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April 10, 2016 1:07 pm

Is the World Perfectible?

avatar by Harry Zeitlin

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Jerusalem, by Rembrandt. Photo: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam via Wikimedia Commons.

Jerusalem, by Rembrandt. Photo: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam via Wikimedia Commons.

We don’t consider the material world to be perfectible, because we aim higher. Bringing the “world,” the “small universe” occupied by each individual Jew — refining himself, primarily through Torah and mitzvot, but also creating a just society based on kindness, fairness and responsibility — to its highest state, often referred to as tikkun olam, is not our final goal.

Rather, our goal is to create the conditions, following the “blueprint” (i.e. Torah) we’ve been given, that enable a discontinuous higher level of existence and consciousness, olam he’atid, the future world, to emerge. Spending energy trying to “fix” elements of this world that either aren’t broken or whose “repair” isn’t necessary to our real goal, is, at best, a waste and a distraction/detour from our real goal.

Ha’olam ha’zeh, this world, is expected to be flawed and contains within its embedded structure, once again Torah, responses and reliefs (korbanot, sacrifices, for example) to rebalance itself. We don’t know the “critical mass” of tikkun required to launch the “quantum jump” to the higher reality, but we do know which actions of ours (i.e. mitzvot) will help us achieve it.

The unperfectibility of this world, then, isn’t a cause for despair. Rather, it’s a signal to rejoice that the true universe, ha’olam ha’gadol, is boundless beyond our imaginations.

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  • Yaakov

    Flaws in the world are expected and will always be present, but that’s no excuse not to try to reduce suffering in the world. The world is very broken indeed, and attempts to alleviate problems in the world should never be considered a waste. Many outwardly religious people forget the Kotzker Rebbe’s admonition that worshiping the framework of the law without regard for its spirit is akin to idolatry.