Issue #5

  1. Introducing TIKKUN/REPAIR

  2. Sanctuary

  3. "Iron Dome Listicle"

  4. Patterns

  5. The Diaspora of Poland-Palestine

  6. "Operation" and "Price of Entry"

  7. Three States of Gender Alchemy

  8. The Octopus

  9. Among Refugees Generation Y

  10. Tikkun Olam, or "small-z Zionism"?

  11. 29 Texts on Tikkun Olam

  12. The Problematics of Return

  13. Reading Reparation

  14. Tikkun Olam Today

  15. Stories of Demolition

  16. Work and Worship

  17. "Hevron" and "Mishna Ketubot 4:4"

  18. The Sign Under Which They Fight

  19. Heat Signature

  20. Cultivating Jewish "Ecotheology"

  21. Entropical Futures

  22. A Problem

29 Texts on Tikkun Olam

Rabbi David Seidenberg

Tikkun olam, in the earliest texts, means establishing order and balance whether in Nature or Creation, as God does when balancing the forces of compassion and judgment, or in society, as the rabbis do when they amend the laws of the Torah. The social meaning of tikkun olam, which became primary, refers to acts that establish and repair or improve society (that is, the present world) in the course of our normal lives and institutions. An emergent meaning that has roots in the combining of these themes is that humanity is responsible for repairing the natural world that we have despoiled (see especially the text from Ecclesiastes Rabbah and the second quote from Rav Kook).

None of the earlier midrashim, nor the Mishnah, nor the two Talmuds, know the meaning of tikkun olam as something for which one strives in order to bring redemption, nor do they know the meaning of tikkun olam as the end of idolatry. These two motifs derive from the Aleinu prayer, which, though written in the 3rd century or earlier, probably did not use the term l’takein until around the end of the first millennium. However, once this word-change became accepted in the liturgy of almost every Jewish community, the concept of tikkun olam transformed to include those meanings as well.

Tikkun olam includes the many actions people take to help each other and to create a society. In the earliest texts of Jewish philosophical thought (also starting around the turn of the first millennium), tikkun olam explicitly includes concepts of justice and loving one’s neighbor. A messianic conception of social justice naturally flows out of the convergence of eschatological motifs derived from the Aleinu and ideas about sustaining and improving society found in the Mishnah and midrash.

The influence of humanism brought the integration of these concepts to its fullest fruition. A fairly complete expression of the idea that tikkun olam includes what we think of as social justice can already be found as early as 1797 in Pinchas Hurwitz’s Sefer Habrit. Full-throated expressions of messianic social justice appear in Zionist writing at least by 1859 (Natan Friedland, Kos Yeshu’ot), and this becomes a central motif in Palestine in the thought of Rav Avraham Yitzhak Kook and Rav Yehuda Ashlag. Youthful socialist pioneers in Palestine even aspired to be “m’taknei olam,” world-shapers and reformers.1  

Perhaps surprisingly, the idea that everyday ritual acts specifically bring about tikkun ha’olam is also somewhat newer, being developed furthest by Kabbalists like Moshe Chaim Luzzato (also 18th century), though this idea has roots in the Zohar’s interpretation of the sacrifices.2 The claim that the association of tikkun olam with the observance of traditional ritual mitzvot is ancient, while social justice tikkun olam is recent, is not supportable.

Historically the texts below go as far as pre-state Palestine. What happened in America after these texts is fairly straightforward: Mordecai Kaplan’s student—educator Alexander Dushkin—made tikkun olam (as activist world-repair) a central pillar in his design for Jewish educational programs in America in the 1940s, and the same principle was popularized by Shlomo Bardin through his Brandeis Camp Institute in the 1950s. Both Dushkin and Bardin were deeply involved in developing the Israeli educational system, so it was natural for them to bring this meaning from Zionist culture to America. The Reform movement ran with this idea to create what people call “tikkun olam” Judaism, inspired (at its best) by prophetic principles of justice. However, Mordecai Kaplan himself already pointed out in 1934 the dangers of separating tikkun olam from national identity and from other mitzvot like Shabbat or Torah study.

While it is clear that tikkun olam was connected to social justice long before its advent in North America, it also includes much more than social justice. Furthermore, tikkun olam does not equate with liberalism or any other single political ideology. In fact, a few of the actions designated as tikkun olam in the past are distinctly contrary to a liberal agenda (see the second quote from Rambam). Moreover, the enormous significance of tikkun olam in liberal Judaism blossomed after World War II and the Shoah, and the historical relation of this phenomenon as a response to the cataclysmic destruction of European Jewry has not been fully explored. (Tikkun olam’s theological relation to the Shoah, however, has been deeply explored in the work of authors such as Emil Fackenheim and Yitz Greenberg.)

Following these texts, I give a list of the many meanings and translations of tikkun and tikkun olam, and terms that are parallel to tikkun olam (I). I also discuss how the texts were selected and outline some other uses of the term tikkun that are not necessarily connected with tikkun ha’olam (II), and give a brief bibliography (III). It is important to acknowledge that because we are only looking at texts written before World War II (and the subsequent viral explosion of tikkun olam in America), none of the authors are women.

We live in a time where it is no longer possible to imagine the tikkun of the people of Israel apart from tikkun of the human species, or the tikkun of the human species apart from tikkun of the more-than-human world we call Nature. How this will affect the evolution of tikkun olam from this point on is something each reader of these texts can help decide. May this evolution bring us ever closer to true tikkun olam. Though the task is great, Rebbe Nachman urges us to persist, saying, “If you believe it is possible to ruin, believe it is possible to repair (l’takein).”

Mishnah Gitin 4:5, ~ 2nd cent.

