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Words of the Week

“As such, tikkun olam has devolved today to mean anything that fits into the categories of community service or helping the underdog. The focus on universalism has led to stripping the word ‘mitzvah’ of any sense of divine obligation, and instead understands ‘mitzvot’ to mean, simply, “good deeds.” And, to me, most problematic of all, the teaching of tikkun olam as it has evolved over the last several decades places greater emphasis on valuing the global human community over caring for our fellow Jews and for the continuity of Judaism.”

Source: Aaron Starr, “Time to Say Kaddish for ‘Tikkun Olam'” (Times of Israel)

(I can imagine that this piece–which reads as though it may have been given as a Rosh Hashanah sermon– is going to elicit some major pushback.)



2 Responses »

  1. I think a push-back is long overdue. Actually, I think one has been underway for quite some time. I researched the history and meaning of tikkun olam for my book, Turning Homeward – Restoring Hope & Nature in the Urban Wild. It amazed me how ancient, complex, and multi-faceted the concept was, and not at all like what I had originally thought it to mean (as in, “if I think it’s the right thing to do, it must be tikkun olam!”). I think Rabbi Jill Jacobs does a good job of pulling the concept back toward its roots in “Reclaiming the Reclaimed Tikkun Olam,” which is still available in the Zeek archives (I think). Levi Cooper’s “The Assimilation of Tikkun Olam” is also a good resource on the topic. I’m only glad I put time into looking into this before Turning Homeward went to press – – it was time well spent.

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