Reclaiming tikkun olam

Reclaiming tikkun olam

Thank you to Rabbi Korff for citing my writing on tikkun olam in his recent editorial on the subject.

However, based on the citations he chooses, I fear that readers may come away with the mistaken impression that I reject the use of this term out of hand. Rather, the article he cites, as well as the more extensive treatment in my book, “There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law and Tradition” (Jewish Lights), constitute attempts to reclaim this term in all of its richness and complexity. Through analyzing the evolution of this term from ancient through modern times, I show that the rabbis of the Talmud used this principle as a tool for resolving major social and economic problems, that the kabbalists referred to this principle to assert the power of human beings to transform the cosmos, and that each generation has added new meaning to this ancient idea.

Even more crucially, I argue in all of my work that the Jewish community has an obligation to act on our thousands of years of wisdom about how to create a more just world, whether we choose to describe this work as tikkun olam, or use other words.