משנה גיטין ד׳:ה׳

מִי שֶׁחֶצְיוֹ עֶבֶד וְחֶצְיוֹ בֶן חוֹרִין, עוֹבֵד אֶת רַבּוֹ יוֹם אֶחָד וְאֶת עַצְמוֹ יוֹם אֶחָד, דִּבְרֵי בֵית הִלֵּל. אָמְרוּ לָהֶם בֵּית שַׁמַּאי, תִּקַּנְתֶּם אֶת רַבּוֹ, וְאֶת עַצְמוֹ לֹא תִקַּנְתֶּם. לִשָּׂא שִׁפְחָה אִי אֶפְשָׁר, שֶׁכְּבָר חֶצְיוֹ בֶן חוֹרִין. בַּת חוֹרִין אִי אֶפְשָׁר, שֶׁכְּבָר חֶצְיוֹ עָבֶד. יִבָּטֵל, וַהֲלֹא לֹא נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם אֶלָּא לִפְרִיָּה וְלִרְבִיָּה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה מה) לֹא תֹהוּ בְרָאָהּ, לָשֶׁבֶת יְצָרָהּ. אֶלָּא מִפְּנֵי תִקּוּן הָעוֹלָם, כּוֹפִין אֶת רַבּוֹ וְעוֹשֶׂה אוֹתוֹ בֶן חוֹרִין, וְכוֹתֵב שְׁטָר עַל חֲצִי דָמָיו. וְחָזְרוּ בֵית הִלֵּל לְהוֹרוֹת כְּדִבְרֵי בֵית שַׁמָּאי

One who is half slave and half a free person, he serves his master one day and then himself one day — the words of Beit Hillel. Beit Shammai said to them: You set it right (tikantem) for his master, for himself you didn’t set it right. To marry a maidservant isn’t possible because half of him is free. [To marry] a free woman isn’t possible because half of him is still slave. —So [would you] cancel [his obligation to reproduce]! But isn’t it true that the world wasn’t created except for bearing fruit and reproducing – as it says, (Isaiah 45:18) “Not to be waste did God create her (the Earth); to be settled upon did God form her”! Rather, because of setting right3 the world (mip’nei tikkun ha-olam), they force his master, who [must] make him a free person and write a contract for [him to redeem the remaining] half of his value. And Beit Hillel turned to teach according to the words of Beit Shammai.

Aleinu prayer, originally from Rosh Hashanah Musaf, ~ 3rd cent.4

עלינו, סדור ומחזור ראש השנה, מלכויות

עָלֵינוּ לְשַׁבֵּחַ לַאֲדוֹן הַכֹּל…שֶׁלֹּא עָשָׂנוּ כְּגוֹיֵי הָאֲרָצוֹת…שֶׁהֵם מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לְהֶבֶל וָרִיק…וַאֲנַחְנוּ מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁהוּא נוֹטֶה שָׁמַיִם וְיֹסֵד אָרֶץ עַל כֵּן נְקַוֶּה לְּךָ יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ לִרְאוֹת מְהֵרָה בְּתִפְאֶֽרֶת עֻזֶּֽךָ, לְהַעֲבִיר גִּלּוּלִים מִן הָאָֽרֶץ וְהָאֱלִילִים כָּרוֹת יִכָּרֵתוּן, לְתַקֵּן עוֹלָם בְּמַלְכוּת שַׁדַּי. וְכָל בְּנֵי בָשָׂר יִקְרְאוּ בִשְׁמֶֽךָ, לְהַפְנוֹת אֵלֶֽיךָ כָּל רִשְׁעֵי אָֽרֶץ

It is on us to praise [the One]…for You didn’t make us like the nations of the Earth…for they pray to what is empty breath and emptiness… and we bow before the Sovereign of sovereigns, the Holy One, blessed be, who spread out heavens and founded an earth…therefore we hope for You, YHVH our God, to see quickly the manifest glory of Your strength, to cause the idols to pass away from the Earth and the unbreathing gods to be cut off, to establish a world under the reign of the Almighty/All-nourishing  (l’takein olam b’malkhut Shaddai), and all people of flesh will call on Your name, to cause all the wicked of the Earth to turn toward you.

Genesis Rabbah 4:6, ~ 4th cent.

בראשית רבה ד:ו

למה אין כתיב בשני כי טוב? רבי חנינא אומר: שבו נבראת מחלוקת, שנאמר: ויהי מבדיל בין מים למים. אמר רבי טביומי: אם מחלוקת שהיא לתקונו של עולם ולישובו אין בה כי טוב, מחלוקת שהיא לערבובו על אחת כמה וכמה

Why is it not written about the second day [of Creation], “for it is good”? Rav Chanina says: Because on [that day] division/argument was created, as it is said (Gen. 1:6): “Let there be a separation between waters (above) and waters (below).” Said Rav Tavyomo (Rabbi “Good Day”): If a division that was created for the sake of ordering the world and settling it (l’tikuno shel olam ul’yishuvo) doesn’t have an “it is good” in it, any division to disturb [the world], all the more so.

Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13, ~ 5th cent.

קהלת רבה ז:יג

רְאֵה אֶת מַעֲשֵׂה הָאֱלֹהִים כִּי מִי יוּכַל לְתַקֵּן אֵת אֲשֶׁר עִוְּתוֹ (קילת ז:יג)— בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, נְטָלוֹ וְהֶחֱזִירוֹ עַל כָּל אִילָנֵי גַּן עֵדֶן, וְאָמַר לוֹ, רְאֵה מַעֲשַׂי כַּמָּה נָאִים וּמְשֻׁבָּחִין הֵן, וְכָל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָאתִי בִּשְׁבִילְךָ בָּרָאתִי, תֵּן דַּעְתְּךָ שֶׁלֹא תְקַלְקֵל וְתַחֲרִיב אֶת עוֹלָמִי, שֶׁאִם קִלְקַלְתָּ אֵין מִי שֶׁיְתַקֵּן אַחֲרֶיךָ

“See the work of God—who can fix what he5 twisted?” (Eccl. 7:13) —In the time that the Holy One created the first human, He took him and brought him around all the trees of Gan Eden, and said to him: See My works, how lovely and praiseworthy they are, and all I created, for your sake I created [it]. Put your mind [to this], that you don’t ruin or destroy my world (olami), for if you bring ruin, there is no one who will set [the world] right (y’takein) after you.

R’ Bachya ibn Pakuda (1050-1120, Spain), Chovot Hal’vavot (Duties of the Heart) 8:3

ר’ בחיה אבן פקודה, חובות הלבבות ח:ג 

ועל המאמין לחשוב עם נפשו במה שהוא חייב לאלקים ית׳…אבאר מהם שלשים פנים… והשנים ועשרים, חשבונו עם נפשו על התערבו עם בני אדם בתקנת העולם מחרישה וקצירה ומקח וממכר והענינים שנעזרים בהם קצת בני אדם בקצתם על ישוב העולם שיאהב להם מה שיאהב לנפשו מהם וישנא להם מה שישנא לנפשו מהם ויחמול עליהם וידחה מהם כפי יכלתו מה שיזיקם כמו שכתוב (ויקרא יט) ואהבת לרעך כמוך…

[C]oncerning the one who believes in taking account with himself6 concerning what he is obligated [to do] for God blessed be…I will explain thirty ways [to do this]… And the twenty-second is: his account with himself concerning [how he] was involved with people in establishing the world (takanat ha’olam), from plowing and harvest [to] buying and selling and [such] matters through which some people are helped by some [others] in [the process of] settling the world (yishuv ha’olam) — [namely,] that he should love for them [to receive] what he would love for himself from them, and that he should hate for them what he would hate for himself from them, and should have compassion for them, and according to his ability [he should] push away from them whatever would harm them, as it’s written (Lev. 19:18), “And you will love your neighbor like yourself.”

