Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fixing the World

I'm largely offline for a spot. However, you might want to have a glance at this item at the Forward. It's a list of 10 rising Jewish-American politicians to watch in the November elections. A majority of them say their motivation is Tikkun Olam. Now as I've said repeatedly in the past, Tikkun Olam in Jewish tradition didn't mostly mean what these folks think it means; theirs is largely am American sentiment dressed up to look like a traditional Jewish tradition.

I'm not saying it isn't a fine sentiment, the wish to fix the world, and it does, of course, have Jewish roots; still, it's interesting, this direction American Jewry seems to be taking.

5 comments:

Bryan Z said...

I think this is more of a Reform thing: I haven't heard a peep about tikkun olam from Conservative or Orthodox Jews.

Isn't tikkun olam a Kabblistic idea anyway? I don't personally put much stock in Kabbalah, so I don't really know how I feel about tikkun olam; the sentiment is nice, but it seems to me that American Jewry has plucked an obscure concept that was largely ignored and made it into a tenet of Judaism.

Anonymous said...

This is just a new name for same-old, same-old. Jews in
America have always been involved in promoting the American ideals of equality because it was in their self-interest to do so. Jews in America always established social support networks for each other, because those were the traditional structures of the communities they came from, and it was in our interest to do so.

This is not to say there is no altruism. It is just that self-interest and altruistic actions can coincide.

Nycerbarb

Lee Ratner said...

Um, I think the meaning of tikkun olam began to change way earlier than you think it did Yaacov. The modern roots of tikkun olam can probably be safely traced back to the teachings of Isaac Luria and his belief that if every Jew fulfills all of the 613 commandments than the world would be perfected. I believe the actual phrase tikkun olam first appears in the book of Joshua and it was not used in a legal sense but in the sense of achieving utopia, perfecting the world under God's sovereignty. So I really don't think this is strictly an American approach to tikkun olam.

Anonymous said...

Yaacov wrote a while ago:
"Where did the modern usage of Tikkun Olam come from? I don't know. If any reader wishes to point us at some way of finding out, be my guest."

Here are 2 good articles on the history of the term:
A short one:
http://www.myjewishlearning.com/practices/Ethics/Caring_For_Others/Tikkun_Olam_Repairing_the_World_.shtml

and a very good 2-pager by Rabbi Jill Jacobs: The History of "Tikkun Olam"
http://www.zeek.net/706tohu/

If you do a searh on this phrase, make sure you use a double "K". If you spell it "tikun olam" you get Richard Silverstein's blog(!) (which I call ta-'oot olam -global error).

Nycerbarb

Yaacov said...

Thanks, Nycerbarb. Two interesting articles. They say roughly the same I've been saying, which is always pleasant for the ego, but they say it in thoughtful article-form, which is generally a superior form of writing to blogging.