The Hijacking of Tikkun Olam

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg unwittingly committed felonious assault on proper usage when he explained his plan to reduce air pollution, including special fees for vehicles entering congested parts of Manhattan. “In my faith, the Jewish faith,” Mr. Bloomberg continued, “there is a religious obligation called tikkun olam, or to make the world whole, or to correct error and end injustice. And that responsibility is found among people of good will in every faith.”

Nice idea; wrong phrase.

It is hardly his fault. Outside of the Orthodox world, the phrase tikkun olam has long meant something very different from the way it was used for hundreds of years. It has become a shiboleth for progressive, forward-thinking groups who make real contributions to the world, rather than the benighted Orthodox who dabble in the religious magic and superstition of halachic rigor. Reform Jews largely replaced adherence to a halachic system with a many-pronged effort to improve society at large. (I don’t write this critically. The urge to do good is a residual of the midah of Avraham Avinu – see Rav Kook’s Olas Rayah vol. 2 pgs. 264-265. I just wish they could do both.) (Interestingly, the Reform trajectory is almost indistinguishable from that of liberal Protestant denominations, which also jettisoned tradition for Good Works in the name of a G-d Who reinvented Himself as “Love,” at least when He hasn’t transgendered Himself into Sophia. Don’t ask.) Michael Lerner, sometimes known as Rabbi Moonbeams, regularly harms the interests of Israel with his extremist leftist positions under the banner of his Tikkun Magazine.

The problem isn’t so much that Mayor Bloomberg’s usage differs from the way centuries of Jews understood it, but that his understanding is the polar opposite of what the phrase always meant.

Let’s start with the a familiar phrase from davening לתקן עולם במלכות שקי, to perfect the universe through Hashem’s sovereignty, with the emphasis on “through.” Klal Yisrael understood that no amount of human effort or enterprise will ever cure the world of its flaws and faults. This does not devalue every small contribution to making life a bit better for an individual, a community, or a continent. It does mean that all such efforts are band-aids relative to the big fix, which is bringing the Shechinah closer to the world. Perhaps it is not inaccurate to suggest that to a serious Reform Jew, one brings Hashem closer to the world by making it a better place; to a traditional Jew, bringing Hashem closer is what will make the world the place He and we want it to be.

It is not simply a difference in approach. Tradition always understood that any human attempt at effectively remedying the world is doomed to failure. The old bumper sticker read, “One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day.” A Torah variation on that would read, “One rasha (evil person) can ruin an entire universe.” One man’s yetzer hora (evil inclination) can plunge civilization into chaos. All solutions to the ills that plague mankind are tentative and changeable so long as the yetzer hora finds an agreeable audience. The only agent capable of neutralizing yetzer hora is firm, perceptive understanding of Elokus (Divinity). When the world is united in serving a G-d who is understood (as much as humans can) and appreciated, Good will have a chance. In any other society, you better keep looking over your shoulder.

More kabbalistically, tikkun olam is about repairing the separation between Hashem and the world He created. Specifically, we bring the tikkun (or at least make significant strides in that direction) when we restore the world to its opening, pre-חטא splendor, reflecting the supernal light of His Being. The separation became a yawning chasm with the commission of the first sin in Act One, Scene One of the drama of humankind; many scenes later, we are conscious of much that has happened, and the curtains have still not come down. After that first tragic error on the part of Adam and Chavah, Man was unceremoniously ushered out of the Garden of Eden. Still, there was no oppression, no wars, no famine. Nothing menaced the blue whales, and the ozone layer was intact, with just the right amount of greenhouse gases. Adam and Chavah had reason to mourn their change of address, but they knew no privation as they contemplated their new lives sporting custom-made garments from the Master Tailor. Yet, no moment in history better defined the need for tikkun olam than that one.

Thousands of years later, we have not yet arrived at the tikun. We have the benefit of a roadmap towards its accomplishment. Much of it revolves around performing acts of chesed (lovingkindness), but other parts deal with different forms of avodah (Divine service) long abandoned by the modern-day champions of a tikkun olam that is often indistinguishable from the current platform of the Democratic Party.

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l whimsically used to note that “bar mitzvah” outside the Torah community was a misnomer. Alas, it was more of a rite of passage into a adulthood devoid of mitzvos. More properly, he said, it should be called “bar aveirah.” The co-opting of tikkun olam by non-traditionalists is an error of even greater magnitude. It robs the concept of its essential Jewishness. Mankind cannot afford such a mistake. We’ve already waited too long for the real thing.

