Note to Readers: The weekend of September 16-17 saw a series of bomb threats to Jewish houses of worship in Rochester, NY and surrounding area. They turned out to be a hoax but times and places of worship were affected as a result, and inspection of buildings by law enforcement were required as a precaution.
What time is it? That depends upon who is keeping time. It is now year 5784 on the Jewish calendar, now that Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year — arrived.
I am writing above my pay grade here, since I am not Jewish. I am Christian with a deep sense of my religion’s absolute rootedness in Judaism and our utter dependence upon Jewish Biblical wisdom. So I hope no one will be offended by this effort.
It was with heart-sickness, shock, and anger that I read about a bomb threat made against Temple Beth-El this past weekend. No bomb was found but the expression of hatred landed loudly. My own religious community would have been utterly bereaved by such a threat and expression of hatred, but we have not suffered the generations and centuries of persecution that the Jewish community has known. So I was filled with awe when I read the closing of the letter from Rabbi Ann Landowne and Trustees of Temple Beth-el that announced the threat they had suffered. Looking ahead at this new year of 5784, they invited their community to continue to practice Tikkun Olam.
I would love for you to think that I knew the following off the top of my head but I had to refer to Chabad.org to fill in the gaps of my education and round off my ignorance. Here is what I learned.
“Tikkun is often translated as repair. But in the Hebrew Bible and in the early code of Jewish law called the Mishnah, it has a range of meanings: improve, fix, prepare, set up, or just “do something with… Olam in Biblical Hebrew connotes all of time. In later Hebrew, it came to mean the world.
Tikkun Olam is a breathtakingly beautiful invitation for Rabbi Landowne and the Trustees to make at the end of their announcement about the hatred that had been directed at them. They invited their community to keep practicing Tikkun Olam, repairing and improving the world.
In Christianity there is a famous prayer taught by Jesus that invites us to practice Tikkun Olam by assisting God in creating “the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, to be engaged in creating on earth a social order as we imagine the reign of love is practiced in heaven.
We are now in the place, whether religious or not, that we must not only improve the world but also fix the damage already done where possible. We need to actually get better and be better, and then also restore the damage we have been doing all along the way. That is a tall order but it begins with you and me, very small agents in the cosmic scheme of things.
One small thing that you and I could do to begin to improve the world, is to contact the community of Temple Beth-El (their contact information is available on their website) and send a message that you are a lover not a hater, and that you stand with them against those who hate. In my experience, solidarity strengthens us even when we are enduring pain. In fact, I once heard someone make this distinction between suffering and pain: suffering is pain endured in isolation.
When we stand together under threat, we get stronger. Tikkun Olam, let us improve the world.