Rambam (Maimonides, 1135-1204, Spain, Egypt), Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Sanhedrin 23:9

רמב״ם, משנה תורה, הלכות סנהדרין כג:ט

וְכָל דַּיָּן שֶׁדָּן דִּין אֱמֶת לַאֲמִתּוֹ אֲפִלּוּ שָׁעָה אַחַת כְּאִלּוּ תִּקֵּן אֶת כָּל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ וְגוֹרֵם לַשְּׁכִינָה שֶׁתִּשְׁרֶה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהילים פב:א) אֱלֹקים נִצָּב בַּעֲדַת אֵל

Every judge who judges truth unto its [deepest] truth, even for one hour, it’s as if he fixed the whole world entirely (tikein et kol ha’olam kulo) and caused the Shekhinah to rest upon Israel, as it is said (Ps. 82:1), “God stands in the council of the divine.”

Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M’lakhim 3:10

[רמב״ם, משנה תורה, הלכות מלכים ג:י [יא

כל הורגי נפשות שלא בראיה ברורה או בלי התראה אפילו בעד אחד…יש למלך רשות להרגו ולתקן העולם כפי שהשעה צריכה

Any who kill people without being clearly seen or without [being given] warning even with one witness…[since there isn’t enough evidence for them to be found guilty by a court,] the king has authority to execute them and to [thereby] fix the world (l’takein ha’olam), according to what the hour needs.

Sefer Hachinukh (13th cent., Spain), §232 (240)

(ספר החינוך, רל״ב (ר״מ

רל״ב: שלא להכשיל תם בדרך…שנאמר: ״וְלִפְנֵי עִוֵּר לֹא תִתֵּן מִכְשֹׁל״ (ויקרא יט:יד)… שורש המצוה ידוע, כי תיקון העולם ויישובו הוא להדריך בני אדם ולתת להם בכל מעשיהם עצה טובה… וכן מה שאמרו זכרונם לברכה (עבודה זרה טו, ב) שאסור למכור כל כלי מלחמה וכל דבר שיש בו נזק לרבים לגוים, אלא אם כן מוכרן כי היכי דמגנו עלן, וכן אסור למוכרו לישראל המוכרו לגוי, וכן לישראל ליסטים, ואסרו הכל משום ולפני עור.

Commandment #232: To not cause a naive/unaware person to stumble on the road — as it is said (Lev. 19:14), “And before a blind person don’t place a stumbling block”… The root of the mitzvah is known, for [the way of] setting right the world and settling it (tikkun ha’olam v’yishuvo) is to guide people and to give them in all their actions good advice… and so did [the sages] say (Talmud Avodah Zarah 15b), that it is forbidden to sell weapons (instruments of war) or anything that has in it [the capacity to] harm many to non-Jews, except if it is to sell them so that they can defend us, and so too is it forbidden to sell them to a Jew who sells to non-Jews, or to Jewish criminals, and all of it is forbidden because of the command “before a blind person [don’t place a stumbling block].”

Rabbenu Yonah Gerondi (1200-1263, Spain), commentary on Pirkei Avot 5:10

רבינו יונה גרונדי, פירוש על פרקי אבות ה:י

שלי שלך ושלך שלי עם הארץ. מפני שזה רוצה בתיקון העולם נקרא עם הארץ שרוצה ליקח וליתן כי בזה מתרבה האהבה ביניהם. ואף שהיא מדה טובה לתיקון העולם לא מחכמה היא זאת כי שונא מתנות יחיה והמדה הטובה ליתן ושלא ליקח

“[There are four types of people… The one who says,] ‘What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine’ [is] a ‘people of the land’ / am ha’aretz (= an ignorant peasant)” (Pirkei Avot 5:10) — Because this one wants the betterment of the world (tikkun ha’olam), he is called an am ha’aretz (= one who cares about the people), for he wants [people] to take and to give, because through this the love among them increases. And even though this is a good quality for organizing the world (tikkun ha’olam), it does not come from wisdom, for the one who hates gifts [and doesn’t accept them] is the one who will [truly] thrive, and the best type is [one who wants] to give and not to take.

Sefer HaZohar7 (13th cent., Spain), 1:38a

ספר הזוהר א:לח.

אמר רבי יצחק, כל דרין דאשתכללו משת, כלהו צדיקי וחסידי. לבתר אתפשטו ואולידו, ואוליפו אומנותא (וחכמתא) דעלמא לשצאה ברומחין וסייפין, עד דאתא נח ואתקין לון תקונא דעלמא, למפלח ולאתקנא ארעא, דהא בקדמיתא לא הוו זרעין וחצדין, לבתר אצטריכו להאי, דכתיב עוד כל ימי הארץ וגו׳ (בר׳ ח:כב). רבי אלעזר אמר, זמין קב״ה לתקנא עלמא, ולאתקנא רוחא בבני נשא בגין דיורכון יומין לעלמין— הדא הוא דיכתיב (ישעיה סה:כב) כי כימי העץ ימי עמי וגו׳

Said Rabbi Yitzhak: All the generations that developed from Seth (the third son of Adam and Eve), all of them were righteous and pious. Afterward they spread out and bore children, and they learned crafts and wisdom of the world, [how] to finish off [each other] with spears and knives, until Noah came and made for them a reparation of the world  (itkin lun tikuna d’alma /= tikkun ha’olam), to farm and to prepare the earth  (l’atkanah ar’ah), for in early times there was no sowing and reaping, [but] after they needed this, as it’s written (Gen. 8:22), “Unto all the days of the Earth [sowing and reaping and summer and winter…won’t stop].”8 Rabbi Elazar said: The Holy One prepares for fixing the world (l’takna alma), and repairing the spirit (l’atkana rucha)of humanity, so that they may extend [their] days forever—that is what’s written (Isaiah 65:22): “For as the days of the tree are the days of my people…”

Sefer HaZohar, 1:242a

ספר הזוהר א:רמד

אתערותא דקרבנא תקונא דעלמא, וברכאן דעלמין כלהו

[T]he awakening [caused by] sacrifices is restitution for the world (tikuna d’almaand blessing for all the worlds.

