Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tikkun Olam

Set aside the myriad layers of power ploys, hypocrisy, bad faith, obfuscations and general human orneriness and cussedness that confuse the issue. At its fundamental level, an important distinction between Progressives and Conservatives is that progressives think the world can be perfected and the aim of politics is to do so; conservatives don't think the world can be perfected, and prefer social resources to be applied in fixing smaller things. This is one reason why neo-cons aren't really conservatives, and it's probably a reason the Left hates them more: acrimony is often greater among neighbors (metaphoric or real) than among total strangers.

While Jews (and others) would like to believe that Judaism is squarely on their side of the discussion, it isn't, since the Jewish discussion was well underway a millenium or two before the modern discussion ever began.

The case of Tikkun Olam demonstrates this. In contemporary progressive thought, this term is regarded highly, and serves both as a formulation of the progressive ideal as well as proof that Jews are supposed to be on the right (=left) side of the contemporary discussion. The best and most obvious illustration of this being, of course, Michael Lerner's Tikkun Magazine.

Of course, if you go back to the sources, this isn't what they were about at all. An important source of the concept is in the Gitin tractate, which offers a series of rabbinic decisions made "for the sake of tikkun olam". Take the one from today's daf yomi. The subject is the power of a husband to retract a letter divorcing his wife (called a Get) once it has been sent. Strictly legally, in some circumstances this is possible, but the Old Raban Gamliel (there was more than one) decreed that this not be permissible, "for the sake of tikkun olam", meaning he used his authority to override the logic and consistency inherent in the legal system. The Gemarrah then asks how exactly this interference was supposed to fix the world, and gives two answers. If you go with rabbi Yochanan, who was of the opinion that the Get can be retracted in the presence of a mere two men, the danger is that the retraction won't be well known, the woman will think she's free of her husband and will remarry, and her children from the second marriage will be mamzerim (translated incorrectly as bastards, but in reality a far worse status). If however you follow the opinion of rav Sheshet, who thinks the husband needs a full court of three men to do the retracting, the decisions of a court are publicized, and in some cases the woman will think she's still married even if she isn't (the decision hinges upon circumstances), and she won't get on with life.

One way or the other, the Tikkun Olam is not a Healing of the World, it's a mechanism for preventing very specific, though painful, complications. None of which makes the latter uses of the term illegitimate; it merely demonstrates that the latter use may well have started as external ideas, which someone then went looking for in the already existing tradition.

Gittin 33a.

This thread began here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


First of all, "neo-cons" is a perjorative meaning "Jews in Bush's administration,who sent America to war in Irak." And, this war is basically a failure.

Well, there's lots of failures to look at, when you look at Irak. But you'd have to start with the people, themselves. And, what happened after Saddam fell. Wanna blame the neo-cons?

Personally, I don't even think the surge worked. I think the sunnis in Irak were at their wits ends. Because Maliki found a counter-terror to the Al-Kay-duh guys. And, the sunnis got the worse end of "that" stick. So, Bush went in and used our military to help them "a bit." It's still dicey.

Now Petraeus is in Lebanon; and if you haven't noticed, he's sticking it to Israel. And, he's still deep in the pockets of the Sauds.

However, Bush soon leaves. And, he leaves without a legacy.

WW2 was the last great fight!

Not even the Koreans compliment the USA's sacrifice that went into saving their butts!

Nor do we mention how Truman hated MacArthur. And, the Korean "whatever-it-was" was drawn up by the UN to be a stalemate to the USA.

These days? Russia ain't what she used to be. But she's still militant. Everything is controlled by soldier/drunks at the ends of their guns. With the threat that their broken down tanks can roll through the streets, hitting civilians.

The Chinese have gained ascendency. But they don't want to stand alone as a punching bag. Besides, they're into being global trading partners. And, so, I think they've "invited putin" to use muscle. Because it proves "muscle against Tibet" also worked.

Doesn't mean everything erupts into chaos.

Doesn't mean Americans weren't by and large socialists. Because, here, all you'd have to do is look at immigration patterns. And, how the gates got closed around 1914 or 1915. And, how FDR, himself, saw socialists as the problem. Not the solution.

As to what governments can actually do, this gets to be limited. They can pass laws. They can "study issues." But they are not anything near the reality of Capitalism; and how money really moves. And, how the market place is where you go to see how solutions work out.

Sure. This could mean that Sony's Beta-Max bit the dust. Better than the VHS. But not as simple? For whatever reason, you can see with your eyeballs, where there's success. And, where ALL GOVERNMENT PLANNERS are usually stuck with their heads in the sand. Waving around, however, their powers.

Which is why so much money flows IN. To buy off the idiots.

Heck, even on college campuses, today; the neo-cons, if they can get to talk, bring upon themselves "pies in the face." Since the academic elites still hug onto Marx. And, find their powers explained there.

What's that?

Well, according to Marx people aren't good enough at government. They need experts. Ones with credentials. Who espouse being "leaders." Why, it's in Plato's Republic as well.

Of course, the Greeks were the first to crap out on this nonsense.

The Romans just used force.

And, we're stuck now with rules; whereby the good guys can't use force as efficiently as the bad guys can.

Now, when it comes to marriage, if it wasn't for the gays asking for the ceremonies; you'd recognize that people don't stay married for long. Sex happens frequently without marriage. So, too, the birth of children, where the stigma of being a bastard no longer exists.

But being poor means your life is harder.

Anyway, I'm waiting for the day that genital mutilations, as recommended by religious organizations, gets met with people who question this particular tradition. WHile the others seem to be flapping away in the breeze with ease. This one's still got traction.

What happens if in a hundred years the "tradition" gets questioned? You think only rabbis can tell you "who is a Jew?"

Gosh, I know so many Jews who couldn't even tell you the name of a rabbi living nearby. They just don't go and do, what was once done before, even when their was risks to life and limb. Because bullies waited in the streets.

And, in AMerica? Jews found it harder to immigrate because there was so much alarm (in government places), that Marx "could take over" if enough people voted into thinking Marx brought a "workers paradise."

You don't think so? You should see what happened to unions! Weren't job protectors, as much as having leaderships unwilling to modernize plants.

And, then? Along came CONTAINER SHIPS.

No religion involved. Mark Levinson wrote THE BOX. About how this new way of shipping came along. And, how the longshoremen drove away good business from the ports they controlled.

Anyway, labor unrest wasn't strictly a Jewish phenomenon.

But when it began as a movement, you bet, it hurt the Jews. Learn anything yet?

It sure doesn't help to blame others.

Of course, America is GREAT! We've got the full spectrum. Full of critics. Full of what could be called "tokens." Places where there are some "Michael Lerner's" ... but their influences are rather small, when compared to the whole.

This is a good thing. This is what free speech means. (You get to hear from critics.) Like it or not.