Tikkun Olam

In Jewish teachings,  the Hebrew words tikkun olam signify any activity that improves the world, bringing it closer to the harmonious state for which it was created. I think, literally, the Hebrew means “the healing of the world.”

Imagine that, for just a minute.  Imagine making choices, big and small, all day long, that would improve our little corner of the world, our homes, our neighborhoods, congregations, towns and cities, nation and world.  Imagine.

I remember sitting in a session meeting back in the first two weeks of March (in a room, with real people.  We sat fairly close to one another. Whoa.)  I remember a woman entering the room with some agitation in her voice, waving her phone and saying, “The World Health Organization has just declared that we are in a global pandemic,” and the conversation quickly turned to the inconvenience having to suspend plans and activities would create.

Little did we know how sustained and challenging this would be for individuals and families, communities and states and nations.  In recent days, the conversation of if, how, when schools might resume is front and center, and it’s of greater magnitude than whether we can hold a fundraiser or sit in our sanctuaries and soak in the peace of a Sunday morning service.

The issues are great, for individuals and local communities and  for the global economy. Many of the ways in which we have addressed the issues have seemed daunting, and yet, we persist.  I wonder what would happen if we would return to the notion that our small actions and intentions add up to something much greater than the actions themselves.  What if we committed to healing the world, each in our small way, and loosened our grasp on our individual rights and inconveniences for just a moment, just an hour, just for today.

It’s annoying to wear a mask, but it could save a life. Small action, big result. It takes a few extra steps, a stamp on an envelope or a couple of clicks on our phone to make a contribution to an organization that is working on tikkun olam, but those small actions add up.  It’s a little uncomfortable to speak up and have a real and serious conversation with a friend about how words can harm, how our systems contribute to suffering, but those conversations make a difference in future conversations, and how we strive to be communities of welcome, really meaning what we say when we are all God’s children.

It’s about loving our neighbor.

It’s Matthew 25.

Imagine if we recommitted ourselves to the greater good, to participating in healing the world, with God’s help.

“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good.

At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.

Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance,

let us work for the benefit of all,

starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.”

Galatians 6:9-10 (The Message)