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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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