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Tikkun Olam - The Rest of the Story

Friday, 28 May, 2010 - 1:52 pm

The term Tikkun Olam is used alot in the contemporary Jewish world, especially in the context of social activisim and consciousness. We often talk about our devotion to various social causes in terms of our commitment to Tikkun Olam. The concept of Tikkun Olam has generated a great spirit of volunteering, of which we in New Orleans have been grateful beneficiaries. Many important causes have garnered immense Jewish support under the banner of Tikkun Olam.
I have often wondered how many people are aware of the origins of the Tikkun Olam concept within Judaism, and whether our contemporary application of Tikkun Olam always fits the original definition.
We can trace the term back to a phrase in our prayers. In the passage V'al Kein (which follows Aleinu) we find the phrase "L'takein Olam B'Malchut Sha-dai" - to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Al-mighty. This teaches us that the very central component of Tikkun Olam is, that it must serve the cause of "perfecting the world under the sovereignty of the Al-mighty."
When we examine the Kabbalistic doctrines that deal with the Tikkun Olam concpet, we discover that this perfection or repair of the world is specifically related to elevating fallen sparks of holiness through the performance of Mitzvot. For further elucidation of the idea click here.
What we can deduce from this is two things. Firstly, an act can only be cosidered Tikkun Olam if it conforms with the will of G-d as expressed in Torah. Secondly, that both elements of Mitzvot (those between the human and G-d and those between humans themsleves) are necessary to truly "perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Al-mighty." 
So while the casual observer of Tikkun Olam activity may conclude that Tikkun Olam is synonymous only with social welfare causes, that is only half the story, albeit an important half. Furthermore, it is conceivable, that a cause which is a Tikkun Olam "given" in the minds of many, is actually as far from the Tikkun Olam ideal as can be, because it does not conform with the Torah's view of what is proper. 
The bottom line of all of this is, in order to "perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Al-mighty," we must follow the guidlines that He gave us to accomplish this.
On this note, I encourage everyone to get invloved in the upcoming Mitzvah Day that is being spearheaded by the Jewish Federation on Sunday, June 6. Check out for volunteering opportunities. There are several great causes with which to be involved and doing it as a community makes it that much more special.
But please remember the other half of our Tikkun Olam responsibility - our obligations to G-d. For that we need to become more knowledgable in the Torah's teachings and more involved in the observance of the Mitzvot. There are many opportunities to do so and we at Chabad are proud to be doing our part in enabling people to engage in Tikkun Olam on both fronts. We welcome anyone that wishes to discover more to join a class or an activity at Chabad. I look forward to seeing you here sometime soon.
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