Tikkun Olam | Isaiah 42.1-4
“Take a good look at my servant.
I’m backing him to the hilt.
He’s the one I chose,
and I couldn’t be more pleased with him.
I’ve bathed him with my Spirit, my life.
He’ll set everything right among the nations.
He won’t call attention to what he does
with loud speeches or gaudy parades.
He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt
and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant,
but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right.
He won’t tire out and quit. He won’t be stopped
until he’s finished his work—to set things right on earth.
Far-flung ocean islands
wait expectantly for his teaching.” Isaiah 42:1-4 | MSG
I don’t think I can improve on the words of Rabbi Lawrence Kushner as he relates the words of the sixteenth century Rabbi Isaac Luria. It’s amazing how some rabbis have clearer insights than many evangelical pastors, and how deeply their words resonate not only with Genesis and such portraits of the coming “Servant of the Lord” in Isaiah, but with the reality we find in Jesus…
When first setting out to make the world, God planned to pour a Holy Light into everything in order to make it real. God prepared vessels to contain the Holy Light. But something went wrong. The light was so bright that the vessels burst, shattering into millions of broken pieces like dishes dropped on the floor. The Hebrew phrase that Luria used for this “breaking of the vessels” is sh’virat ha’kaylim. Our world is a mess because it is filled with broken fragments. When people fight and hurt one another, they allow the world to remain shattered. The same can be said of people who have pantries filled with food and let others starve. According to Luria, we live in a cosmic heap of broken pieces, and God cannot repair it alone. That is why God created us and gave us freedom of choice. We are free to do whatever we please with our world. We can allow things to remain broken, or, as Luria urged, we can try to repair the mess. Luria’s Hebrew phrase for “repairing the world” is tikkun olam. As Jews, our most important task in life is to find what is broken in our world and repair it. The commandments in the Torah instruct us, not only on how to live as Jews, but on how to mend creation. When you see something that is broken, fix it. When you find something that is lost, return it. When you see something that needs to be done, do it. In that way, you will take care of your world and repair creation. If all the people in the world were to do so, our world would truly be a Garden of Eden, the way God meant it to be.
~ Lawrence Kushner, Eyes Remade for Wonder
If this is what rabbis gleaned just from reading Genesis, how much more should we be gleaning from following Jesus?
While we can’t fix everything, what is broken in your world that you can fix today – even in some small way?
Each day this week, begin your response to his call by praying the prayer of St. Francis. Write it down, take it with you. Let your spirit soak in it…
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
For all of this week’s small group resources including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.