A knowledgeable Hebraic critic considers a concept honored by the vast majority of his co-religionists and finds it all wrong.
The tenet that it is a duty to fix our imperfect world, known in Hebrew as tikkun olam (to repair or heal the world), is a relatively new concept, less than a couple of centuries old. To Neumann, a former editor at Jewish Ideas Daily, it is equivalent to the effort to achieve social justice, and that equals politics, liberal politics in particular. Making that jump, he preaches forcefully from his religion’s right. The author shows that tikkun olam is scarcely referenced in the Five Books of Moses or by the prophets. The faithful will find little support in the Hebrew Bible for LGBT or voting rights; gun, tax, health care, or immigration reform; or care for the environment. That’s not what Judaism is about, insists the author. He concedes that it would be good if the world operated better, but ethical behavior is not a mandate unique to the Jewish faith. Adherents to that faith should attend to the unique obligations placed on them at Mount Sinai. What is the function of the Jewish community otherwise? It would be better, writes Neumann, for the Jewish faithful to practice their religiosity according to the ancient texts, rituals honored for millennia and devotion to Israel, the Promised Land. In his fundamentalist exegesis, the author argues that those radical proponents who feel obliged to fix the world actually weaken devotion to the true Jewish mandate. Among the many liberal thinkers and activists espousing false agendas are such worthy figures as Thomas Friedman, Ruth Messinger, Michael Lerner, Michael Strassfeld, and Michael Walzer. Neumann, finding tikkun olam a rarity in the Jewish canon, posits a false dichotomy in an either/or situation.
Against what most Jews today take to be central to their faith, this jeremiad is unlikely to succeed.