R’ Menachem ben Moshe Habavli (d.1571, Hevron, Eretz Yisrael), Sefer Ta’amei Mitzvot (Book of the Reasons for the Commandments)

ר’ מנחם בן משה הבבלי, ספר טעמי מצות

שלא להכשיל תם בעצה שאינה הגונה, שנאמר (ויקרא יט:יד) ולפני עור לא תתן מכשול. טעם מצוה זו, משום (שם יח) ואהבת לרעך כמוך, מאי דסאני לך לחברך כו׳ (שבת לא.), והוא תיקון עולם ויישובו.

One shouldn’t cause a naive person to falter through advice that isn’t sensible, as it says (Lev. 19:14), “before a blind person don’t put a stumbling block”. The reason for this mitzvah is “And you will love your neighbor like yourself” — what is hateful to you don’t do to your friend (Talmud Shabbat 31a), and this [brings about] repair of the world and its settlement (tikkun olam viy’shuvo).

R’ Menachem Azariah DeFano (1548-1620, Italy), Asarah Ma’amarot (Ten Utterances), 3:34

ר’ מנחם עזריה מפאנו, עשרה מאמרות, ג:לד

והאר״י זצ״ל דרש על קרח פסוק צדיק כתמר יפרח (תהלים צו:יג) שכן שמו רשם בסופי תיבות אלה ללמד שבסוף תקון עולם גם הוא יתקן

[T]he Ari (Isaac Luria) expounded the verse “A righteous person will flourish like a date palm, tzadik katamar yifrach” (Ps. 96:13) to be about Korach. For so is Korach’s name impressed in [the letters at] the end of these words (ק, ר, ח), to teach that at the end of world rectification (tikkun olam), even he will be fixed (y’takein).

R’ Shlomo Marini (d. 1670, Italy), Sefer Tikkun Olam (Repair of the World), on Isaiah 60:18

ר’ שלמה מריני,ספר תקון עולם, על ישעיה ס:יח

לא ישמע עוד חמס בארצך שד ושבר בגבוליך וקראת ישועה חומתיך ושעריך תהלה: יתוקנו תכונות האנשים וירדפו הצדק והיושר כל אנשי העיר אלו עם אלו וגם מחוצה לה יהיו בטוחים משוד ושבר באופן שישועת ה׳ ותיקון העולם

“No more will violence be heard in your land, destruction and shattering in your borders, and you will call salvation your walls, and your gates, praise.” (Isa. 60:18) The character of humanity will be repaired and all the people of the city will pursue justice and uprightness, these with those, and even [when they are] outside the city they will be secure from destruction and cataclysm, in the manner of God’s salvation and the world’s restoration  (tikkun ha’olam).

R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1746, Italy), Derekh Hashem (God’s Way) 2, “Israel and the Nations”

ר’ משה חיים לוצאטו, דרך ה׳, ח״ב, ישראל ואומות העולם

במעשיהם של ישראל תלה האדון ב״ה תיקון כל הבריאה ועילוייה…ושעבד כביכול את הנהגתו לפעלם להאיר ולהשפיע או ליסתר ולהתעלם ח״ו על פי מעשיהם.

Upon the actions of Israel did the Lord blessed be hang the restoration of all Creation (tikkun kol hab’riyah) and its elevation…and made God’s behavior consequent upon their work to shine and to make [blessing] flow, or to close off and to be hidden, God forbid, according to their actions.

R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Da’at T’vunot (Knowing Understanding) 225

ר’ משה חיים לוצאטו, דעת תבונות רכ״ה

האדם המצווה יש כח בידו, מסור ממנו ית׳, שיתקן במעשיו התיקונים המצטרכים בבריאה, מה שאינו כן שאינו מצווה. וראיה לדבר הכהונה, שהכהן העובד מתקן כל העולם, וזר שעבד חילל, וחייב מיתה

The person who is commanded (by Torah/God) has power in his hand, given from the One who is blessed, that he may repair with his actions the repairs needed by Creation, which is not the case for one who is not commanded. And the proof of the matter is the priesthood, for the priest (kohen) doing service is repairing the whole world (m’takein kol ha’olam), and (yet) the stranger who does service profanes, and is subject to death.

R’ Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810, Ukraine), Likutei Moharan (Collected Teachings of Rebbe Nachman), 1:5

ר׳ נחמן מברסלב, ליקוטי מוהר״ן א:ה

נמצא, כשהעולם נברא בשבילי, צריך אני לראות ולעיין בכל עת בתיקון העולם ולמלאות חסרון העולם ולהתפלל בעבורם

One finds, since the world is created for my sake, I need to see and look in every moment into repairing the world (b’tikkun ha’olam), and to replenish what the world lacks, and to pray on their behalf.

R’ Pinchas Hurwitz (1765-1821, Lithuania, Holland), Sefer Habrit9 (The Book of the Covenant, 1797), “On Loving Neighbors”, ch. 1

ר’ פנחס הורוויץ, ספר הברית, מאמר אהבת רעים, פ׳ א

מהות אהבת רעים הוא שיהיה האדם אוהב כל מין האנושי יהיה מאיזה עם שיהיה ויהיה מאיזה לשון שיהיה בעבור אדם בדמותו ובצלמו כמוהו ועוסק בישובו של עולם או בונה או חורש או זורע או סוחר או מוכר או איזה בעל מלאכה או חושב בחכמות ותחבולות יקנה לצרכי העולם וחושב מחשבות לבלתי ידח דבר מצרכי הבריות והוא מכין תבל בחכמתו ואזן וחקר ותקן כלים נפלאים ברעיון לבו שהוא עמל כי על ידי אלה הדברים העולם עומד כתקונו ומתקיים בשלמותו ונמצאים כל הדברים אשר ברא א״להים לעשות ואשר עשה…והנה טוב מאד לכל אדם

The essence of loving neighbors is that a person would love all members of the human species, from whatever people they are from and from whatever language they speak, for each is a person in [God’s] image and in [God’s] likeness like him/herself, and engaged in settling the world or building or plowing or sowing or distributing or selling or whatever kind of craftsperson, or one who figures out how to attain the needs of the world with wise designs and inventions…for by means of these things the world is established according to its proper arrangement (ha’olam omeid k’tikuno) and is sustained in its wholeness (umitkayeim bishleimuto), and all things [come to] exist “which God created to do” (Gen. 2:3), and which he has done, and “behold it is very good” (Gen. 1:31) for all humanity.

R’ Pinchas Hurwitz, Sefer Habrit, “On Loving Neighbors”, ch. 19

ר’ פנחס הורוויץ, ספר הברית, מאמר אהבת רעים, פ׳ י״ט

נאמר שאחר העיון האמיתי הנדבות שבגוף יותר מפואר ויותר משובח מהנדבות שבכיס… ואמנם לא בעבור שזה המין יותר מפואר יעזב איש המין הב׳, כי באמת המין הב׳ יותר נצרך לתקנת הקהלת של מין האנושי. ויותר טוב בעיני א״להים ואדם להעניק לאביון מברכת ביתו להונן דלים מממונו, להתיר אסורים ונתון פדיון נפשם ולא יחוש את כסף הפדוים, לחמו לרעב יתן וערום יכסה בגד כסף ילוה את עני וכדומה לזה. ועקר תשלום חובת אהבת רעים הוא במין השני הזה אף כי שניהם כאחד טובים לתקנת העולם ולתועלת התחברות מין האדם

It is said after deep inspection [that] the way of giving through [using one’s] body is more glorious and praiseworthy than giving through the pocketbook… However, just because this type [of giving] is more glorious, a person should not abandon the second type [of giving], for truly the second type is more needed for repairing the community of humanity (l’takanat kahalat min ha’enoshi). And it’s better in the eyes of God and humanity to furnish the poor from the blessings of one’s house, to supply the poor from one’s own money and to free the captives and give ransom for their lives and not feel [the loss of] the ransom money, to give one’s bread to the hungry and to cover the naked with clothing, to loan money to the poor, and things like this. And the essence of fulfilling the obligation of loving one’s neighbor is of this second type, even though “both of them as one are good” (Eccl. 11:6) for the fixing of the world (l’takanat ha-olam), and for the value of joining together the human species…

ועתה נחקורה כמה מעלות יש בשלש אלה מיני ההטבה. ונאמר שבכל אחת מאלה יש שלשה מעלות טובות זו על זו ואלו הן: (א׳) שעוזר ליחיד… (ב׳) שעושה כזאת לרבים כגון שלא היה בעיר אמת מים…והוא בכחו חפר להם באר… (ג׳) שמטיב לכל אנשי העולם כגון שעשה בגופו וכחו גשר על הדרך אשר רבים עוברים שמה מקצות הארץ אלה מפה ואלה מפה, או שהוא היה השוכר את הפועלים לעשות הגשר ושילם מכיסו, או שברוב שכלו המציא איזה כלי חדש הטוב לכל העולם כנח שהמציא כלי המחרישה בעולם וכדומה שאר כלים המשלימים תיקון העולם וטובו

And now let us explore how many levels there are in these three kinds of doing good [through ideas, through one’s body, and through property], and they are: 1) that one should help a single person… 2) that one should do this for many, for example if there were a town without a source of water… and one dug with one’s strength a well for them… 3) that one does good for all the people in the world, for example, one used one’s body and one’s strength to make a bridge for a road that many pass through…or that one would hire workers to make the bridge and pay them from one’s pocket, or through the power of one’s intellect invent some new tool that is good for the whole world, like Noah invented plowing tools in the world, and similarly any tools that complete the establishment of the world  (hamashlimim tikkun ha’olam)and its well-being…

ומי שהטיב לכל אנשי העולם כגון שהמציא כלי חדש הטוב לעול׳ או ספר טוב ראוי לכל משכיל על דבר אהבת רעים לכל הפחות שיקנה אותו כדי שירויח ויאמץ האיש את לבבו עי״ז להמציא עוד כלים טובים בעולם, וכן שאר כל חכמי לב יתאמצו וישתדלו ג״כ להמציא דברים טובים וכלים נצרכים לתקנת העולם ולהשלמתו.

And one who does good for the people of the world, such as one who invents a new tool that is good for the world, or a good book, it is appropriate for someone who is enlightened on the subject of loving neighbors that at the least he would buy it in order that [the inventor or author] would expand and strengthen his heart by means of this to invent more good tools for the world, and so for the rest of all those who are wise of heart, that they should strengthen themselves and strive also to invent good things and necessary tools for the improvement of the world and its completion (l’takanat ha’olam ul’hashlamato).

R’ Pinchas ben David Soshis (1770-1841), Pardes Hamelekh (The King’s Orchard), 107b

ר’ פנחס בן דוד, פרדס המלך, קז

…תכלית הבריאה היה בעבור האדם להיות בחיריי להיות לו שכר ועונש. והשכר והעונש אינו מצד ה״בה (הקדוש ברוך הוא) בהיות לו ח״ו תועלת והיזיק במעשה אדם… אלא הוא מצד תיקון העולם ויישובו כי הצדיקים מתקנים העולם במעשיהם והרשעים מאבדים אותו להחזירו לתוהו ובוהו ולמעט השפע.

The purpose of Creation was for the sake of the human being to have free choice in order for him to be punished or rewarded. And the reward and the punishment is not from the perspective of the Holy One, God forbid, that there would be some benefit or harm to God from the actions of a person … rather it is from the perspective of fixing the world and settling it (tikkun ha’olam viy’shuvo), for the righteous are restoring the world (m’taknim ha’olam) through their actions, and the wicked are destroying it and turning it back into chaos and void, and limiting the divine flow [of abundance].

R’ Natan Friedland10 (1808-1883, Breslau), Kos Yeshu’ot (The Cup of Salvation, Amsterdam 1859), 13a

ר’ נתן בן יוסף פרידלאנד, כוס ישועות, דרוש הדין י״ד,  יג

כה אמר ה׳ צבאות צום…יהי׳ לבית יהודא לששון ולשמחה…והאמת והשלום אהבו (זכ׳ ח:ט), כי הימים האלה היתה התחלה להצרות והגלות. ויתוקן הכל ויהפך הימים לששון ושמחה אך אם אשר תעשו זאת ״והאמת והשלום אהבו״… כל זה תגרום האמת והשלום אשר בישראל כי מן החיוב שיתנהגו באמת ושלום עם כל אדם בעולם

“Thus said YHVH of hosts, the [fast days] will become for the house of Judah joy and gladness…and you, love Truth and Peace” (Zech. 8:19)—for these days were the beginning for the troubles and the exile. And all will be fixed  (y’tukan)and the days will be turned into joy and gladness, only if you will do this, “love truth and peace”… All this will Truth and Peace bring about in Israel, because of [Israel fulfilling] the obligation that they conduct themselves in truth and peace with every person in the world…

וכן נמצא מפורש בתנא דבי אליהו (פ׳ ט״ו) שאמר אליהו הנביא לאיש יהודי אחד, שמכר לגוי ארבעה כור תמרים ומדד לו בבית אפל רק המחצה ונתן לו, ואמר לו אליהו: בני, כתיב לא תעשוק את רעך רעך הרי הוא כאחיך ואחיך הרי הוא כריעך…

