Of the Sacred Slogans we have addressed so far, none are as socially significant as “tikkun olam.” Tikkun olam literally translates to “repairing the world,” which is ambitious as it is open to interpretation. Despite the fact that there is no commandment mandate anywhere in Biblical1 or Rabbinic literature for Jews to undertake tikkunolam,2 some have understood it as a universalist mandate for the Jewish people. For example, according to Mordechai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, “We cannot consider ourselves servants of the Divine King unless we take upon ourselves the task ‘to perfect the World under the Kingdom of the Almighty.”3 Nearly 60 years later, R. Richard Hirsch asserted, “God has chosen us for a sacred mission: Tikkun Olam, to complete the universe. This concept of Tikkun Olam as the collective mission of the Jewish people has permeated every movement in Jewish life.”4
With the extensive literature discussing tikkunolamconstantly growing, a discussion of how the term has evolved would be a worthy study in its own right.5 However, my focus here is what did the idiom mean in its original context, with a focus on its practical implementations.
In the Spring Semester of 2011 I had the honor of addressing the NYU Jewish Law Students Association for a weekly series covering Economics and Social Justice in Jewish Law. Below are the links to the specific lectures in the order given with audio and PDF source sheets available. As always, comments are welcome. If there is interest in me delivering any of these lectures or the entire series in person, please contact me directly.
In the fourth installment of his Economics and Social Justice series, Rabbi Yuter discusses the concept of charity / tzedakah in Judaism from a holistic perspective, exploring the parameters of charity in creating a just social order.
In part 3 of his Economics and Social Justice series, Rabbi Yuter addresses the topic of Jewish Labor Laws from a holistic perspective, balancing the rights and obligations of both the employer and the employee.
Rabbi Josh Yuter begins his special lecture series on Economics and Social Justice in Judaism with an introduction to methodology and a demonstration of a free market ethos existing within the Rabbinic legal tradition. Audio and sources included.
A few months ago I wrote a short article for the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals’ new journal Conversations. The purpose of this journal is to promote communal dialogue on various issues facing the Jewish community. Unlike the Edah/Meorot journals, the journal is supposed to be more accessible than academic and so I was given two editorial conditions:1. keep it short and 2. no footnotes.
As longtime blog readers know, that last condition was a tough one to overcome.
At any rate, I’m posting my article “A Fair And Balanced Approach To Jewish Social Justice” and I plan on revisiting the motivations for the article at some later point.