Tikkun Olam, Repair the World

The past few weeks said much about who we are, what kind of people we are and how we see our country and our mission.  It included, of course, the need to have our attention brought back to the day when we were attacked as a people and as a nation, and all of that caused many to both weep for what we lost that day, and for the mistakes and waste that followed.

These weeks also have encompassed, maybe illustrated better than ever, the vastly different views that many of us hold, from those of a large number of our fellow citizens.  In short order we have seen audiences applaud one presidential candidate for the large number of executions his state has undertaken since he became its Governor, and another suggest that a person without medical insurance who suddenly is in a coma, be allowed to die as a consequence.

We are told that liberals want a “mommy state” and that the government that does the least is the best government there can be.  We are all on our own.  Regulations should be curtailed.  If you want to eat food, you just have to be careful and take your chances.  If it is true that this view can elect a president and a Congress, then we are no longer the United States of America.  We are just random individuals sharing space.

It is hard to believe we have sunk so low.

Last weekend, for instance, was very difficult for many people. Many of those people suffering lost nobody from their family or a specific loved one, but still it hurt.

For others, it must have seemed to be a bit much.:  It’s been ten years after all.  Maybe for those in the northeast, from Boston from where the planes left, to Virginia, where the Pentagon was attacked, and other buildings (and people) likely spared by the heroism of the passengers on one of the flights, it hurts more than in other places.  It was overwhelming, though, in a way that, say, the tenth year after President Kennedy’s murder, which fell right in the middle of the Watergate crisis, was not.

If music helps one through moments such as this sad one, there was quite a bit around that did the trick.  Most notable, beyond question, was  Paul Simon’s so heartbreaking version of the Simon & Garfunkel song of our youth, The Sounds of Silence, sung by Paul alone, in a baseball cap and near tears throughout, at the Trade Center itself.  It is one of those songs forever changed by this new context.  It will never be the same again

There was, of course, so much more in the air.  One was John Platt’s Sunday Breakfast on the radio station owned by Fordham University in the Bronx, WFUV.  The link posted here will only last about a week for reasons that are outrageously absurd but will have to be the subject of a post on another day, but the 9/11 program is well worth hearing (as, really, all of Platt’s shows are, but this one more than others).  It was not the trite maudlin easily expected music to hammer home whatever message of the day was supposed to be enforced, but a beautiful, diverse collection of songs which said all that had to be said.  As John pointed out, there was more—much more—that might easily have fit into the three hours, but it is hard to quarrel with most of what he was able to squeeze in.

Toward the end of the program, John played this (not the video, of course, but the music)  sung by Ellen Bukstel and written by her, Bonnie Reiter-Lehrer, Nick Annis and Paul Hoyle.

These are the words of that day, but they are the story of our time as well.

Yes, the first two words are in Hebrew and they are particularly familiar to Jews of a certain stripe.  (Perhaps not the fools who think that “teaching the President a lesson” by electing a Republican to Congress is a good idea.  Others).

But the idea that “We are one people. We are one heart. Tikkun olam. Repair the world” is the essential difference in political philosophies.  To those who say: “He has no insurance so let him die.  She has no bridge, so let her build one.  He wants his children to be educated, then let him teach them.  She has no job but that matters not to me” we have our answers:

we now realize, as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take, but we must give as well


If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

Tikkun olam.  Repair the world.

This is what these days are all about.  Can we see that repairing roads and schools far from where we live enrich our own lives, or do we see this as just some government handout to the people who scream the loudest?  Do we see the government putting money in the economy by hiring people to do things for the benefit of us all. to rise all boats—to put money out there that might be spent on a car, and support the salaries of people who might build that car, or do we see this as the product of a government that does not know how jobs can best be made?

Do we demand that government stand by while people die.  Do we see government’s purpose in how many people it can put to death?  Or do we have a different vision for our people and our country?

Tikkun olam.  Repair the world.

We will see in the year to come.

2 thoughts on “Tikkun Olam, Repair the World

  1. If you want to eat food, you just have to be careful and take your chances. ”

    Minnesota cannot guarantee that my beef from Nebraska or my oranges from Florida or my potatoes from Idaho are safe to eat.

    There are no guarantees in life anyway but the FDA with all its flaws appears to be doing a pretty fair job of lessening the threat of potential plagues in this country.

    We need banking regs and probably would be better off separating consumer banks from S & L’s and Credit Unions and Mortgage banks as Taibbi notes in Rolling Stone.

    But the right wing in this country will continue to use meaningless sound bites demanding the end to Federal regs.

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