web analytics
October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Rise Of Tikkun Olam Paganism


I have long had a pet peeve about the vulgar misuse and distortion of the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam (repair of the world) by assimilationist Jewish liberals in the United States and elsewhere.

Elements of American Jewry have fallen captive to what can only be described as Tikkun Olam Paganism. Tikkun Olam Pagans are people who misrepresent Judaism as nothing more and nothing less than the pursuit of the liberal social action political agenda, all in the name of a suitably misrepresented Tikkun Olam.

Tikkun Olam is the banner waved by the countless “social action” committees at synagogues across America and in other liberal Jewish circles in support of liberal-leftist causes, including some that are harmful to Jews and some that are just plain wacky.

The Tikkun Olam Pagans’ pseudo-religion consists of the following reductionist “theological” foundations:

1. Judaism in its entirety is essentially the advocacy and promotion of social justice.

2. Tikkun Olam means pursuit of peace, environmentalism and economic equality.

3. Justice, peace and equality are synonymous with this week’s PC liberal-leftist political fads.

Ipso facto, all of Judaism is reduced to the pursuit of being a nice liberal. Now, as it turns out, each one of the propositions listed above is totally false.

This Judaism-as-Liberalism form of reductionism is extremely common in the Reform synagogue (especially its misnamed Religious Action Center) and is universal in the Reconstructionist movement. It is popular among many Conservative Jews and even has its Orthodox advocates.

A search for the term Tikkun Olam on the Internet will show you how near-universal is the equating of this concept with liberal “social activism.” Even the far-left anti-Israel magazine Tikkun, published by “Rabbi” Michael Lerner, has misnamed itself after the concept. Indeed Tikkun magazine has even advocated the use of illegal psychedelic drugs by Jews and demanded that Jews understand Osama bin Laden’s “pain, ” all in the name of Tikkun Olam.

The equation of Tikkun Olam with liberal political activism is so commonplace that it is recited as ethical basis by many of the same liberal “social activists” who cannot recite the Shema prayer correctly, who practice no Jewish ritual, and have no idea of what any other concepts are in Judaism. For a nice laugh, ask some of these people to explain even one basic Jewish concept other than Tikkun Olam.

But a clarification is in order. Tikkun Olam does indeed play an important role in Jewish theology and ethics, but its meaning is nothing like that understood by the Tikkun Olam Pagans. Tikkun Olam, the “correcting” of the universe, has little if anything to do with things like social inequality, environmental cleanliness, and distribution of wealth and jobs. Rather, it refers to the Messianic era when G-d’s laws will replace human laws, when G-d himself will be the acknowledged earthly ruler, when all forms of idolatry will cease and all will turn their hearts to the One G-d.

In other words, Tikkun Olam is a theological notion and not a trendy socioeconomic or political one. Tikkun Olam is mentioned in a major place in the Aleinu prayer that closes all prayer sessions, but again it is conjunction with the wish to see idolatry and paganism erased from the earth. There is no mention of “social justice” or environmentalist issues, no gun control proposals and no AIDS marches. This will no doubt come as a rude surprise to Jewish assimilationist liberals.

It is all the more ironic that Tikkun Olam is dredged up as underpinning for some forms of “activism” that are themselves little more than idolatry, such as the worshiping of trees, whales and nature in the name of “Eco-Judaism” by some radical Jewish environmentalists.

Even if one believed a certain amount of “social justice” could be squeezed under the Tikkun Olam theological umbrella, this would hardly justify the hijacking of the concept as artillery support for the liberal-leftist political agenda. At most, Tikkun Olam can only be conscripted as support for liberal social activism if one believes that this activism really promotes social justice. If it does promote social justice, then the incantations regarding Tikkun Olam are superfluous — the “causes” are justified on their own merits.

But does anyone today seriously believe that liberals and leftists only promote causes that are “socially just” and moral? Suppressing school choice and supporting Palestinian terrorism, affirmative action apartheid, and many other liberal causes promotes injustice and immoral outcomes.

The real issue is whether or not liberal political fads promote justice and peace and morality. And the only way to settle that question is to debate these “causes” analytically and on their own merits: Tikkun Olam has nothing to do with it.

Analytic debate of course would require some training and study of social science, policy analysis, cost-benefits accounting, and history, and liberal poseurs are far too lazy for all that, preferring effortless ethical posturing and recreational compassion. They are much too busy patting themselves on their ethical backs.

To emphasize these points, let us state what is not covered under the heading of Tikkun Olam:

1. There is nothing in the Torah concept of Tikkun Olam that can justify government programs that take people’s private wealth and property away from them to help the poor. There is of course a Jewish religious precept requiring charity for the poor — at least 10% of one’s income in two years out of seven, but never to exceed 20% of one’s wealth even if one is feeling ultra-compassionate. This charity, however, is privatized welfare and generosity, never state-run confiscation of property in the name of doing good. There seems to be rabbinic disagreement over whether government taxes that take away more than 10% of one’s income, especially to finance the welfare state, exempt one even from this 10% tithe. The only other biblically-mandated income redistribution involves supporting the Levites.

