The Tikkun Olam of Rabbi Hillel


J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he teaches writing to college students and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

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3 Responses

  1. Avatar Matty says:

    The political response to inequality does not fulfill what is required of the individuals that make up a community. Our obligations still remain.

    This is an important point, and not just on this issue, if I have an obligation then I have an obligation I cannot assume it is discharged because of what some other person or organisation has done.Report

  2. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    I am given to understand the Book of Jonah is read on Yom Kippur, as well. We are given another view of the Tikkun Olam, where Jonah is sent to warn Nineveh and save them from destruction.

    Jonah, after his famous voyage and return trip to dry land, courtesy of the Great Fish, does manage to convince Nineveh to repent and save itself. But Jonah, still outraged that the enemies of Israel could get off with a bit of sackcloth and ashes schtick, sits there in the shadow of his little gourd plant until God sends a worm to kill the plant.

    Again, Jonah goes off, mourning his little gourd plant, wishing he was dead. God rebukes him pretty severely, noting Jonah didn’t plant or cultivate that gourd. Why shouldn’t God take pity on an entire city full of people and children and animals?

    The lesson of Jonah is this: God can use the most depressed, malcontent disobedient idiot to carry his message. It’s God’s message of our repentance which leads to his forgiveness. You don’t have to believe in God to make this work. Quit living in the past, sitting there, encumbered by your failings. The painful part is quitting. Live in the present, draw a line, yes you might feel awful about what you’ve done but you’ve been feeling awful about it anyway. Now’s your chance to be free. Take it, get right with the world.Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

      Yep, Jonah’s read on Yom Kippur. A lot’s read on Yom Kippur. Too much reading; not enough eating. A festive meal or two would cause the day to skyrocket in my personal ranking of “Favorite Holidays.”

      As for the book itself — that’s something of a new approach for me; I’ll have to turn it around in my head for a bit to see how it fits with the others. Though I suppose that reading it as a critique of Jonah’s attempt to escape his responsibilities out of some kind of self-pity/loathing than as a counter-narrative of divine justice (when compared with its sterner versions elsewhere) or a gloss on the nature of divine love and sorrow.

      Ultimately, what sets Jonah apart from the other prophets is the way he’s depicted as an individual — and the way that his relationship with God is depicted as the relationship of two individuals. (And, indeed, God-Plant and God-Nineveh are ALMOST like this, too.) Isaiah and Jeremiah, by comparison, are to some large degree disembodied voices; even Samuel and Nathan wouldn’t quite qualify as “round” characters, if Forster had written an ASPECTS OF THE BIBLICAL NOVEL.Report