Tikkum Olam


Charles Krauthammer

“Sanders and the Jewish Identity,” by Charles Krauthammer. The Wilmington (DE) News-Journal, 3/12/2016.

This syndicated columnist is writing about Bernie Sanders’s Judaism, but this posting is nothing about Bernie.  Like you, I have heard enough politics.

The article introduced me to the Hebrew concept of tikkum olam as one basis of Jewish identity in America today. Literally, it means “repair of the world.” If you see someone in need, you must help them. If you know an entire people is in need, you must do what you can politically to correct the situation.

This concept carries over into Christianity as the belief we should leave this world a better place. Compassion is how we practice our religion.

I suspect Islam also has this concept, if I only knew more about it. Many years ago, I was talking to a man who had traveled extensively all over the world. Which place did he like the best? I asked. To my surprise, he replied, “Syria,” in large part because of the hospitality they show to strangers, at least on a personal level. It’s baked into their culture.

But, as often in general principles, the devil is in the details. When our hearts go out to starving African children with bloated stomachs and flies crawling on their faces, should we make efforts to feed them so they will grow up and produce more children, creating even more suffering in the future? Should nations open their doors to immigrants whose huge numbers and parochialism will destroy the very culture they are so desperate to join? Should they even be allowed to keep the culture that failed them?  Should the Jewish State welcome Palestinians intent on destroying them? On a closer level, should we push our legislators for a $15 minimum wage, knowing full well this will eliminate many jobs that will no longer be profitable? Isn’t a lower wage better than no wage at all?

This is the main difference I often see between liberals and conservatives: the timeline. Our common culture dictates we all ultimately want the same benefits for everyone, but is it better to react to the immediate situation, or should we take a longer term view? Each situation is different, but it is a judgment we will have to make more and more frequently as the population outpaces the world’s resources.

I kid you not.



About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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