And so one finds explained in Tana DeVei Eliyahu (ch.15), that Eliyahu the prophet said [this] to one Jewish man, who sold four kor of dates (= 6 bushels) to a non-Jew and measured out for him in a dark place only half and gave it to him, and Eliyahu said to him, My son, it’s written, “Don’t oppress your neighbor.” Behold your neighbor (non-Jew) is like your brother (Jew), and your brother is like your neighbor…

וריע נקרא המתחבר אחך בקריבות הדעת ובמדות האנושיות, יהיה מי שיהיה—רק שיהיה בכלל אוהבי־אדם וישרי־לב עושים משפט לעשוקים ועוסקים בישובה של עולם לזה אתה מוזהר מן התורה על אהבתו והוא רעך כמוך, שגם אתה נוהג במדות המעולות הללו

And neighbor is what the [person] who joins himself [with you] is called, your brother in nearness of spirit/consciousness and in humanistic values, who will be whomever he will be (from whatever race or tribe or country or religion)—[the] only [qualification is] that he should be in the category of lovers of humanity and the upright of heart, doing justice for the oppressed and engaging in the settling of the world (yishuvah shel olam). For this you were warned by the Torah concerning loving him, and he is your neighbor like yourself, and you also [must] conduct [yourself] with these exalted qualities.

ועי״ז ישיגו כל העולם את האמת, כי השלום יביא את האמת, ויעמדו על האמת לבסוף, ויתוקן העולם בכללה לעבדו שכם אחד את ד׳ א״להי האמת ואז יקוים מה שאמר המשורר (תהלים קמ״ח) הללו את ה׳ מן הארץ וכו׳ מלכי ארץ וכל לאומים שרים וכל שופטי ארץ וכו׳ יהללו את שם ה׳ כי נשגב שמו לבדו ולא שם אחרים.

And by means of this all the world will reach the truth, for peace brings truth, and they will stand upon truth in the end, and the world will be prepared in its entirety (y’tukan ha’olam bikh’lalah) to serve [as with] a single shoulder YHVH the God of truth, and thus will be established what the singer said (Ps. 148:7-13): “Praise YHVH from the earth… kings of the earth and all the nations, nobles and all earth’s judges… Praise the name of YHVH, for the name alone is exalted”, and not the name of others.

ועל אותו העת אמר דוד ועתה מלכים השכילו הוסרו שופטי ארץ (תה׳ ב:י) – הכוונה השופטים יקבלו מוסר מן העולם וישכילו איך לעשות צדק בעמם ומשפט בגוים וזהו הסדר הנאות אל תיקון העולם היינו בתחלה אהבת ריעות ושלום ומזה יבוא אל האמת ומזה יבוא אל משפט צדק כי השופטים ימצאו עולם מתוקן ולפי העולם ככה יהיו המשפטים.

And concerning that same time David said, “And now kings will become enlightened and judges of the earth be instructed” (Ps. 2:10)—the intent is that the judges will receive moral instruction (musar) from the world and they will become enlightened [as to] how to do righteousness for their people and justice for the nations. And this is the proper/pleasing order for [reaching] the redemption of the world (tikkun ha’olam), which is this: in the beginning, love of neighbor and peace, and from this one will come unto the truth, and from this one will come unto righteous justice, for the judges will find a world mended (olam m’tukan), and according to [the nature of] the world, so will be the laws.

R’ Chaim Yudah Leib Litvin (1840-1903, Ukraine, Lubavitcher), Sha’arei Dei’ah (Lemberg, 1878), §57, 27a

ר’ חיים יודה לייב ליטווין, שערי דעה ס׳ נז, טז

וכדאשכחן לענין צדקה סלע זו לצדקה על מנת שיחיה בני הרי זה צדיק גמור…אף על גב דבעלמא בכהאי גוונא עובר על לא תעשה דלא תנסין את ד׳… דמשום תקנות עניים לא הקפידה התורה על הכונה בזה… והכי נמי בכל מצות שבין אדם לחבירו שעיקרן מפני תקנות העולם ורצה יתברך להטיב בזה לבריותיו לא אכפת לן בהכונה כלל

We find in the matter of charity/tzedakah [that if one says,] “This sela coin is for tzedakah on the condition that my son will live,” behold this [person can still be considered] a completely righteous person (tzadik gamor)— …even though in general, [acting] in this manner would transgress a prohibition, that you shouldn’t test YHVH… because [in order to strengthen] enactments (takanot) [on behalf] of the poor, the Torah is not meticulous about the intention with [respect to tzedakah], and this is also [true] for all the commandments between a person and their fellow human being, for their essence is because of setting aright the world (mipnei takanot ha’olam). And [since] the Blessed One wants through this to benefit His creatures, we are not concerned with intention at all…

R’ Ben Zion Eisenstadt (1873-1951, New York), Or Lifnei Hadorshin (Light before Seekers, 1916), 10

ר’ בן־ציון אייזענשטאדט, אור לפני הדורשין, י׳

ישב יצחק ויחפר את־בארת המים (אשר חפרו בימי אברהם אביו) ויסתמום פלשתים (בר׳ כו:יח): יצחק חופר וממציא, מתקן עולם, משתדל בקיומו, והפלשתים סותמים את הבארות, משתדלים בחרבנו של העולם ובהפסדו

“Isaac returned and dug the wells of water…and the Philistines had stopped them up” (Gen. 26:18): Isaac digs and brings forth (invents/develops), improves the world (m’takein olam), and the Philistines stop up the wells, strive for the destruction of the world and its depletion.

R’ Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook11 (1865-1935, Jerusalem), Orot Hakodesh, (Lights of Holiness), v.3, 180

ר’ אברהם יצחק הכהן קוק, אורות הקודש, חלק ג, עמ׳ קפ

כל מחשבה שהיא מפקרת את תיקון העולם וסדרי המדינות ופורחת באוויר רוחני לבדה, ומתפארת בתיקון נשמות והצלחתן, הרי היא מיוסדת בשקר שאין לו רגלים

Any idea that abandons restoration of the world and the ordering of States / tikkun ha’olam v’sidrei ham’dinot, and floats in the spiritual air alone, and takes glory in [the power of] fixing souls and their success [only], is founded upon a lie that has no legs [to stand on].