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24 Responses

  1. Dov Showley says:

    I am surprised that my original comment on this matter generated so much discussion. I have enjoyed reading the comments. The non-Jews spend a lot of time in prayer, praising G-d, discussing theology, and expressing good thoughts and good intentions. I thought that we Jews, although not ignoring the above practices, are concerned with helping others (not by the State, but by individuals and synagogues). I noticed one writer above empasized the importance of being, in the words of Isaiah, ‘or l’goyim’, and I agree.
    G-d placed us here for a purpose – not merely to praise HaShem – but to remember the 99% of humans also created in his image who are Goyim, and help continue Creation by healing. And to remember Lev. 19 by loving our neighbors. Recall that here “loving” for Jews, is an active verb! Mashiach will not come until we help “heal the world” with “tikkun olam” (& I do NOT refer to the socialism of much of the Left.) Best, Dee, Dov, Devon PS Caveat: I am a convert to Judaism & perhaps speak from ignorance and chutzpah. (Nor do I forget Hillel’s “Do not do to others…”) Thanks for the helpful comments.

  2. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Interesting how a seemingly large number of African-American politicians are ignorant (or unimpressed) of that historical truism”

    Just a clarification. I remember the radio host bringing up the point about Jewish involvement in Civil Rights as a rejoinder, but it may have been in response to a point which was less sharp than “what did Jews do for Civil rights?”. Nevertheless, I am still happy to be able to say that Jews played a role, tikkun olam or not, Orthodox or not.

    Also, the Chafetz Chaim story I quoted was about a conversation he had with the Ponovezher Rav, where the Chafetz Chaim was specifically interested in the welfare of non-Jewish South Africans. The Chafetz Chaim clearly was concerned with issues beyond parochial Jewish concerns, but he was not discussing activism, which didn’t exist in Radin in the early 20th century.

  3. mb says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    May I humbly suggest you read Chief Rabbi Sacks “To Heal A Fractured World”?

  4. Jacob Haller says:

    “a Black politician recently asked an Orthodox Jewish radio talk show host, “what did Jews do for Civil rights? “, I was happy that he was able to respond that there were Jews prominently involved,”

    Interesting how a seemingly large number of African-American politicians are ignorant (or unimpressed) of that historical truism. Does that add creedence to the author’s suggestion that “Tradition always understood that any human attempt at effectively remedying the world is doomed to failure”?

  5. Mark says:

    HH,

    If you knew that what you wrote wasn’t correct there was no reason to write it. Your point can be made while sticking to the truth, not by trumping out old canards that you know are ridiculous.

    Your point about the Orthodox only doing Chessed with their own is similarly false and has long been disproven. I can think of numerous organizations off the top of my head that lay that claim bare. Yad Eliezer distribute assistance to everyone in need. So does Bambi, Yad Ezra, Echo, Echo and so many others. Yes, we do take very good care of each other, but we’re at least the equal of any Reform or Conservative Chessed organization.

    That doesn’t mean that Hashem doesn’t appreciate their offerings, but they’re existence doesn’t disprove the Orthodox commitment to helping out society at large. In fact, the Orthodox involvement proves that Mitzvah observance and Chessed can and do go hand in hand and are not mutually exclusive of one another.

    I believe Rabbi YA’s point was that some ill-defined notion of Tikun Olam doesn’t mitigate a persons obligation to perform traditional mitzvos in the least. The way it’s used so liberally in the R and C circles one would believe that they do.

  6. Holy Hyrax says:

    Do you really believe that all Orthodox Jews do all day is sit in Yeshivah and digest tractate after tractate? Would it surprise you to discover that most Orthodox Jews actually earn a living much like anyone else

    I obviously know this. I live in a community that most people work. My point was, what was YA course of action. That we stop all attempts to help out the world? To ONLY do mitzvot while awaiting for the Massiach to do all the dirty work? You cannot just say, “cleave to God” or learn his mitvot. What does that mean? I am well aware of the chessed that the orthodox do. The problem is, it is usually done ONLY for their community. It pains me greatly when I see churches and even mosques volunteering to set up soup kitchens and bring toys to homeless people in Downtown LA, but nowhere do I see orthodox Jews. Usually, I hear the ever so popular excuse, “we have our own problems to deal with.” Well, ya, but we are always going to have problems. Does this mean we should not try? Who knows, maybe all these attempts are not just band aids. So much good has been done in this world due to humanistic goals. Are we to beleive God does not appreciate them and welcome it?

