Magazine article Tikkun

Balancing Activism and the Cosmic

Magazine article Tikkun

Balancing Activism and the Cosmic

Article excerpt

THE DEATH OF MY FATHER LAST APRIL CAUSED ME to reflect anew on where we agreed and where we disagreed. When I was a college student, we would debate capitalism and socialism. Over the years I came to realize that people would be much better off under the capitalist system he envisioned than under any of the capitalist or socialist realities today. Our generation has seen the atrocities that capitalism, socialism, and every other existing "ism" can lead to.

As a rabbinic student (and later as a young rabbi), I would comb Jewish sources for the ultimate texts affirming my Jewish commitment to social justice. I still enjoy discovering a text. However, I eventually realized that what we most need to know can be found in the first verses of the Book of Genesis: First, God created the heavens and earth (Genesis 1:1). As important as we humans are, there is something above and beyond us to which we are beholden. And second, human beings are created in God's Image (1:27). The Torah does not teach that only Jews or only the wealthy are created in God's Image, and it makes a point of emphasizing that both men and women are so created.

The key determining whether various systems will succeed in improving the human condition or increase human suffering is whether those implementing the system internalize and act upon these principles. I also learned at Harvard that intellectual endeavor divorced from truly honoring God's Image will not bring about tikkun olam. We nevertheless need the tools that our religious traditions, philosophy, political science, psychology, sociology, and other disciplines provide us because there are situations in which people who genuinely wish to honor God's Image disagree about how to do so. …

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