R’ Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook, Orot Hatechiyah, (Lights of Resurrection), ch.28, 77

(ר’ קוק, אורות, אורות התחיה פ׳ כח, עמ׳ עז (וגם שמונה קבצים ב׳ שכו-שכז

הקדושה שבטבע היא קדושת ארץ ישראל, והשכינה שירדה בגלות עם ישראל הוא הכשרון להעמיד קדושה בנגוד לטבע. אבל הקדושה הלוחמת נגד הטבע אינה קדושה שלמה, צריכה היא להיות בלועה בתמציתה העליונה בקדושה העליונה, שהיא הקדושה שבטבע עצמה, שהוא יסוד תקון עולם כולו וביסומו הגמור, והקודש שבגולה יחובר אל קודש הארץ… אז המלחמה חודלת לגמרי, מדת הדין מתבסמת, והכל נוטה כלפי חסד

The holiness that is in Nature is the holiness of the Land of Israel, [while] the Shekhinah that descended into exile with [the people] Israel [has] the capability of preserving holiness [even] in opposition to what is natural. But holiness battling against Nature is not holiness [that is] whole — it needs to be absorbed into its highest essence, in supernal holiness, which is the very holiness of Nature herself, which is the foundation of repairing the world in its entirety (tikkun olam kulo) and its complete rapture, and [then] the Holy in the exile will be joined to the Holy of the Land… Then war will stop completely, the attribute of judgment will be enraptured, and all will incline toward lovingkindness.

R’ Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook, Olat Ra’ayah, (Offering of Vision) 1, 386

(ר’ קוק, עולת ראיה, חלק א׳, עמ׳ שפו (וגם נמצא בעין איה על ברכות ט, רצ

התכלית הלאומית של ישראל…מצוינת בתקותה לעצמה לא בשביל עצמה, כי אם בשביל הטוב הכללי שהוא חן השכל הטוב, המוסר והיושר האמיתי, שאי-אפשר שיבנה כי אם על ידי תיקון עולם במלכות שדי…אמנם כל העמים, לכל אחד מהם יש מטרה ותעודה המצטרפת בתור מקצע מיוחד הנצרך לתיקון העולם… אמנם הדבר המיוחד בחכמת ישראל, חכמת התורה, הוא להשכיל איך כל עבודת העמים כולם בשדי החכמה מתכנסת למקום אחד לדעת ד׳, ולישר דרכים במעגלי צדק כלליים, שגורמים להביא שלום בעולם

The national purpose of Israel…is distinguished by its hope for itself not being for the sake of itself—rather, it’s for the sake of the general enlightened good, which is the goodness of morality and true uprightness, which is impossible to build except through establishment of a world under the reign of the Almighty/All-nourishing (tikkun olam b’malkhut Shaddai)… However, all the nations, for each one of them there is a purpose and aim that joins itself [to this purpose] as a unique expertise that is needed for repair of the world (l’tikkun ha’olam)However, the unique thing about the wisdom of Israel, the wisdom of the Torah, is that it brings enlightenment [about] how all the work of the peoples in the fields of wisdom converges to one place, to knowing God, and to making straight paths through the general tracks of righteousness, which will cause peace to come into the world…

R’ Yehuda Ashlag12 (1885-1954, Jerusalem), “Building the Future Society”

ר’ יהודה אשלג, בנין החברה העתידית

אין לתקן את העולם בעניני הדת מטרם שמבטיחים לעולם את התיקון הכלכלי.

It is not possible to repair the world (l’takein et ha’olam) in religious matters before securing for the world economic reparation (hatikkun hakalkali).

R’ Yehuda Ashlag, “Peace in the World”

ר’ יהודה אשלג, השלום בעולם

כל דבר שישנו במציאות, הן טוב והן רע, ואפילו היותר רע ומזיק שבעולם, יש לו זכות קיום, ואסור להשחיתו ולבערו כליל מן העולם — אלא שמוטל עלינו רק לתקנו, ולהביאו למוטב 

Everything there is in reality, whether good or bad, and even the most evil and harmful in the world, has a right/merit of existing, and it’s forbidden to destroy and eradicate it from the world completely. Rather, what is laid upon us is only to mend it (l’takno) and bring it to [the side of] goodness…

ומכאן המפתח להבנת החולשה של מתקני עולם שקמו בדורותיהם. כי הם ראו את האדם בדמות מכונה שאינה פועלת כראוי, וצריכה תיקון. דהיינו, להסיר ממנה את החלקים המקולקלים, ולהחליפם באחרים מתוקנים. כי כן כל מגמתם של מתקני עולם הללו לבער כל רע וכל מזיק שבמין האדם — ואמת היא שלולא הבורא ית׳ עמד לנגדם, ודאי שהיו כבר מספיקים מזמן לנפות את האדם כבכברה, ולהותיר בו רק טוב ומועיל בלבד. אלא, מתוך שהבורא ית׳ שומר על כל הפרטים שבבריאה שלו בהקפדה יתרה… אינו מרשה למישהו להשחית שום דבר שברשותו – אלא רק להחזירו ולהפכו למוטב בלבד

And this is the key to an understanding of the incapacity of [so-called] world-reformers (m’taknei olam) that arose through the generations. For they saw a human being in the image of a machine that is not working properly and needs repair (tikkun). This means, to remove the corrupted parts and replace them with others that are fixed (m’tukanim). And that is the whole tendency of these world-reformers – to eradicate anything bad and harmful in the human species – and the truth is were it not that the Creator was standing against them, they would certainly have already had enough time to sift humanity like a sieve, and to leave only [what is] good and useful. But because the Creator watches over all the elements in [the divine] Creation with such great care… no allowance is made for anyone to destroy a single thing in [God’s] Domain—but only to turn it and transform it to be good…

R’ Yehuda Ashlag, “Peace in the World” (cont’d)

ר’ יהודה אשלג, השלום בעולם

הרי שמדות טובות ומדות רעות, מעשים טובים ומעשים רעים, נערכים רק כלפי טובת הציבור…והאמור עד כה אינו אלא להראות את נקודת התורפה, כלומר, המקום התובע את תיקונו, והוא שכל יחיד יבין שטובתו וטובת הציבור אחד הוא ובזה יבוא העולם על תיקונו המלא

Indeed, good attributes and bad attributes, good deeds and bad deeds, are valued only according to the good of the community… And what has been spoken about up to here is only to show the point of weakness, that is, the place requiring correction (tikuno), and [the correction] is that each individual would understand that his own good and the good of the community are one, and through this the world will come to its full correction (yavo ha’olam al tikuno hamalei).

Appendices

I.

There are many meanings and possible translations for tikkun olam and for the term tikkun in its own. Here is a listing of many of those meanings and translations, as well as synonyms.

II.

