Ethics and Community

In addition to Judaism's messianic vision, many modern Jewish theologians who advocate a contemporary universal vision of social justice often refer to the medieval mystical doctrine of tikkun olam, or the reparation of the world. Although originally understood by Jewish mystics as connoting a cosmic process culminating in the messianic age, and engendered by the theurgic, mystically-directed practice of prayer and the performance of the mitzvot, or biblical commandments, in modern Jewish thought the term usually carries its more literal and immediate meaning of correcting society's ills.

Thus, many contemporary synagogues and Jewish community centers sponsor tikkun olam programs ranging from soup kitchens, food drives, homeless shelters, and programs for the elderly, disabled, impoverished, and chemically dependant, to raising awareness of and funds for the victims of major tragedies, such as earthquakes, floods, famine, and especially genocide.

Study Questions:
1.     What is the mission of Judaism? What is the role of ethnic identity within this mission?
2.     What is the Aleynu? What does it reveal about Judaism's vision for society?
3.     Why are works of social justice important to Judaism's vision for society?

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