Sunday, March 18, 2007

Tikkun Olam (to repair the world)

David here, from Bridge to Biloxi (Concord, Massachusetts) with a few words that Kate suggested that I post. My wife (Beth) and two of my kids (Jake and Lily) came to HOGC in January - it was my 60th birthday, and I asked them to come and work here with me for a week as a way of marking the occasion. I had been to HOGC previously, and I knew that they would be inspired by the work that's going on in Biloxi. Before we left, I wrote a few words to share during the time, after dinner, when those who are leaving say good-bye:

"I want to say a big thank you to the long-term volunteers and staff for creating this incredible place and all the structure that goes with it – organizing the projects and pulling together the tools, supplies, and money that make all this good work possible. There’s an important principle in Judaism – it’s a commandment of Jewish law – called Tikkun Olam. Tikkun Olam means to repair the world. The Talmud says: “It is not up to you to finish the work, yet you are not free to avoid it.” No one can fix it all; but we all have a part to play. What’s going on down here could not be more important as an example of Tikkun Olam.

"I say that for three reasons. First, of course, it makes a huge impact in repairing the lives of the people that receive help from Hands On.

"Second, it makes a huge impact on the volunteers, repairing our hope and giving us all a taste of what is possible when people share a vision and a common purpose and learn how to work together.

"Finally, it repairs the wider world. The broken homes and broken lives that lay in the wake of Katrina were not caused entirely by the storm. Gutting these mold-encrusted houses reveals what ramshackle affairs many of them are. Their sad condition is a legacy of the racism and poverty in this country – a culture that says it’s OK for the poor to live in houses that are nearly falling apart, that are vulnerable to severe weather. Katrina peeled back the veneer that hid this neglect from our collective view. I believe that the work that’s going on down here tells the wider world that broken houses and broken lives are not acceptable, regardless of whether the damage was caused by hurricane, massive societal neglect, or both.

"So when I come to Biloxi, I remember Tikkun Olam. Healing the world: it’s not just a good idea – it’s the law."

1 comment:

Noelle said...


Thank you for sharing! My group was arriving around the same time you all were departing, and your words were extrememly powerful. I'm honored to be able to read them.