How were the texts selected? Most of these texts were selected from a collection of several hundred that I gathered to see how far back one could trace the idea that tikkun olam signifies social justice. I also supplemented those texts here with a handful of other texts that represent different streams in the evolution of tikkun ha’olam. Where a stream of meaning is quite well-known, or where the understanding is relatively static, fewer examples are given. For example, I only included one case from the larger set of rabbinic rulings that are explained as being “mip’nei tikkun ha’olam / because of tikkun ha’olam. Those rulings include laws related to gitin (divorce), pidyon shvuyim (freeing captives), freeing the half-slave (the case included), fair pricing, prozbul (a mechanism for allowing loans to outlast the sabbatical year cycle), returning a lost object, et cetera. There are also many thousands of examples in the halakhic literature where the phrase mip’nei tikkun ha’alom is cited as part of the discussion of these laws, but only rarely do these texts tell us anything about the meaning of the term tikkun olam or its evolution. What is left out? In general, if olam or ha’olam does not modify tikkun, then that use of tikkun should not be counted as related to tikkun olam (unless it influences later authors writing about tikkun olam, or is a term used as a synonym for tikkun olam by that author, like takanat ha’olam). One of the confusions in many studies on the history of tikkun olam has been that texts about other types of tikkun were incorporated as evidence. Here are some examples of the many other uses and valences of tikkun that do not refer to the world as a whole: tikkun hanefesh (repairing the soul), tikkun hamidot (character improvement), the tikkun of tefilah (prayer) or of a particular prayer service (which means the institution of a prayer or liturgical recitation), of korbanot (sacrifices), avodah (labor), t’shuvah (repentance), et cetera. In particular, there is a multitude of kabbalistic uses for the term tikkun. One may find authors who draw connections between these activities or goals and tikkun olam, but they are not equated with each other. A few examples of this are found in the texts above. Despite the fact that tikkun is such a central concept in Lurianic Kabbalah, only a very small number of texts in Lurianic works deal with tikkun ha’olam or the tikkun of Creation as a whole. Lurianic Kabbalah is therefore not very influential in the evolution of the idea of tikkun olam until later authors like Moshe Chaim Luzzatto use the term tikkun olam in the messianic sense of redemption for this world. More often, Kabbalah talks about the tikkun of one particular world among the many worlds and levels that are believed to exist (for example, tikkun olam ha’atzilut, repairing the first world of Emanation; or tikkun haShekhinah, restoring the divine presence). Other unrelated uses of tikkun in Kabbalah also include discussion of tikunim (ritual or liturgical practices; also, material from the book Tikunei Zohar), or olam hatikkun (the repaired/redeemed world, which is contrasted in Lurianic Kabbalah with olam hatohu, this world of chaos).

III. 

Here is a brief bibliography drawn from literally dozens of articles and works on tikkun olam and its evolution and meaning—the vast majority of other articles are referenced in one or more of these resources. Whichever articles you read, you will notice that there are texts included above that contradict one or more of their conclusions. Adena Berkowitz, “Tikkun Olam as Text and Context,” in Tikkun Olam: Judaism, Humanism & Transcendence, edited by David Birnbaum and Martin Cohen (Mesorah Matrix, 2014), 453–474. This whole book is online at www.mesorahmatrix.com/tikkun-olam/. Lawrence Fine, “Tikkun: A Lurianic Motif in Contemporary Jewish Thought,” in From Ancient Israel to Modern Judaism IV (1989) 35–53. Fine’s work was the first effort to identify some of the sources of tikkun olam in America, and the first to focus on the question of Lurianic influence on the contemporary concept of tikkun olam. Mitchell First, “Aleinu: Obligation to Fix the World or the Text?” in Hakirah 11 (2011) 187–197, online at www.hakirah.org/vol%2011%20first.pdf. First marshalled evidence that לתקן may have appeared in the Aleinu prayer only after the classical period of rabbinic literature. Jill Jacobs, “A History of Tikkun Olam,” in Zeek (June 2007), online at www.zeek.net/706tohu. Jacobs’ work starts from the periodization of four completely different meanings of tikkun olam accepted by most scholars (Mishnah, Aleinu, Luria, liberal Judaism), and suggests a way to integrate them. Jonathan Krasner, “The Place of Tikkun Olam in American Jewish Life,” (Jewish Center for Public Affairs, Nov. 1, 2014), online at http://jcpa.org/article/place-tikkun-olam-american-jewish-life1/. Krasner is one of the few to identify Rav Kook and Zionist thought as an important source for tikkun olam. (See also Aubrey Glazer in Tikkun Olam: Judaism, Humanism & Transcendence.) Jonathan Sacks, To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility (Random House, 2005). Sacks was the chief rabbi of Great Britain from 1991 to 2013.

  1. Interestingly, there were those who critiqued the idea of being a m’taknei olam since the late 1800s both in Europe and Palestine—some because it was used by socialists who did not root their ideology in Torah, and some because it was not focused enough on the political practicalities of building a state. (See Yehuda Ashlag, second quote.)
  2. In earlier texts, mitzvot are done for the tikkun of divine worlds, tzorekh gavoha. See, for example, terms like tikkun hakavod or hatikkun ha’elyon (unifying/rectifying the divine presence/upper realm) in Meir ibn Gabbai, Avodat Hakodesh 18.
  3. The word tikkun has been translated in different ways throughout – see note (2).
  4.  Tradition attributes Aleinu to Joshua, while most scholars consider Rav (3rd cent. Babylon) as its author or compiler. Note: the original wording of Aleinu might have been לתכן עולם במלכות שד״י – if so, the standard wording of לתקן עולם might date as late as 1000 CE or later. If so, then its chronological place as a tikkun olam text would be after the midrash texts that follow.
  5. In the verse “He” refers to God, but the midrash interprets it as referring to Adam, who is “the work of God”.
  6. At the request of Protocols, pronouns referring to every human that are in the masculine are kept so in the translation.
  7. Whether the Zohar arises out of more ancient sources was once hotly debated among scholars, and tradition associates the Zohar with the 2nd century sage Shimon bar Yochai. Generally, scholars presume the Zohar to be authored by Moshe deLeon or those of his circle. Regardless of its author or authors, its historical impact on Jewish thought begins in the 13th cent.
  8. The idea that Noah invented the tools of agriculture is found in Midrash Tanchuma (B’reishit 11).
  9. Sefer Habrit was one of the most important and widely read books ever published in the modern period among religious Jews.
  10. Friedland was a co-founder of Hibat Zion, one of the earliest religious Zionist organizations.
  11. Rav Kook was the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Palestine from 1921-1935.
  12. Rav Ashlag is known as Ba’al Hasulam, after the title of his complete translation and commentary on the Zohar.

Rabbi David Seidenberg is the creator of neohasid.org and the author of Kabbalah and Ecology: God’s Image in the More-Than-Human World. For a Shavuot tikkun preparation of these texts and much more (including a source sheet related to tikkun olam, which includes every verse in Tanakh about neighbor and stranger), go to neohasid.org.