    R’ YA

    If you truly loved me, you WOULD have given me a harder time :).

  7. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    Thank you for the correction; the 60’s were before my time! My impression was based on two recent articles in the Jewish Press on the topic by or about rabbis from the Left of Orthodoxy, and I therefore associated activism of that era only with that segment of Orthodoxy, but I stand corrected(also, for those who don’t know, Simcha Felder is a haredi City Council member who based on my impression, seems to be well-liked by representatives from different New York City ethnic groups, and his interest therefore adds to the involvement of the haredi community on the other issue I mentioned).

  8. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Baruch –

    there were Jews prominently involved, even though those Jews were either non-Orthodox or from the left of Orthodoxy.

    Not entirely true. Rabbi David Luchins (to become – and remain – one of the most important kiruv gurus in NCSY, as well as long-time aide to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan)was very involved in the Civil Rights struggle as a right-of-religious center Orthodox Jew

  9. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “If so, why halachikally should that ve the case”

    I think it’s more hashkafa than halacha. While it might be due to the reasons quoted in my 6:37 post, I think it’s more likely due to the concern of Jews keeping a low galus-profile.

    By the way, last night Simcha Felder, a NYC council member, interviwed fellow councilwoman Gale Brewer who is active with Ruth Messinger on the Darfur issue, and recommended contacting the NYS Comptroller regarding divestitures(Chinese oil firms are investors in Sudan). The show caters to the entire frum community, so I think that the issue is alive among some of the RW segments as well.

  10. mycroft says:

    For example, while there can be arguments made why Jews should not be activists in social justice causes, when a Black politician recently asked an Orthodox Jewish radio talk show host, “what did Jews do for Civil rights? “, I was happy that he was able to respond that there were Jews prominently involved, even though those Jews were either non-Orthodox or from the left of Orthodoxy.

    Comment by Baruch Horowitz — May 6, 2007 @ 6:19

    I remember a much younger Dr. Bernard Lander being an organizer of the March on Washington and soliciting Orthodox Rabbis to join the March-intriguing that many marched, many more were sympathetic but didn’t march because they did not believe the March should be that Jewish. Jews were way more than 2-3% of those marching.

    BTW is it true that those marching were only from the Left of Orthodoxy. If so, why halachikally should that ve the case?

  11. Baruch Horowitz says:

    In response to the Tsunami, Dayan Berl Berkovits zt’l wrote(JA, Summer, 2005) that the Torah world can not afford to be perceived as silent, apathetic or indifferent to such an immense human tragedy, and that:

    ” …there is another response that is called for-—the instinctive human reaction that impels us to come to the help of those who are in trouble. It is a reaction that the world at large has demonstrated, in an astonishing outpouring of generosity and identification with those who have suffered… And it is also a reaction that we too, as ehrlicher Yidden and bnei Torah, should be demonstrating…

    …to some extent, [any inaction is] understandable. In part it reflects an insularity due to historical experience. Having seen how the world abandoned us in the Holocaust, we turned our back on the world. In part, it is due to the need for the Torah community to separate itself from the negative influences of “goyishe” culture. And in part, it is due to the unique focus of the Torah world on self-improvement and the furtherance of Torah and mitzvot. But despite these considerations, it does not exonerate us of the need to act towards others with compassion.”

    Even amongst the most insular segments of Orthodoxy, the least that is required is that there should be publicly communicated a feeling of concern for others, whether or not this translates into a specific or particular public advocacy position on each social justice cause. The Gemara and Midrash tell us that korbanos were brought for the benefit of the 70 nations of the world(see Netziv and RSRH in Parshas Pinchas), Avroham was an Av Hamon Goyim in this sense(Netziv, preface to Bereshis), and the Chafetz Chaim was interested in the welfare of people in South Africa(JO, 11/02). A Jewish Observer article(6/06), titled “Thinking about Darfur: A Personal Reflection”, while not taking a position on a specific response, concluded, “because we have been repeatedly threatened with extermination, we must be particularly sensitive to those who are similarly threatened”.

  12. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Reform Jews largely replaced adherence to a halachic system with a many-pronged effort to improve society at large…The urge to do good is a residual of the midah of Avraham Avinu… I just wish they could do both.”

