding that the idea of justice pervades the entire corpus of Judaic literature, one must in effect construct a theory of what the ancients and their disciples through the ages meant when they spoke of justice. And this can only be done by gathering and analyzing numerous isolated teachings and statements found strewn throughout the vast biblical and rabbinic literature, a process that militates against discussion of their various implications in a straightforward contemporary essay style presentation. A second problem concerns translation of texts originally written in biblical and later in rabbinic Hebrew, where the same terms sometimes have different connotations and because of this occasionally cause misleading readings of the biblical texts, a problem that is significantly compounded by translation into a language such as English, where the nuances of the Hebrew may be lost entirely.
The key questions The Idea of Justice in Judaism
explores are what the biblical authors meant by justice and how their teachings in this regard were absorbed, elucidated, elaborated, modified, and applied in practice, to the extent possible, by their disciples over the centuries as Judaism underwent and overcame enormous challenges to its very existence as a distinctive religious civilization and culture.