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Redefining Tikkun Olam

 by Bennett Gordon

Tags: tikkun olam, Jewish tradition, Judaism, Jewish Funds for Justice,

Heal The World (Fixed)The term tikkun olam, translating from Hebrew as “repairing the world,” has become the spiritual equivalent of a cliché. In a paper for the Jewish Funds for Justice (pdf), Rabbi Jill Jacobs writes that the idea behind tikkun olam has merged with “tzedakah (financial support of the poor), g’milut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), and tzedek (justice).” It has also become a catch-all phrase for progressive values, divorced from religion. Many believe that this has distorted the phrase, depriving it of all meaning. In fact, Jacobs reports that “some Jewish social justice activists and thinkers have moved away from using the term at all.” Instead of abandoning the term all together, Jacobs proposes a new definition that would fuse different Jewish traditions concerning tikkun olam, without losing its real-world uses.