Sunday, May 21, 2017

Tikun Olam vs. Olam HaTikun


The concept of One Above and Seven Below is astoundingly simple. So simple that only a simple-minded person like me could have thought it up. I hang around with lots of fellow simple-minded people, many of whom, like me, do not have a college education. Uneducated chareidim. Still, most of them have no trouble understanding One Above and Seven Below. It’s that simple.

Hence, I am thoroughly amazed at all of the highly educated, hyper-intellectual folks who don’t seem to be capable of absorbing the concept. Clearly, One Above and Seven Below is way under their heads.

Of course, everything is clearly explained in my book. In addition, numerous blog posts were dedicated to summarizing the main principle. One of the earliest ones is Yaakov’s Story from 2008. A bit less than a year later I followed it up with Curing Cancer the Torah Way. And more recently, in 2016, I fine-tuned that with Desperate Measures. All of these posts were incarnations of the same concept but there is a sequence.

In the first of these posts I expressed the basic idea: All social maladies are the natural consequences of not living and acting the way HKBH wants us to. This carries the logical extension that if we (all of us) were indeed living and acting the way HKBH wants us to, this would cure every malady.

In the second post, I added another layer:  Even though HKBH calls these social ills “random” – keri – they are not random at all. HKBH picks and chooses what problems to infect the world with in response to a given vice. Hence, I quoted the words of Targum Yonasan in Shmos (20:13) that murder brings war to the world and adultery brings plague (AIDS?) to the world, etc.  This is further verified in Pirkei Avos 5:11.

There is a method to the madness.

In the third post, I went another dimension: Even those who acknowledge the above, mistakenly look at it as Divine retribution for our wrongdoings. There is certainly some truth to this, but it misses the point. This would be so if only individuals who are guilty of the sins suffer from the ills. But the identical terminology of both the Targum Yonasan and the Mishna in Pirkei Avos say something else. These calamities come “to the world”, not specifically to individual people. Even those who aren’t truly guilty of a particular vice will suffer from the hardships because they (the hardships) have come “to the [collective] world”.

Why do they come “to the world”?

I suppose it is so “the world” should be aware that something is wrong. That something needs to be fixed.

But, all this confuses many people who think that our job is to rid “the world” of the problems. To fix the world. Get rid of war and plagues and hunger and agunos and child molestation and to just go on living like we want, without these headaches. Fix the world. Tikun Olam.

Big mistake.

The world doesn’t need to be fixed. We do.

People mistakenly think that the world is everlasting and we are just “dust in the wind” (apologies to Kansas) that passes through for a miniscule portion of Earth’s time continuum. The world is permanent and we are temporary. The world will pre-date us and outlast us. We have at best about 50-60 productive years to make an impact on the world; either we succeed or fail. We are the medium to fix G-d’s world.

The truth is the opposite. G-d doesn’t care much about His world. It’s not meant to hang around forever, anyway. He did not create us to fix the world. He created the world as a medium to fix us. By encasing us in physical bodies and assigning us to spend a miniscule portion of our vast “time continuum” on this planet, we have the opportunity to make something out of ourselves. And the time we are given is all we need. Of course, the masters of Kabbala tell us that most of us, if not all of us, get a few chances, but one is all it should take.

We are also told that there are other places He can send us to get fixed, but this is the only one that we can do it ourselves. It’s the better place.

So, what does all this say?

It says that this world is by definition a place of keri. It’s meant to be a place of war and plagues and agunos and child molesters. These problems can be active or dormant. They can be rampaging through our neighborhoods or locked up in a machsan. These are G-d’s tools. He wants these tools to be around. He is not interested in disposing them. It's just that He doesn’t want to have to use them.

Our job is to keep them locked up in the machsan, not to try to do away with them. To see to it that they don’t “break out” and wreak havoc. HKB”H tells us that even though He created these “tools” and stocked his world with them, it’s up to us to determine if they are active or dormant. Parshat Bechukosai (One Above and Seven Below) and Targum Yonasan in Shmos and Pirkei Avos 5:11 and a host of other sources tell us what kind of behavior is going to, Ch”v, provoke HKBH into letting these “destructive” tools out of the machsan.

And why?

So that we can mold our character to be the type of people who don’t need these tools. So we can be metaken ourselves. We don’t need to fix the world. We need the world to fix us. This is the Olam HaTikun!

And all this is so that we will be capable of dealing with the Next World. התקן עצמך בפרוזדור - כדי שתכנס לתרקלין!

Now, isn’t that simple?

This is what one of my mentors, Reb Moshe Chaim, calls “the path of those who can think straight”.

Alas, so many others who spent more time in college than in Yeshiva and are a whole lot smarter than simple folk like me don’t sign on to this. They want to cure sicknesses, and free agunos, and eradicate child molesters and make this world a better place, instead of making themselves better people.

They want to destroy G-d’s tools instead of convincing G-d that there is no need to use them and to just put them back in the machsan. The result is that the tools do not get destroyed (G-d created them for a purpose and wants to keep them around) and they don’t get put back into the machsan, either.

Perhaps, we can get better results.  I have a few very simple ideas.

Im yirtza Hashem, we will discuss them in the next post. In the meanwhile, please steer clear of the machsan. It's where the wild things are!

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