    Heterodox theology does not accept that the Torah is of Divine origin, and it is therefore much easier for their leaders to speak about, and to become involved in the humanistic and social justice aspects of Judaism. Yet, in a sense, it may be said that many of the Jews in these movements may have a part in shouldering in an organized way, the more universalistic aspects which are required of a Jewish nation, even if they have done so at the expense of divorcing concepts like “tikkun olam” and its sister-concept of “a light onto the nations”(from Yeshayau 42:6), from the Avodah, or man to God, actions and beliefs of Yiddishkeit.

    For example, while there can be arguments made why Jews should not be activists in social justice causes, when a Black politician recently asked an Orthodox Jewish radio talk show host, “what did Jews do for Civil rights? “, I was happy that he was able to respond that there were Jews prominently involved, even though those Jews were either non-Orthodox or from the left of Orthodoxy.

  13. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    MB –
    How many Orthodox Jews do you know that wake up in the morning and say I’m going to do as many Mitzvot today because I want to do my part in healing the world? Or I want to bring the Shechina close?

    Actually, quite a few. No one who has learned Derech Hashem or Nefesh HaChaim on davening can avoid such thoughts. Nor for that matter anyone who has given serious consideration to some of the brachos we say each day that thank Hashem for making us Jews, non-slaves, etc, where we thank Him for the opportunity to perform mitzvos. And anyone using several of the siddurim of Edot HaMizrach that break up Shacharis into four sections based on four kabbalistic worlds that we attempt to link through our prayer and draw down a Divine influence from the upper worlds to our own

    The idea as we know it is the brain child of R.Luria and relatively new in Jewish terms.

    I don’t agree. The first place something appears in print is not necessarily the first place that the notion was conceived. Rambam may explicitly say things about the Oneness of G-d; this does not mean that he was the first one to think about it. The Ari’s kabbalah has its roots in much, much older material. Kabbalah is a part of our mesorah from Sinai, a section of Torah She-b’al Peh. There is no a priori reason to attribute any given thought in the Ari to some innovation on his part unless you can show a smoking gun.

    That some have taken that mystical concept to environmental issues, albeit sometimes exclusively, should be counted as another of the great blessings that Judaism has spread to the world.

    That some have used the concept constructively is wonderful. I just wish they would show proper attribution – and not mangle the concept along the way. (Lehavdil – one of the most atrocious beers ever produced in America used an ad slogan, “The champagne of bottled beer.” What do you think certain purists in a region of France felt when they heard it? :-) )

    In the meantime, get off this foolish internet and make up the piece of Gemara you missed on Thursday so we won’t have to go over it in Tuesday’s shiru….

    Gershon Josephs –

    I had not heard of this tradition. Do you have a source for this?

    I think so. The only way I know to harmonize the many sources in Chazal about the nature of Moshiach is to believe that the perfection of mankind is something that Man, however well he try, cannot accomplish, and its full realization will only be possible through overt Divine intervention. See Maharal’s Netzach Yisroel chap. 40 (the madregah of Moshiach must transcend ordinary reality) and my Be’er HaGolah, pgs. 202-205. (OK, I have strong leanings towards Maharal.) This is why Moshiach is a person (a stand-in for the Divine wisdom he will bear), and not an Age, or a wish for an ultimately better world. The guarantee of the great eschatological prophecies is not just the result (a perfected world), but a specific modality – a human from the House of David. The point, I believe, is that nothing within ordinary human grasp can make it happen. HKBH needs to intervene and intercede, beyond the kind of Divine Providence that oversees all other events.

    I think Leon Pinsker meant just that when he chose Autoemancipation as the title for his proposal. Essentially, he was saying that the old notion of leaving redemption in the Hands of Hashem was foolish, and Jews could redeem themselves.

    Harry, mycroft –

    I am 100% in favor of any and all efforts to make this world a better place, and have an entirely positive view of what others call tikun olam and I would call either vechivshuhah or “chesed”. I believe that some Reform Jews have much to teach us in that regard. I very much doubt whether R’ Aaron S zt”l and yebadel lechaim Dr Shatz would disagree about my assertion of the positing of an essential incompleteness of all human effort without the final push from HKBH Himself, in the form of Moshiach.

    HH-

    If I didn’t love ya so much, I would give you a harder time.

