Tikkun Olam is a beautiful concept that comes from the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah. Roughly speaking, Tikkun Olam refers to repairing the world or restoring God’s Light in the world in order to repair the broken relationship between God and humankind.
The concept is derived from a mystical re-telling of the creation story. When God, the source of all life and pure light, created the world He took part of Himself, His Light, and placed it in clay jars in the world to be the source of life and light for all of creation.
Sadly, at some point, the clay jars containing God's Light were broken. We do not know how or why, all we know is that the jars were broken into thousands of small pieces. These thousands of pieces of God’s Light spread across the world and entered every living thing and every event. Even though God’s Light was still in the world, in all living things and all events, it could not be readily seen. It became hidden from all of humankind.
But, because we know this story and because we know that God’s Light is in all living things and all events in this world, we have the capacity and the responsibility to work to restore God’s Light; to lift it up and make it visible for everyone to see.
This practice of Tikkun Olam is both an internal practice and an external practice. We are to find God’s Light hidden deep within ourselves, and then bring God’s Light to the surface of our lives for all to see. We bring God’s Light to the surface of our lives through worship, prayer, the study of God’s Word, and service to others.
At the same time, we are called to identify God’s Light in others and to help them to find His Light hidden deep within them. To encourage them and teach them so that they too can bring God’s Light to the surface of their lives. By doing this we will, in time, restore the Light of God to the world.
For more on Tikkun Olam, check out Krista Tippett’s interview with Dr. Naomi Remen on Speaking of Faith.