“Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”
No other words so perfectly capture the essence of tikkun olam (repair of the world) as those written by the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. He was reflecting on a seminal moment in the fight for civil rights that took place in 1965, when he joined Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of others as they marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
When we see injustice in the world, we are faced with choices. Some people, given the chance, will join in with those committing the injustice. Others will look away. Some people will wait for divine intervention. A courageous few will roll up their sleeves and ask, “What can I do to help?”
As Jews, we look for spiritual guidance and wisdom, but the day-to-day work of making the world a better place is entirely ours. As the Talmud says, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
When Russian Jews were treated like second-class citizens, and not allowed to practice as Jews, a man named Natan Sharansky did not look away, or wait quietly for change to come. He asked, “What can I do to help?” The answer was to speak out and organize, which landed him in a Soviet prison for nine years, but ultimately brought about change. Read his full story in Kar-Ben’s new graphic novel, Natan Sharansky: Freedom Fighter for Soviet Jews.
Today, more than ever, the need for tikkun olam is great. Tikkun olam is important work, a living prayer, and it begins with one simple question... “What can I do to help?”