For thousands of years, the laws of the Old Testament have shaped the views of Jewish people. The way these are understood and interpreted is found in the Talmud, which is a compendium of Jewish belief, law and ritual. The Talmud has shaped the modern understanding of Tikkun Olam, which means to ‘repair the world’. Every Jewish person who fulfils a mitzvah by obeying God’s commandments or by good deeds, improves and purifies the world.
Tikkun Olam also advocates active healing, loving and serving and it is viewed in terms of concentric circles; to love oneself, one’s family, friends, community, nation and the wider world. This healing and repairing is the for mind, body and soul, and for the community and the environment. It benefits not just the Jewish people but the whole world.
The biblical Laws also protect both animals and the environment, for example: an ox is not to be muzzled whilst it is treading, and the land must be allowed to lie fallow for its healing. There is a moral responsibility to care for those in need. (Deuteronomy 25:4 and Exodus 23:11)
The ultra-Orthodox (Haredi/Haredim) are diverse in background and culture but are united in their commitment to study the Torah, and to obey the interpretation of the Bible’s commandments, as they are taught in the Talmud. In more liberal Jewish circles, social action and social justice are considered as Tikkun Olam, but for the Haredim it can also require the rejection of modern sources of information and distraction, such as the internet and tv.
We can consider whether there are any ways in which the life and ministry of Jesus coincide with the ideas of Tikkun Olam?
Jesus in sacrificing Himself for all, and not just for some, has brought healing to all who come to Him. (Both Jew and gentile, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, the possessed, the destitute and even the dead! (Matthew 4:24 and Matthew 9:25). Not only this, but Jesus went the cross not just willing, but determined, because He wanted the healing He had wrought, to be eternal.
Through the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus has invited us to partner with Him in preaching the Gospel and thereby transforming lives through discipleship. James tells us that our faith must be expressed in good works (James 2:14-17). This is an expression of the Jewish idea of Tikkun Olam, we repair people’s lives through the Gospel, and transform the societies and places where we live through good deeds.
In these ways, we partner with God and as Paul exhorts us; “…whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men …” (Colossians 3:23).
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