Tikkun Olam: Repairing the World, Healing God in Kabbalistic Thought

By :  Eitan Fishbane Professor of Jewish Thought Posted On Jul 17, 2023 / 5783 | Monday Webinar The Dynamics of Change

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Part of the series, The Dynamics of Change 

With Dr. Eitan Fishbane, Professor of Jewish Thought, JTS 

The term tikkun, which refers to the process of cosmic-divine repair as well as the personal-psychological repair of the human soul, was central to Jewish mystical thought and literature. The idea and practice flourished especially in the Zohar and related texts in 13th- and 14th-century Spain; in the teachings of Moses Cordovero, Isaac Luria, and other Kabbalists of 16th-century Tzfat; and in the Kabbalah of modern eastern European Hasidism. In this session, we will delve into sources that understand tikkun olam as an act of healing the Divine Self, which has the potential of bringing God closer to our world. This is often referred to as “theurgy” in the study of religion. The mystics believed that our human actions in this world have the power to effect change and transformation within God’s very self! What is more, we will explore how tikkun was used in describing the process of mending one’s moral and devotional life, sometimes referred to as tikkun ha-middot. This process of tikkun as personal growth and positive change was also understood to have a broader theurgic effect upon the healing or repair of God.


The Dynamics of Change 

Change is an integral part of life and a central feature of the Jewish experience. Join JTS scholars for an in-depth exploration of significant changes—religious, political, and personal—throughout Jewish history and life. Together we’ll consider core questions such as: What inspires change? What circumstances are most conducive to change, and what (or who) drives it? How do we experience change and adapt to its impact? How can Jewish values and ideas inspire us to change the world for the better?