2. There is nothing in Tikkun Olam that can be considered to be a judgment holding that income and wealth disparities are evil in and of themselves. Wealthy people are expected to give charity to help the poor; the poor are expected to give charity to the poorer. No one is expected to give charity to those too lazy to work or who are poor because they are drunks or addicts.

3. There is nothing in Tikkun Olam that can be regarded as a condemnation of materialist desires and pursuits. Quite to the contrary, Judaism is not embarrassed at all about asking G-d to make us rich, such as in the Havdala prayers where we ask for lots of silver.

4. There is nothing in Tikkun Olam that could be remotely regarded as justifying affirmative action programs that discriminate against Jews. There is nothing that can justify pursuing ethnic “equality” through quotas, through lowered standards and preferences, and certainly not through programs that give other ethnic groups preferences ahead of Jews.

5. There is nothing in Tikkun Olam that can be regarded as sanctioning homosexual relations. Indeed, the Torah makes these a capital offense.

6. There is nothing in Tikkun Olam that can be regarded as supporting the public school monopoly or single-payer health care system. People who want such things should have the intellectual honesty to come out and debate these on their own merits (if they have any), not by hijacking the concept of Tikkun Olam.

7. There is not even the tiniest inkling of a rationalization in Tikkun Olam for granting Palestinians or anyone else territorial rights within the Land of Israel.

8. There is no basis in Tikkun Olam for refraining from retaliating militarily against those who attack Jews.

9. There is no basis in Tikkun Olam for claiming that animals have “rights.”

10. There is no basis in Tikkun Olam for refusing to acknowledge that human environmental goals must be traded off against other social and private goals.

11. There is no basis in Tikkun Olam for abortion on demand.

12. There is no basis in Tikkun Olam for opposing capital punishment for convicted murderers. To the contrary, the Torah explicitly endorses capital punishment for murderers.

A first giant step toward real Tikkun Olam would be the renunciation and discrediting of Tikkun Olam Paganism.

About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Rise Of Tikkun Olam Paganism”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Yehudah Glick on the Temple Mount.
Yehuda Glick’s Condition Stabilizing, “He Was Very Lucky” (1:00 PM)
Latest Indepth Stories
Which glass has the poison?

The White House wanted to defame Netanyahu, undermine his reputation, impugn him & his policies

Adolf Hitler and the representative of the Palestinian Arabs, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, December, 1941.

Palestinian anti-Semitism in 2014 is more extreme and mainstream than German A/S in the 1930s.

Sheldon Silver

Woven deeply through it all is the Jewish obligation to fight injustice.

Cravatts-Richard--new

Only in the inverted world of academia would Jewish professors denounce the AMCHA Initiative report.

Many poskim were and are adamant about the responsibility of every individual to vote.

Individuals who may have been abused are the “clients” in need and receiving care and protection.

An accomplished Torah scholar and ardent adherent of Bobov chassidus, he was renowned for his self-effacing dedication and skills as an international lawyer and law professor

The fact that the United States government after World War II sought to take advantage of the expertise of German scientists, even those known to have contributed to the Nazi war effort, is well known and largely accepted as having been necessary for America’s national defense. (Wernher von Braun is perhaps the most famous and […]

The New York State comptroller manages the state’s $180.7 billion pension fund, audits the spending practices of all state agencies and local governments, oversees the New York State and Local Retirement System, reviews the New York State and City budgets, and approves billions in State contracts and spending.

Rabinovich is the author of several popular books on Israel’s wars, including The Battle for Jerusalem, The Yom Kippur War, and The Boats of Cherbourg.

To say he was beloved because of the way he loved his students does not sufficiently capture the reality.

The birth I speak about is to give birth to ourselves, to our full potential.

The extreme hypocrisy, contempt & vulgarity of the attacks indicate more than a policy disagreement

More Articles from Steven Plaut
Peace Now Chairman Yariv Oppenheimer

The Israeli left, led by tenured academics, endorses pretty much anything harmful to its own country

Statue of King David

Though secular, Hitman’s CV includes writing music for, recording, and popularizing religious songs.

Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.

Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!

Why is “Palestine” worthier of “statehood recognition” than ISIS, another terrorist gang seeking it?

The Palestinian terrorists could undergo career reorientation and take to cod fishing.

Israel’s imperious court is comprised of judges who do not live in African-filled neighborhoods.

“Jewish Voices for Peace,” a Hamas lobby created by Jewish anti-Semites.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-rise-of-tikkun-olam-paganism/2003/01/23/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: