Friday, October 7, 2016

Is It Time to Say Kaddish for "Tikkun Olam"?

A good argument can be made that "tikkun olam" is doing Judaism and American Jewry more harm than good, and this chap is making it:
...during the post-1960s era in which we American Jews experienced much less anti-Semitism and in which we find ourselves quite welcomed and successful on so many levels, Tikkun Olam sought intentionally to downplay both Jewish ritual practice and Jewish particularism in order to affect more global change.
As such, tikkun olam has devolved today to mean anything that fits into the categories of community service or helping the underdog. The focus on universalism has led to stripping the word “mitzvah” of any sense of divine obligation, and instead understands “mitzvot” to mean, simply, “good deeds.” And, to me, most problematic of all, the teaching of tikkun olam as it has evolved over the last several decades places greater emphasis on valuing the global human community over caring for our fellow Jews and for the continuity of Judaism.
On one hand, those who embrace tikkun olam as Judaism’s central teaching are absolutely right. Please hear me say this: We must do more to build bridges with other faith communities. We must assist the poor of the entire world; we must respond to the evil that is racism; and we ought to be concerned with the plight of all those who suffer in the world, including — as some of our Jewish friends remind us — the plight of the Palestinians. Please hear me clearly: repairing the world is an essential part of Judaism. Nevertheless, my fear, and history is coming to agree with me, that by dismissing the power of Jewish ritual observance and by undermining Jewish particularism, the universalistic commitment to tikkun olam by many Jews today could be, I believe, the downfall of American Jewry.
In fact, it is not incumbent on the Jews to "repair the world": that is not what "tikkun olam" is supposed to mean. As for "the plight of the Palestinians"--that's almost entirely of their own, and their Muslim brethren's, making. But, yes, in the sense that "tikkun olam" has become a substitute for Jewish ritual and practice and boils down to little more than empty leftist feel-goodism, it could very well be final nail in American Jewry's coffin.

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