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    Mending the meaning – how Tikkun Olam has changed

    On Rosh HaShanah morning, the introduction to the Malchiyot section of Musaf is the poem which we know as Alenu.

    Alenu tells us that Judaism has a double duty – to create a believing, committed community, and through tikkun olam to mend the world.

    However, the term tikkun olam has a long lineage and its meaning has changed over the centuries.

    Originally it indicated preparing the world for the coming of God’s kingdom (l’takken olam b’malchut Shad-dai). It is in this sense that the phrase is used in the second paragraph of Alenu, which speaks of defeating and destroying all idols and making the world ready for God’s rule.

    The mystics spoke of the completeness of the post-B’reshit world being shattered and humanity being engaged in seeking the broken shards. Until these shards are found and restored to their place, God does not rule and His word does not hold sway.

    Tikkun Olam historically was preparation, not purpose – the means to an end – but now it seems to have become the purpose itself.

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