Friday, August 11, 2006

Peace be unto you.

Tomorrow is Shabbat, and I'm already thinking about it. Thinking about shamor and zachor, and how I wish I could taste the wine and sing kiddush. Instead, I'll be sitting in a freezing cold office, floor No. 5, amid cubicles where probably great journalist Bob Woodward walked by once or twice. Maybe Dustin Hoffman stood where I sit. Who knows. Either way, I know that the sweet scent of Sabbath isn't mine. Not yet. Shomer Shabbos is something that, for me, is a pillar that supports my Judaism, my person, my mind and my body. Summertime, when things become hectic and my mind doesn't sleep and I have a schedule that resembles nothing normal, is when I need my Shabbat. Instead I sit up late erading blogs and eating cereal and watching horrible late night television. And all that I can think about is is shamor and zachor, the smell of the Shabbat candles I want to light, but can't, not yet.

I've managed to figure out Olam: Part II. And it's short and sweet, mostly because no one has written about it, or rather, no one on the Interweb seems to have anything substantial to say about it. Tikkun Olam is translated literally everywhere as "repair of the world." So how did we go from (accepted from Part I) "obscure" or "really long time" or "undefined amount of time" to "world"?

It would be easy to say that we use the term "world" to describe the nebulous nature of what we understand as existence. But that's just to juvenile for me. I think it limits what we should really understand as tikkun olam, it makes for a very basic approach to what it is that we do. It makes us say "recycle! give to the poor! clean up after your dog when he poops!"

So I say the best way to approach this, perhaps, is to look at the (accepted from Part I) definition of olamim: "ages." It's almost like someone decided to take the backroad in when deciding what the modern construct of olam should be. In this case, in going from the plural (olamim: ages) to the singular (olam: age) we get "world" as a quaint translation. World is to age in the sense that an age is the time in which we live, in which we can grasp that there will be an end (we know that people tend to not live beyond 120 years of age). Thus, we "repair" the "world" in our time as best we can.

But doesn't this hurt the future "world"? Shouldn't we be considering tikkun olam as "changing the course of life" ... all life, not just the present. Tikkun olam is more than giving, acting, doing ... it's using all we have to create a future that, perhaps, is eternal.

Pretty basic, yes? And there we are. Someday maybe I'll work more on it. When I'm back into my biblical Hebrew, maybe I'll watch as the word evolves and see where in texts it began to mean "world." It's interesting how even within the Tanakh the word began to evolve from the early writings to the later prophets. Words, how funny they are.

Shalom Aleichem, friends.