Sunday, March 02, 2008

Tikkun Olam

Via Kid Oakland (whose excellent essay can be found here), Josh Keller offers some observations about the deeper possibilities offered by Barack Obama.

But going to the Obama rally in Austin made me think differently about what it means to be an observant Jew and the type of politics that represent our values more generally. The following is a blurb from the Nation. I am using the blurb because I couldn't remember the speech word for word and this seems to jive with my own recollection.

Obama ended by recalling, as he often does, Martin Luther King Jr.'s prophecy that "the arc of the moral universe...bends towards justice." Yet as his speech reached a crescendo, there was a palpable sense that he believed, perhaps more than ever before, in his own message. "Here's the thing, young people, it doesn't bend on its own, it bends because you put your hand on that arc and you bend it in the direction of justice," Obama boomed. "Think about all the power that's represented here in all of you.... If you all grab that arc, then I have no doubt, I have absolutely no doubt, that regardless of what happens in this presidential year and regardless of what happens in this campaign, America will transform itself."

This obviously has strong biblical meaning, and rooted in Judaism. It corresponds to the idea of Tikkun Olam (to repair the world) and that g-d's will is revealed through human spirit and action. And this is what Jews celebrate on Pesach every year. It also has deep roots in the African American churches, who saw the story of Exodus as speaking deeply to them.

So in simple words, this movement can represent a new politics in America, but also a return to ancient views of justice.

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