The phrase Tikkun Olam has become perhaps the central Jewish observance of those who have left other observance and mitzvot behind. To be sure, it’s a very important description of our work as humans, and more specifically as Jews, in this world.
It’s largely become defined as “social justice”, which itself is a very important, although difficult to define concept. Our Torah indeed teaches us the value of every single human being (often defined as corresponding to a universe!) and we also have traditions and halachot that lead to living in balance with the physical world, including the ecology of our planet.
We need to remember that an essential step in repairing and rectifying this world is the return of the B’nei Yisrael, the people of Israel, to Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. There is no Tikkun Olam without this.
The quote shown below is from The Jewish Herald of NYC,
August 1, 2003, page 10, article by Tom Tugend entitled:
With An Open Hand and sub-titled: “America’s Jews are among
the nation’s most generous philanthropists, yet traditional Jewish
causes receive only a tiny percentage of their largess.”
Both the “particularistic” and the “universalistic” approaches have their advocates.
Two of the most articulate spokesman on opposite sides are Dr. Jack Wertheimer (Conservative) and Rabbi Irwin Kula (Reform).
Wertheimer fears that if Jewish charitable giving keeps flowing predominately to universal causes, the richness of Jewish community life in America is on a downhill slope.
He assigns the blame to a number of factors, but aims his sharpest criticism at the current
“ideology of tikkun olam (repairing the world) — that all you need to be a good Jew is to be a good person. That perception is destructive of Jewish life, cohesiveness, and giving.”
Such an interpretation of tikkun olam, Wertheimer adds, is “a mid-20th century invention … and part of the universalizing concept developed by the Reform movement.”