What is Tikkun Olam?
Tikkun Olam is an idea that has evolved over the years. Its roots reach deep into the Kabbalistic teachings of the Rabbis, and relates to “repairing the World”.
By the teachings of the Kabbalists, when God was creating the universe it could not contain the magnificent power of Devine light causing the “vessels” to break. Our world is filled with the tiny chards of the primordial sparks and pieces. We can help the world heal through doing good deeds, fulfilling mitzvot (commandments).
Over time, it’s been generally understood that especially deeds of moral significance are the crucial ones in the process of Tikkun Olam. Each time we help a fellow human being or an animal, we take part in an enormous task. And even if, as the teaching in Pirke Avot expresses, we are unable to complete the task, we are not free to not engage in the process.
Tikkun Olam in modern times
For many decades in the 20th and 21st centuries, the idea of Tikkun Olam was brought up often when discussing the needs of our Planet, our part in fighting climate change, and living a more environmentally-conscious way. But the word “Olam”, meaning “world”, does not mean literally the Earth only, but our reality and universe. It relates to the realm of humans and all we do in it.
Ethical laws are an enormous part of Judaism. They are the central part of the teachings of prophets and Sages throughout the millennia.
In the tractate Sanhedrin, the Rabbis discuss the question of why the humanity was created starting with just one person – Adam. Why not create all the nations and groups right away? One of the answers given was, “so that no one would say, ‘my father was better than your father, my tribe is better than your tribe’ because we are all brothers and sisters of the same father”.
Praying with our feet
Today, we are facing a great moment when the voices of our Black sisters and brothers are heard more and more loudly. When the pain and suffering they experience each day, have a chance to be noticed and acknowledged more broadly. Thousands of white people have finally realized it’s time to face their own privilege and active or inactive part in perpetuating the social injustice and to take an active part fighting it.
I strongly believe that most of the Jewish gedolim (great personalities, sages, and thinkers of Judaism), if they lived today, would find the support for Black Lives Matter a mitzvah – a religious obligation, a moral imperative. Many Jews today hear the call for racial justice and walks the streets of their towns, calling for a more just world.
I can’t walk the street of American towns to show my support for the movement. I can’t go side by side thousands to add my tiny part in collecting the holy sparks in the process of Tikkun Olam and making sure all people can live their lives in safety, and dignity, and that all lives are celebrated and honored.
The only thing I could do, from my isolated apartment in Eastern Europe, is to create designs to show my support for the case. I am just another Jew for social justice. I hope I can help you express your own fight for better, more racially just, tomorrow.