Tikkun Olam is a term often used to refer to the performance of various acts of kindness. The term literally translated means “perfection of the world.” The origins of this expression comes from a phrase we recite in the Aleinu prayer: “L’Taken Olam B’Malchut Shadi” to perfect the universe through the Almighty’s sovereignty.
While it is true that one way to contribute to the perfection of our world is by performing acts of kindness, by helping others–this use of the term actually limits the possibilities of our actions and abilities to make the world a better place to live.
Tikkun Olam, perfecting the universe through the Almighty’s sovereignty includes bringing G-dlyness into any and all aspects of human existence. Reciting a blessing before eating, lighting candles Friday night, listening to the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah–all of these acts help perfect our world by helping to proclaim that our world is G-d’s kingdom. This is Tikkun Olam.
That being said, please do not misunderstand doing “chesed” (the accurate term for acts of kindness) is important. They do help make our world a better place especially performed in accordance within a Torah prospective.
Acts of kindness can be especially helpful, not only to the recipient but to the giver at this time of year.
As we know all humankind is judged on Rosh Hashanah. G-d himself sits in judgment but He is not like a black robed judge of flesh and blood. A human judge looks at the charges. Did the accused not do it–if so they are innocent.
G-d takes more into consideration. Is the accused guilty? If so: what are the consequences: If the accused is punished who else will suffer? If the guilty party will not be able to give people rides to their doctors appointments, or funds to the needy…due to suffering deserved consequences–are those recipients of these kindnesses deserving to lose this support or these services? Someone for who you have been performing acts of kindness can cause your judgment to be changed from a negative to a positive.
Conclusion: A powerful means of High Holiday preparation is to increase our acts of kindness. Tikkun Olam is not limited merely to acts of kindness but includes all acts that help bring G-d into our world. Which, by the way, also just happens to be a theme of the upcoming High Holiday season: The annointing of G-d as our King, the King of Kings, the King of the Universe.