~ Parashat Tzav~
16 Adar II 5779 - March 23, 2019


The True Meaning of Tikkun Olam
Rabbi Nasanayl Braun
Congregation Brothers of Israel
Long Branch, NJ
Today, the phrase Tikkun Olam is often associated with social justice in all its forms. For some, especially outside the Orthodox world, it refers to anything and everything from helping the homeless to climate change. Although these are certainly worthwhile causes, they have nothing to do with Tikkun Olam as presented in our traditional sources.
Given its current popularity, it is somewhat surprising that the phrase “Tikkun Olam” does not appear in the Torah, nor in Tanakh. We find the phrase Tikkun Olam in 3 different contexts: in the Talmud, in Lurianic Kabbalah - the mystical thought of the Arizal (Rabbi Isaac Luria, 16th century Safed), and in the prayer Aleinu.

What does it mean in the Talmud, our primary source? Although there are slight differences in the 10 or so times it appears, Tikkun Olam generally refers to rabbinic legislation that ensures that following the letter of the law does not violate the intention of the law and lead to negative consequences. 

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