Repairing the World

June 24, 2009

3 min read


Behar-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25-27 )

Judaism recognizes that everyone has a particular role to fulfill in this world. The mystical teachings state that with each waking hour God grants us, there comes an accompanying responsibility to in some way help repair the world.

This concept of "Tikkun Olam," repairing the world, also extends to repairing our own selves. Every person has one dominant area of weakness (whether it be gossip, dishonesty, arrogance, etc.) where they need to focus attention in order to accomplish a "personal tikkun." In fact, explain the Sages, the need to correct this area of weakness is why a person has been put into the world in the first place!

A corollary to this idea, is the belief that everyone should select a particular mitzvah to observe to the utmost of their abilities. Whether it be giving charity, visiting the sick, keeping kosher or whatever, this "one special mitzvah" helps focus a person to "go all out" in one area of spiritual growth. Moreover, each person's special mitzvah can serve as a "defending angel" on the day of judgement.

This week's Torah portion, Bechukotai, deals with the tremendous responsibilities given to the Jewish people. Just as each individual has a task to improve the world, so too the Jewish people have that role.

In the parsha, God addresses the Jewish people collectively, informing them of the severity of judgements - ranging from illness to exile - that they will face if they do not follow His path. The harshness of these afflictions can be seen as a direct correlation to the importance of the Jewish people's mission. As the nation who has been entrusted with God's instructions for creating a perfect society, the Jewish people are held to a higher standard.

On the other hand, at the beginning of the parsha, God promises the Jewish people that "if you walk in My laws and guard My commandments," you will be blessed with great peace and wealth. As much potential as there is for tragedy, great blessing can also be theirs.

Of course the big question is what does the Torah mean when it says "if you walk in My laws?" What exactly is expected of the Jewish people?

Rashi explains that "walk in My laws" means that everywhere we walk we should be studying Torah. The Jews are to engross themselves in the study of Torah and become a nation of scholars.

The Sfas Emes, a great 19th century Chassidic rabbi, says this goes beyond the simple acquisition Torah wisdom. Walking in God's laws means to become so connected to the will of God that the presence of the Almighty becomes manifest on earth.

This in turn teaches a profound insight into the nature of each person's individual "Tikkun." This is accomplished when the individual becomes an instrument of expressing God's will here on earth. And this is truly the deepest meaning of Tikkun Olam.

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