Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Standing up for Justice and Morality - Tikkun haOlam

I enjoy reading about history and politics, and must have consumed around 3500 pages about Clinton and his cabinet members over the past six months (as an aside, of the lot, Bob Rubin's bio is by far the best, but I am admittedly a biased conservative/libertarian). The foreign policy disaster's of the '90s - Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda, Boasnia - seem to have occurred eons ago. Why do I bring this up? Because I am troubled by the question of where were we when this was happening. Where was the Orthodox community? We, who have suffered the most this past century from the babarity of genocide, where were we when close to one million Rwandaans were killed? Where were we when Bosnia Serbs engaged in "ethnic cleansing"? To ask where they are when we are in need is to completely miss the point. We do not do "good works" only for the potential benefit. We do good because it is moral imperitive for us to do so. And I also do not buy the argument that we are too busy dealing with our own issues, or too wrapped up only in the 4 amos shel halacha. Halevai this should be so, but I cannot fathom a philosophy that allows the world to collapse into anarchy while we sit wrapped in an ivory tower pondering a Ktzos or R' Chaim or working on tuition tax credits. I hate to bring up the term "tikkun olam" because of its recent abuse by a writer elsewhere as a justification of the death penalty. Yes, the Rambam uses the phrase in that context, but that does not respond to the broader issue - where do we stand on issues of social justice? How can we act to make society more ethical? How can we insure the rights of the oppressed and persecuted are respected? Shouldn't these goals be part of the chinuch of our children?

1 comment:

  1. Shkoyich!

    On tikkun olam within Orthodoxy, see also Rav Jonathan Sacks, "TIKKUN OLAM: ORTHODOXY’S RESPONSIBILITY TO PERFECT G-D’S WORLD,"

    And regarding our obligation to speak out about Kosovo, see Rav Yitzchok Adlerstein, "Kosovo and Israel,"