    Lots of people indeed have a strong passion for chesed. The chesed of Avrohom Avinu is part of the makeup of the Jewish neshamah, although it can be – and is – successfully ignored in individual Jews.

    Torah Jews are bringing LOTS to the table. They should be doing all those things you are urging us to do. But they additionally have been told about 247 other ways of drawing the Shechinah closer, and I would not be dismissive of the power of Hashem’s Presence and its “trickle-down” benefits.

  14. mycroft says:

    For a more positive view of tikkun olam see Tikkun Olam-Social Responsibility in Jewish Thought and Law edited by David Shatz, Chaim Waxman and N. Diament. Copyright 1997 by the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

  15. Mark says:

    Holy Hyrax wrote:
    “Do you really think tikkun olam will come by sitting in the yeshiva all day. By digesting tractate after tractate? Reform Jews have indeed put their quest for social justice, etc. over adherence to halacha, but I can say orthodox Jews have done the opposite.”

    HH,
    Do you really believe that all Orthodox Jews do all day is sit in Yeshivah and digest tractate after tractate? Would it surprise you to discover that most Orthodox Jews actually earn a living much like anyone else? Remember – Lakewood Yeshivah has only 3,000 full time kollel members. The other Kollelim are statistically insignificant [5-10 per] and we’re talking about a population of hundreds of thousands. When you say things like this, your argument falls apart.
    In addition to this, there is no denying that the amount of Chessed performed in the Orthodox communities [for each other AND for others] is far out of proportion to what is found elsewhere. It seems that having a background in Torah study does indeed motivate a person to engage in acts of Tikun Olam.

  16. Holy Hyrax says:

    This post troubles me greatly. Its basically the same endless things I hear all the time. Bringing down other peoples attempt while really not bringing anything constructive to the table. Sure, you say there is a roadmap, but look at how this has manifested in our days. You have people instead of using this roadmap toward good, more concerned with sgulot. When something goes wrong, quickly make sure nothing is wrong with their mezuzot. Studying, for ITS own sake, being the ultimate goal of a Jew. Do you really think tikkun olam will come by sitting in the yeshiva all day. By digesting tractate after tractate? Reform Jews have indeed put their quest for social justice, etc. over adherence to halacha, but I can say orthodox Jews have done the opposite. Is it possible that one of the reason people find their niche in Reform is BECAUSE today, orthodoxy isent overly concerned with the well being of the world? Centuries upon centuries, we Jews have done what we do best, study the law, and really, it has not made the world a better place. It has not brought down the shchina so to speak. Maybe a new course was ordained in the heavens kivyachol. That things need to change. I am not throwing out halacha out the window at all, but maybe OJ has something to learn from our other brothers. If everything happens for a reason, that perhaps this “band-aid” treatment should be further looked at. Maybe we as Jews can balance things out with putting some kdusha into all these worthwhile “band aid” ventures that the silly left prides itself on instead of always just shunning it out as futile. There needs to be a balance with everything.

    >The urge to do good is a residual of the midah of Avraham Avinu

    I disagree. The urge to do good IN ALL OF HUMANITY, is that we are created in the divine image. That image contains within itself a creative spark to express itself in different matters. What you are basically sounding like, is like you are tossing that away in favor of one system.

    I am actually curious as to how you intend to get everyone realizing and committing to serving God. Saying it is much easier than it sounds. Perhaps in our days, serving God is also a recognition that we are ALL created in his image, and that while at the same time being committed to our laws, being committed to putting the greatest effort to cure the world as best we can. You know, the band-aid thing ☺

    Like Harry said, there are many expression of tikkun olam. None of them should be thrown away. Yes, there are the fanatic extremists, but lets not pretend we don’t have the same in our camp.

  17. Harry Maryles says:

    I hear the point being made here and don’t really dispute that one form of Tikun HaOlam is “to perfect the universe through Hashem’s sovereignty”. You make that case very well. The world was not created in a perfect state at all. That Man was put here on this world to improve it is symbolized by the Bris Milah. God commanded us to “fix” this imperfection in the human body. By commanding us to do so he demonstrates that he purposely created the world in an imperfect state and that he wants us to improve it. This Mitzvah fits very nicely into your definition of Tikun HaOlam since the Birs Milah is an entirely spiritual enterprise.

    But this does not preclude other expressions of it of it that are not manifestly spiritual. Tikun HaOlam.

