We exist to be loved because the dominant “flavor” of God is love — it must be dynamic and flow in order to flower. And while there is almost nothing our finite minds can truly grasp of His infinite nature, we do know that he is perfectly complete, needing nothing from outside Himself to be complete, that, ultimately, He is unknowable, but that He is the source of and definition of all Goodness.
A lover wants only the best for the beloved, and since the ultimate goodness is defined as God Himself, we’re given the seemingly impossible opportunity to, as finite beings, approach ever so closely to the Infinite Goodness. And nearness, spiritually, rather than physically, speaking, is resemblance.
So we’re given the opportunity to imitate the Creator. We can do this by becoming creators ourselves, generating our closeness rather than merely receiving it like some sort of cosmic welfare. We are given free choice to, at each moment, consciously and actively, independently move ourselves ever closer.
So the universe is created incomplete and we’re placed in it with the opportunity to partner in the finishing touches, bringing the world to its own perfect completeness. Tikkun olam is not merely restricted to helping others, to protecting the physical environment or any other specific set of tasks that might seem urgent at the time, although it does include all of these and more. But it really means each of us uses our unique gifts and vision to facilitate the ultimate perfection. This becomes clearer as we remember that “olam,” world or universe, has several meanings. What we usually call the world is, more specifically, olam gadol, the greater world. But there is also “olam katan,” the small world, actually many of them — each individual human. This is the teaching that whoever saves a life is like one who creates the world. So we work, simultaneously, healing and completing both the olam gadol and the olam katan. When we learn “as above, so below,” we’re really talking about the power generated as we heal and integrate our own personalities, as we refine ourselves as lovers and creators.
Much is beyond our vision and understanding, but which, nonetheless, is part of Creation. So in addition to those actions whose effects we can seemingly observe and understand, the empirical, there is also a lot which we can, at best, intuit, and if not, only “take on faith.”
But there is no “blind faith” in Judaism. Emunah, faith or belief — related to “amen” — is based on the same root as “omanut,” craft. Our mandate is to slowly craft our own beliefs, each a work in progress.
So we have to work to accept, understand and, finally, believe that even while most of Creation is beyond our conception, it remains within our influence. And tikkun olam extends to this realm as well.
There are both actions that make sense and those which defy or transcend “sense” — both the logical and the trans-rational, and each can and must further the project of bringing the world to its perfect completion.
Step back a moment. Take ourselves out of the centers of our universes, admit our own finitude, and we begin to see more than when we relied only on our own senses. “Reishet chochmah, yirat Hashem,” the beginning of wisdom is seeing that there is an Infinite and Transcendent.
And remember, this Infinite Transcendent God acts only for the Good, for our good. “More than the calf wants milk, the cow wants to nurse.” We’re meant to succeed.
We’re given the tools to operate in the empirical, “rational” world. We have sense organs coupled with sense, the ability to process information. Much of what needs to be done in the world can be learned through this channel.
But our work in the invisible, transcendent world beyond our conception requires a map, advice and guidance. But to accept and trust these gifts, remember the source and the motivation of them, which is love. This enables us to trust, to do things that evade everyday reasoning: Mitzvot, in a word.
So we can now view those perplexing mitzvot as pathways toward the tikkunim we’re not able to directly understand. They’re not arbitrary, nor intended to turn us into regimented, unthinking robots, but rather to enhance our unique effectiveness, our sensitivity, our capacity to love. We might not understand the exact mechanism. We don’t have to.
Just as the Creator desires our perfect completion, we work to create that same perfection in the unfinished world, both in ways we can determine for ourselves and in ways we accept with loving trust.
Of course, we can analyze and examine this to the finest detail. Like our individual emunah (faith), like our efforts in tikkun, like the world itself, it’s a work in progress. They’re all works in progress, each of us, the world we share, the infinite realms of reality we can’t even directly perceive.
By saying we’re the key, we’re not in any way saying the world is ours to exploit, to destroy, to use as we wish. Although we do have the power to destroy much, our ultimate role, once again, is to bring it all, our individual unique selves included, to its finest state.
Then we’re truly the creative partners of the Creator. We’re as close to that transcendent being as possible, connected and receiving the flow of great love, which was the original goal.
A mantra, a meditation, a reminder. We’re here to do our best, to be our finest, and to then ultimately enjoy just being, in the eternal moment, basking in that Source of all light, all good, all love.
To paraphrase Hillel, the rest is details. Come and learn.