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Tikkun Olam: Why Humanity’s Goal Of Repairing The World Really Starts With First Repairing Ourselves

By on April 2, 2015

I clearly remember one of the first things that drew me into becoming more affiliated with Judaism, the concept of Tikkun Olam.  I learned that Tikkun Olam means that Humanity has the goals of healing, repairing, and transforming the world – and I fell in love with this idea.  The idea that we should continuously be optimistic in our outlook of life, that we should strive and put our efforts into bringing real change into this world, that we are in this together.

Over the years, as I delved deeper, I started to learn more about how mankind tried fulfilling Tikkun Olam, and how often we’ve failed. Frustrated, I focused on trying to understand human interaction, mostly by reading how we reacted with each other over the course of the last few thousand years, through conquest, war, religious zealousness, nationalism, and genocide. I also explored periods of enlightenment, golden ages, and revolutionary change.  In one case mankind imposed itself on others, in the other, mankind focused on change from within, change that caught on to others.

My main focus was trying to understand the relationships people had deep down with themselves and with each other.  I tried the same experiment with myself.  I wanted to look deep down and try to understand the relationships I shared with my friends and family, the relationships I shared in intimacy and even the relationships I shared where I was in a position of authority or power. I noticed they all had one thing in common– sometimes there is a tendency to focus on the faults of others.  More importantly, the tendency to be arrogant, thinking “it’s my way or the highway.”

Sometimes, we never learn to appreciate the position of others.  Often we are hypocritical.  We are too quick to judge. We preach one thing, yet do the exact opposite.  We give advice to our friends yet never follow it ourselves. We seek love but are too afraid to give it.  We want to be successful yet we don’t put in real efforts in attaining that success.

Maybe Tikkun Olam has a deeper meaning.  What if we are all obligated to first focus on ourselves? What if we must learn to be honest with ourselves?  How can we even begin to repair others if we’re not aware of our own faults? How can we be all-mighty and direct others how they should live their lives if we aren’t satisfied with the way we are living our own lives?  Why do we look to others for acceptance? Why are we are afraid of our own sensitivities?  We get uncomfortable with our own feelings.  We get uncomfortable with the feelings of others. We learn to believe that material things can bring us happiness. We distort our values.  It’s “get rich or die trying.”  But what does wealth really mean? Is wealth really all material?  What if wealth is knowledge, family, legacy, love, sorrow, pain, hard work, belief, the list is endless.   There must be a deeper meaning for all of this.

What if each of us has our own light and this light is a flame that comes from within us?  Each flame creates a sphere of influence that surrounds us.  If we learned to be honest with ourselves, understand that our goal is to repair ourselves, maybe we can learn to understand what “the sky is the limit” really means. We can transform ourselves if we put in effort into doing so but more importantly, we must really believe that we are capable of doing so.  Studies have shown that the human brain can’t differentiate between real events and events that we create with our imaginations.  That’s why sometimes our nightmares are so vivid and real, we can wake up sweating, sometimes with a very rapid heartbeat.  Kobe Bryant, in his recent documentary, was asked how he felt when he accepted all of his championship rings?  He said that he didn’t feel very surprised because while he was practicing 8-10 hours a day, he always envisioned himself becoming a great.  Mind over matter.  Descartes sums it best when he says, “I think, therefore, I am.”  We all are if we believe we can be.

This sphere of influence we each control can either influence others positively or it can be a poison, and bring others down.  Like a flame, the more flames that are together, the stronger that flame can become. The more power it exerts from within itself. If we each focus on bettering ourselves, learn to accept our own faults, we can learn to understand that perfection is really just an illusion. Know that we can all strive to be better, but we must put real effort in doing so, and if it is sincere, we can transform ourselves. That will cause our light to shine brighter and, in turn, our sphere of influence can get bigger.  Others will notice.  Others will start to see the light. Others will want to have that same warmth and slowly work on changing themselves too.  If we learn to get vulnerable enough to understand who we truly are, we can learn to inspire ourselves, and in turn inspire those around us. The true essence of Tikkun Olam is healing, repairing, and transforming others in the most beautiful way possible, by healing, repairing, and transforming ourselves.


About Boris Kalendarev

Boris Kalendarev was born in Tajikistan and lived in Israel until the age of four. He grew up in NYC and became connected to Judaism in his late teens. While he has been working in finance over the last 8 years, his real passions lie in connecting and learning about people and encouraging them to believe in themselves.