There’s a teaching (Rav Avraham, son of Rav Eliyahu (the Vilna Gaon), commenting on the Introduction to the Tikkunei Zohar) that when Adam sinned, he diminished the world just a little, מעט (me-aht). One primary step in repairing the damage occurred when Moshe Rabbeinu revealed the light of the 49 Gates of Understanding,מ”ט שערי בינה (Mem-Tet shaarei Binah), through receiving Torah, as we will re-experience and celebrate next week on Shavuot. A little over a week ago, on Lag B’Omer, we celebrated both the birth and yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who took the next step when he revealed the Seventy Faces of Energetic Torah (אורייתא, Oreita, Aramaic for Torah, but emphasizing the light/energy, אור, Or, contained with in it), ע’ אנפין רזי דאורייתא, Ayin (the letter stand-in for 70) Anpin Razei D’Oreita through his masterwork, the Zohar.
Combining מ”ט (the 49 Gates) with ע (the 70 Faces), we re-create the word מעט, that “just a little” which was lost. Through Torah we have the potential to take the third step, completing the journey, to restore the world, true Tikkun Olam in the Jewish sense of the term, to where it was when it was on the verge of transformation into the eternal perfection of עולם הבא (Olam Ha’Ba), the World To Come.
Yes, it’s very important, and in many cases the actions and goals of incrementally improving our physical world, עולם הזה (Olam HaZeh), coincide with mitzvot from the Torah which aim at justice, compassion and responsible living. But without the enabling mechanism of Torah and Mitzvot, the highest these actions can aim is improvement of the physical/superficial. As Jews, utilizing our highest tradition and striving to inspire all mankind to aim for the very best rather than settling for the good-enough, we’re not satisfied. Not only do we want more, but we have true faith, אמונה (Emunah) (related to the word אמנות (Amanut), craft, which informs us that faith is a craft, i.e. a work-in-progress (in builds as we work on developing it)) that we human beings can achieve much more.
While Torah and Mitzvot are, whether one likes the fact or not, the gateway to this higher calling, that’s not to say that everyone must become (or strive to become) a Torah Scholar (although with no other human activity so self-validating and self-rewarding, I can’t imagine why one wouldn’t want to try) nor ultra-orthodox, seeking the most difficult path to fulfilling the commandments (it’s really not that hard nor inconvenient to at least begin to perform many of them). But the “inconvenient truth” is that for a Jew to truly engage in Tikkun Olam and not merely “social action” or “environmentalism”, admirable as those goals are, but rather to participate in preparing the world for its evolution to its highest possible state of perfection, we must constantly engage and re-engage with that “very little”, that מעט (me-aht), our holy Torah in all its depths and complexity, restoring that which needs to be restored as we prepare for the next step and humanity’s glorious destiny.