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Tikkun Olam

Posted by RickH · January 1st, 2009 · 3 Comments

I’m not sure why I’ve called this post Tikkun Olam, since many of the references in it are actually to the Christian Bible. Perhaps it’s because although the references are taken from the Christian Bible, the concepts about which I write — particularly that of making the world a better place, of healing the world — seem to me so foreign to what I see in the Christians amongst whom I live.

I’m also not sure why — maybe it’s because of the new year, turning my mind to new starts and new opportunities — but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the kind of world we’re creating. I got a huge push in that direction the other day from a client who was doing pretty well on probation…until his mother told him she was sorry he was born, that he was a mistake. And he decided to show her just how bad he could be. He’s a really good kid at heart. Just lost. No, not lost: thrown away. *sigh*…

Last night, on one of my law blogs, I wrote about “Building a Nastier World Through Law.”

This commentary from Keith Olbermann could have used the same title.


What is it about us — especially, it seems, the most religious amongst us — that drives us to make the world such an ugly place? You want to turn people towards your version of “G-d” instead of away from any version of “G-d”? Try modeling your deity’s behavior, rather than trying to play the role which — by most accounts in most religious writings — has been reserved to your diety alone.

A “light shining on a hill” does nothing more than illuminate. It does not attack. It does not control. The light itself is just what it is: a light.

Whenever a human being performs an act of integrity, honesty, kindness, compassion, or self-sacrifice, he is revealing godliness in the world. “Kiddush Hashem” literally means “sanctifying the Divine Name.” …

Conversely, whenever a human being performs an act of meanness, cruelty, avarice, dishonesty, or selfishness, he is hiding God’s presence in this world. “Hillul” comes from the Hebrew word for “empty space”; a Hillul Hashem makes the world seem empty of God.

Every action is a stone thrown into an infinite pond; the ripples it causes go out in ever greater circles, endlessly. (Sara Yoheved Rigler, “Now You See G-d, Now You Don’t: Unmasking the Divine on Purim” (February 29, 2004) Aish.com.)

Do those of you who work so hard to enforce your vision of what the world should be upon others think you convince them by your methods? If you tell your children you think they were mistakes and you wished they’d never been born, do you think this inspires them to a higher level? If you strip others of their unalienable rights — let’s even put it in your terms: their G-D-GIVEN rights — to freedom of choice, to live the way they choose, to exercise free will — do you think you turn them towards your deity, or compel them in the other direction?

Let’s see if we can’t do our part to heal the world — at least a little bit — this year.

Categories: Balaam's Ass · Social Issues

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Walter Reaves // Jan 1, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Nice and timely post since we are starting a new year, and everyone seems to making a resolution.

    We can all take the advice of St. Thomas Aguinas (I think it was him) – Preach the gospel always. When necessary, use words.

    Walter Reavess last blog post..It’s a new year – how do you feel?

  • 2 Unbearable Lightness // Jan 2, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    I have always thought that, if Christians followed the teachings of the Jesus they say they follow, it would be a wonderful world. But religions are constructed for and by humans who have political missions of some sort or another. If they were truly about the divine, religions would not persecute and punish and justify self-righteousness.

    There is a light in the world, and it’s a moving force. No human has yet pinned it down and confined it to any specific church, temple, or mosque.

  • 3 The Shame of the Juvenile Court | Probable Cause // Feb 19, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    […] me on this, I’m writing this because a driving force in my life is the Jewish concept of tikkun olam. In other words, I want to work cooperatively to leave the world a better place than it was when I […]

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