Tikun Olam, “repairing the world” has become a modern day catch phrase. It appears to be everywhere from the yeshiva world, to Christian groups, used by even certifiable cult leaders and Kabbalah enthusiasts – both the respected ones and the phony ones. I have seen the term used in the mission statements of youth organizations and support groups from every range of the religious and not so religious spectrum. It has been used as the basis for shiurim on self improvement and devotion to community and G-d. The “holy” work of righting the wrongs of today’s society and finding ways to balance injustice seems endless and overwhelming on a personal level and as a public concern. Sometimes it is referred to as “paying it forward,” “random acts of kindness” or “one good deed begets another,” and although from a Torah prospective these are all considered different types of deeds, they all have the power to make the world a better place for you and me.
One thought that keeps coming to mind when I hear the term used, is the connection between the seemingly ever present “tikun olam” and the focal point of this column which is the blended family. For me, as I am sure for others in similar situations, my second marriage is proving to be the tikun for my personal world; it is setting right what had been wrong.
People who know me often wonder how it could be that throughout the entire eleven years of my first marriage I never fully grasped that I was in an abusive relationship. Certainly I recognized that there were “instances” that may be “viewed” as leaning towards abuse, but there always seemed to be an explanation, an excuse or an apology. It is something I find I am not fully comfortable discussing even today, sixteen plus years after the breakup of my marriage. My situation was one of those “gray areas” where there was not full blown physical or emotional abuse, nor was there extensive arguing or fighting, but there were manipulations, secrets, deceit, and occasional fits of anger that on more than one occasion became destructive.
It has taken me years to process that the words “abusive relationship” could even remotely describe a marriage I thought was loving, passionate and truthful. Even post-divorce I was singing the praises of my marriage that was; we were high-school sweethearts, we married young with only thoughts of a long and happy life together, we completed each other’s sentences and practically read each other’s minds. For all intents and purposes we were a perfect match.
It was only after my divorce that my eyes began to open. Hashem was good to me; He did not allow me to feel my own suffering until it was over. Only after receiving my get, my Jewish divorce, and without a husband to care for, did I have the time and wherewithal to educate myself and take a good look at my situation – with my blinders off – as I began my investigation into finding the truth. What I eventually uncovered is not really important, except suffice to say it helped me to find closure and to move on from what was and to try to establish a life with a spiritually healthier partner.
Although I feel I “got over” my ex before I met my husband, my personal healing only came about well after we were married. I believe the actually steps towards repairing or tikun occurred as our relationship matured and strengthened within our shared experiences.
Although I try not to compare the husband I had before to the one I have now, I cannot avoid seeing the glaring differences in my life; differences that have brought about my personal tikun.
Where I once had a husband who was explosive; I now have a husband who is calm.
Where I once had a husband who was abusive; I now have a husband who is protective.
Where I once had a husband who was a taker; I now have a husband who is a giver.
Where I once had a husband who was selfish; I now have a husband who is selfless.
Where I once had a husband who used his G-d given talents for evil and ill gains; I now have a husband who uses those same talents for good and to benefit others.
Where I once had a husband who was dishonest; I now have a husband who is truthful.
Where I once had a husband who served himself; I now have a husband who serves Hashem.
My second marriage, which I truly view as a gift from Hashem, has had the power to be a personal tikun for me. And I feel privileged knowing that our relationship has played a healing role for my husband in many ways as well.