In recent years, the rabbinic phrase tikkun olam (“repairing the world”) has come to signify, in the American Jewish community, a general commitment to work for the betterment of society. Thus, in his autobiography In Praise of Public Life, Joe Lieberman retroactively invoked it to explain his personal commitment to public service:
[My faith] gave me clear answers to life’s most difficult questions. The summary of our aspirations was in the Hebrew phrase tikkun olam,
which is translated “to improve the world” or “to complete God’s
Creation.” It presumes the inherent
but unfulfilled goodness of people and requires action for the benefit
of the community. These beliefs were a powerful force in my upbringing
and seem even more profound and true to me today. The ideal of service
[is] fundamental to my religious faith.
Historically, tikkun olam was used by the early rabbis to refer to an act that, while not required by biblical law, helped to avoid social chaos and promote general well-being. Campaigning for the vice presidency the year his book came out (and as recently as three months ago), Lieberman advocated repairing the American health care system by letting those as young as 55 buy into Medicare. But now that that very proposal has become part of the health reform bill in the Senate, he opposes doing so.
What’s the opposite of tikkun olam, Joe?