    This is explained very nicely be Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik in his book ‘Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind’ (P 42- 43). He uses Tikun HaOlam as one of five perspectives of Torah U’Mada.

    Yafa Torah Im Derech Eretz ( Mishnah – Avos2:2). What exactly is meant by Derech Eretz or ‘way of the world’? It does not only mean holding a job although that is included. Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch had a more inclusive meaning. The greater meaning of Derech Eretz includes all things conducive to the continued building up of the world…the physical world. The Talmud has a related statement on this topic. Rabbi Yishmael said ‘and you will gather your grain'(Deut. 11:14). This means act according to the ‘way of the world’. What is really meant by this unusual expression? What ‘way’ does the world behave that makes Torah beautiful if included with it?

    Rabbi Soloveichik explains that the study of Mada is in an expression of Tikun HaOlam, too. By studying all branches of worldly knowledge, one participates in the fulfillment of this Mishnaic Dictum. This includes science, math, philosophy, the arts, literature, and even poetry.

  18. Gershon Josephs says:

    > Tradition always understood that any human attempt at effectively remedying the world is doomed to failure.

    I had not heard of this tradition. Do you have a source for this?

  19. Jacob Haller says:

    MB,

    One point is that many social projects supported from the pulpits of heterodox establishments, usually in lock step with the most liberal wings of the Democratic Party, are subsequently classified as “Tikkun Olam” and instantly become something Judaic.

    Perhaps environmentalism is a good thing. However, Tikun Olam in the classic sense has a basis in Torah and subsequent application through Chazal, Rishonim etc and is inextricably entwined with Halacha.

    The way many view it, once released from the halachic and hashkafa parameters, anything goes.

    There is evidence for example that during the 1960s, there was a “coolness hierarchy” regarding social causes and the pulpits advertsing them. The elderly and financially strapped Jews stuck in the changing and deteriorating urban neighborhoods were often given short shrift in favor of organizing action regarding Vietnam, Biafra and whatever African/Asian/South American country besieged by revolutions or earthquakes.

    That’s because the “chattering classes” were obviously more in favor of the latter categories. Perhaps those causes were not without merits but adherence to Halacha often presents different (and required) priorities.

    Once “VeAhavta L’reyecha K’mocha” is interpreted with politically correct parameters and not with Ikar HaDin this is what happens.

    To attempt an answer of your rhetorical (cynical?) question of “how many….”. I’m under the impression that for example, raising money, and the required awareness to do so, for just one family or individual in dire straits can be an exhaustive effort and almost daily I receive such appeals in the mail.

    Considering that’s comparatively the small stuff compared with the more grandiose efforts (some listed in Rabbi Shafran’s response to Jonathan Schorsh’s article) I vote that amongst the Orthodox there’s a significant number exhibiting hard work and mesirus nefesh to better the world. And bettering it through time-honored means external to the more fleeting and ephemeral ones.

  20. Shmiel Paltiel Shmeltzenberg says:

    Good post Rabbi Adlerstein and good comment from Bob.

    Everytime I see the phrase “tikkun olam” whipped out somewhere, I cringe.

    I have always said – if being the best Jew means supporting socialmis, including heavy government intervention in the economy, socialized medicine (which I do support as a good Canadian citizen to a certain extent) and welfare support programs, than the Swedish are the true Chosen People!

  21. mb says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, how many Orthodox Jews do you know that wake up in the morning and say I’m going to do as many Mitzvot today because I want to do my part in healing the world? Or I want to bring the Shechina close? It’s true the term is from Alenu but it does not imply human action. It is also used in a Mishna in a legalistic fashion regarding slaves, divorces.( Interesting juxtoposition)
    The idea as we know it is the brain child of R.Luria and relatively new in Jewish terms. That some have taken that mystical concept to environmental issues, albeit sometimes exclusively, should be counted as another of the great blessings that Judaism has spread to the world.
    After all it was one of the first instructions to Adam.

  22. Steve says:

    Not that it has anything to do with Reform’s leftist social justice package, but there are authentic sources referring to human action as being for “tikkun olam”, such as takkanos meant to reduce the number of mamzerim, and that sort of thing.

  23. Bob Miller says:

    Socialism, in all its forms, is based on the cooptation of religious symbols and concepts to create a materialist heaven on earth.

  24. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    To paraphrase R. Moshe zt”l, the heterodox and secular Jews are practicing “kilkul olam”.