May 22, 2024

Repairing the World Through the Jewish Philanthropic Concept of Tikkun Olam

Panoramic View of a Sunset

No two people on this planet are the same. Yet, there is one thing we all share in common – the responsibility of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). Each of us has a reason and a purpose for being here, and part of that purpose is to use our unique strengths and talents to make a positive impact. This article explains what Tikkun Olam means, how it relates to other philanthropic concepts in Judaism, and what you can do to repair the world on both an individual and communal level.

What Does Tikkun Olam Mean?

Tikkun Olam, which translates to “repairing the world” in Hebrew, is a concept deeply rooted in Jewish charity tradition and values. It encapsulates the idea of taking action to realize G-d’s vision for how things should be – whole, just, and peaceful. All Jews have the responsibility of engaging in acts of Tikkun Olam and are encouraged to do so by both Halacha (Jewish law) and important religious leaders.

How Tikkun Olam and the Concept of Tzedakah Are Intertwined

Tzedakah, which is often translated as “charity” in English, is closely intertwined with Tikkun Olam. Both are mitzvot, or commandments, in Judaism and are acts of righteousness and social responsibility. However, while tzedakah mainly refers to the act of giving money or material possessions to those in need, Tikkun Olam encompasses a broader range of actions that seek to repair the world and create a more just society. The former can contribute to the latter, as giving is an important way to bring about positive change.

Other mitzvot, like Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick), also fall under the umbrella of Tikkun Olam. These actions focus on helping and supporting those in need, whether it be physically, emotionally, or financially. Even the smallest acts of kindness can have a ripple effect and create a more compassionate and just world.

The Origins and Modern Significance of Tikkun Olam

Tikkun Olam can be traced back to the beginning of Judaism in the Torah, specifically in the book of Genesis where it is written that G-d created humans with a purpose – to take care of and protect the Earth (Genesis 2:15). This concept was further expanded upon in the Talmud, which emphasizes the importance of social responsibility and repairing harm and damage.

In modern times, Tikkun Olam has assumed an entirely new level of meaning. The world today is riddled with crises; Israel needs help maintaining peace, poverty continues to plague communities, and the environment is suffering. Tikkun Olam serves as a call to action for Jewish philanthropists all over the world to continue the work of our ancestors by actively seeking out ways to create positive change.

Tikkun Olam Through Individual and Collective Action

Tikkun Olam is divisible on both a micro and macro level. On an individual level, it refers to the daily actions and decisions we make that contribute towards repairing the world. Examples of this include performing acts of kindness and charity, advocating for social justice, and making environmentally conscious choices.

The Eight Degrees of Giving outlined by Maimonides, a prominent Jewish philosopher and scholar, is often referenced as a guide for personal Tikkun Olam. It teaches that the highest form of giving is to help someone become self-sufficient, while the lowest form is to give grudgingly. This emphasizes the importance of not only taking action but doing so with a genuine and whole-hearted intention.

On a larger scale, Tikkun Olam encompasses efforts to address societal issues and promote systemic change. The beliefs of Judaism place a strong emphasis on seeking justice for the oppressed and marginalized. This is why there are so many organizations dedicated to fighting poverty, support groups for widows, and advocacy groups for orphans in our community.

Important Chabad figures have long used the phrase ‘Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh‘ to describe the responsibility every Jew has for one another. The psychological benefits of giving are great, but one of the greatest rewards is knowing that you have made a substantial impact on many people by addressing an issue at large.

How Jewish Tradition Enables Tikkun Olam

The importance of community service in Jewish life is perpetuated year-round by special customs like Ma’aser Kesafim. Translated as “tithing,” this is the commitment of dedicating 10% of your personal income to charitable causes. It’s just one of many ways we can bake Tikkun Olam into our daily lives and actively work towards repairing the world.

Jewish holidays make for plenty of opportunities to practice Tikkun Olam, as well. For example, during the holiday of Purim, we give money and food to those in need through the mitzvah of Ma’ot Chittim. And on Passover, it is traditional to donate extra money to help provide a Seder meal to those who may not have one otherwise.

Putting Tikkun Olam Into Practice With Acts of Tzedakah

Tzedakah can take many forms and therefore offers a multitude of ways to fulfill Tikkun Olam. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much you give – the value lies in the intention and the action.

One way to put Tikkun Olam into practice through acts of tzedakah is by signing up to volunteer at a local soup kitchen or food bank. Not only will you be helping those in need, but you will also be connecting with your community and building relationships. 

Individuals with busy schedules often commit to regular financial contributions to organizations that support causes they care about. This can be done through monthly donations or by setting up a donor-advised fund, where you have a say in how your money is allocated.

Help Colel Chabad Repair the World

Historic Jewish non-profits like Colel Chabad have worked to provide food and financial assistance to impoverished Jews in Israel for centuries. Our organization was founded over 200 years ago and today stands as the oldest of its kind. We’re the best Israeli charity to give to because of our extensive history and established relationships with Israeli communities.

Colel Chabad is a charity that helps children, a charity for community healthcare, a charity against food insecurity, a charity that supports widows and orphans in need, and so much more. We believe that Tikkun Olam is only possible when critical issues are addressed on a systemic level. That means not just providing temporary relief, but creating sustainable solutions for those in need.

Prayers and blessings are powerful. Donations and acts of kindness have a tangible impact. By supporting Colel Chabad, you can help repair the world one person at a time. Don’t wait – donate to our Israeli charitable organization today. 


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