Tikkun Olam: Repair of the World

by | Dec 21, 2022 | Larry's Observations

Photo by Gabriel Sanchez

Tikkun Olam: Repair of the World

by | Dec 21, 2022 | Larry's Observations

Photo by Gabriel Sanchez
In Hebrew, Tikkun Olam literally means world repair. It implies social action through social justice. It has been used to provide further protection for those potentially disadvantaged as in providing freedom from slavery.

In celebration of the holidays Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanza, I wish you well and a prosperous New Year. May your wildest dreams come true!

In this special edition of OBS Post, I want to tell you about a most fascinating Jewish tradition called Tikkun Olam. It simply means “repair of the world.” Tikkun Olam introduces the idea that Jews are summoned to make the world a better place, i.e., more just, more peaceful, more tolerant, and most importantly more equal. This is accomplished through actions of political activities, charity and especially kindness. These acts of kindness are implemented to repair this less than perfect world.

Obviously, Tikkun Olam, is not just a Jewish concept but it is a most worthy one every religion and ethnicity can put to good use. Tikkun Olam is more than just a concept to be whiled away on a backburner, it is an idea whose time has really come given the current state of the world. More than ever, we need Tikkun Olam to be the policy of all the peoples of earth. It can be extended out to insure there is a safeguard for all especially those disadvantaged. Sometimes, in these heavily political times, we all seem to be part of the disadvantaged. It is time to change that. If we were to apply Tikkun Olam to our lives, who knows what could happen.

Tikkun Olam is derived from classical rabbinic teachings codified circa 200 C.E (the Mishnah) with the purpose of developing character and wisdom through acts of kindness. It can also be found in the Lurianic Kabbalah.

In Hebrew, Tikkun Olam literally means world repair. It implies social action through social justice! It has been used to provide further protection for those potentially disadvantaged as in providing freedom from slavery. The earliest use of the concept is in the phrase mip’nei tikkun ha-olam, meaning “for the sake of repairing the world,” with the idea of keeping the society operational.

How cool is that? Now this is a concept, I can really get behind and use in my daily life. What say you?

Now, there is also a spiritual concept evolving behind all this that one cannot take for granted and I leave it to you to use as you see fit within your own spirituality. In the Lurianic teachings about creation, the divine light is encased in distinct vessels (kelim) a portion of which are smashed and dispersed. Most of the light comes back to the divine source but some stays attached to the busted ruins. These shards are evil and construct the physical universe. The encased sparks of light provide it with power. Thus, the repair that is required is to gather all the light by the souls through religious activities and separating what is holy from the material universe. That’s kinda cool and can surely be applied to more mundane pleasures like beating up bad guys. (Note: I don’t mean to diminish any religious connotations noted herein. It’s just me being irreverent as usual.) It is important, however, to consider the spiritual significance of Tikkun Olam! I think it provides a deeper stance and understanding of the term.

The world is broken in many ways, and it is up to us to fix it. That means you and me and other associated like-minded beings. It is up to us to fix the world and improve society. It is our responsibility to do so. It is our mitsvah!

And you know, it could be fun to do so. Let’s band together one meritorious or charitable act at a time (Mitsvah).

Happy Holidays my friends—may you reach out to your neighbors and friends and prosper from your relationships.

Lawrence George Jaffe

Lawrence George Jaffe

Lawrence George Jaffe is an internationally known and an award-winning writer, author, and poet. For his entire professional career, Jaffe has been using his art to promote human rights. He was the poet-in-residence at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, a featured poet in Chrysler’s Spirit in the Words poetry program, co-founder of Poets for Peace (now Poets without Borders) and helped spearhead the United Nations Dialogue among Civilizations through Poetry project which incorporated hundreds of readings in hundreds of cities globally using the aesthetic power of poetry to bring understanding to the world.


  1. Maren Arte

    Wonderful work Larry. Thank you for this reminder!!


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