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Tikkun Olam and Christian Ethics after the Holocaust

  • Robert A. Everett
Chapter

Abstract

The jewish concept of Tikkun Olam was first brought to my attention while reading the works of Gershom Scholem and Emil Fackenheim.1 As a Christian, I have found this theme to be extremely useful for theological reflection. Tikkun Olam conjures up a powerful image of the world torn apart by injustice, hatred and violence being knit back together through the acts of men and women seeking to restore the image of God in the faces of their brothers and sisters, as well as restoring creation to its divinely sanctioned holiness and wholeness. Fackenheim’s image of a Tikkun mending up a rupture in history is one of the most important theological concepts produced in contemporary religious thought. In considering the quest for social justice in relation to the doctrine of creation, I believe this Jewish theme needs to be borrowed by Christians in order to broaden their search for a viable social ethic, which avoids both an excessive privatization of faith and moral quietism and the danger of confusing ideology with the essentials of faith. In this sense, both conservative and liberal Christians would be well served by the concept of Tikkun Olam. This paper is a preliminary meditation on how this concept can be appropriated by Christians for their own theological reflection.

Keywords

Social Justice Human History Human Existence Jewish People Christian Tradition 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Gershom Sholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York: Schocken Press, 1971), pp.244–286;Google Scholar
  2. Emil Fackenheim, To Mend the World: Foundations for Future Jewish Thought (New York: Schocken Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Arthur A. Cohen, ‘The Holocaust and Christian Theology: An Interpretation of the Problem’, in Judaism and Christianity under the Impact of National-Socialism (1919–1945) (Jerusalem: The Historical Society of Israel, 1982), p.427.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol.1 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1964) pp.175–176. See also E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism and Paul, the Law and the Jewish People; Lloyd Gaston, Paul and the Torah; Paul Van Buren, A Christian Theology of the People Israel, pp.277–284; A. Roy Eckardt, For Righteousness’ Sake, pp.36–50.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Herbert Richardson, Toward an American Theology (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), p. 132.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Quoted in Abraham Heschel, The Prophets, vol.2 (New York: Harper Torchback, 1962), p.79.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    David Tracy, ‘Religious Values after the Holocaust’ in Christians and Jews After the Holocaust (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), pp.87–107.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Jon Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987), p.xiv.Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    Quoted in Bernard Anderson, Creation versus Chaos: A Reinterpretation of Mythical Symbolism in the Bible (New York: Association Press, 1967), p. 172.Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    Reinhold Niebuhr, Christianity and Power Politics (Hamden, CT.: Archon Books, 1969), p.180.Google Scholar
  11. 31.
    Paul Van Buren, A Theology of the Jewish-Christian Reality: Christ in Context, Part3 (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), pp. 164–67.Google Scholar
  12. 36.
    David Tracy, The Analogical Imagination: Christian Theology and the Culture of Pluralism (New York: Crossroads, 1987), pp.429–438.Google Scholar
  13. 44.
    Alice Eckardt, ‘Power and Powerlessness: The Jewish Experience’ in Toward an Understanding and Prevention of Genocide (Boulder, CO.: Westview Press, 1984) pp.183–196.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert A. Everett

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