tikkun olam

Alternative Spellings

tikun olam

Definitions

  • kabbalistic concept of mystically repairing the fabric of the world through the performance of mitzvot
  • "repairing (the) world," making the world a better place through volunteering, social justice work, and philanthropy

Example Sentences

  • "Helping the needy is an act of tikkun olam."

Languages of Origin

Textual Hebrew

Etymology

תיקון עולם

Who Uses This

Religious: Jews who are engaged in religious observance and have some Jewish education
Organizations: People involved in a professional or volunteer capacity with Jewish nonprofit organizations

Regions

North America

Dictionaries

The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, by Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic, (Philadelphia, 2001).
Dictionary of Jewish Usage: A Popular Guide to the Use of Jewish Terms, by Sol Steinmetz (Lanham, MD, 2005).

Notes

The modern meaning came into usage among progressive American Jews in the 1970s and became widespread in the 1990s. See history of the word in rabbinic texts here: http://www.zeek.net/706tohu/ and in Jill Jacobs' book There Shall Be No Needy.

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