Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pinḥas, the Quest for Purity, and the Dangers of Tikkun Olam

Geoffrey Claussen, “Pinhas, the Quest for Purity, and the Dangers of Tikkun Olam,” in Tikkun Olam: Judaism, Humanism and Transcendence, ed. David Birnbaum and Martin S. Cohen (New York: New Paradigm Matrix Publishing, 2015), 475-501.
This essay argues that programs for the “repair of the world” (tikkun olam) are often marked by arrogance, overzealousness, and injustice. I consider the biblical interpretations of Meir Kahane and Yitzchak Ginsburgh and point to the need to acknowledge our human limitations as we develop our visions for tikkun olam.  Part of what this essay suggests is that figures like Kahane and Ginsburgh participate in the "musar tradition" by engaging in arguments about the nature and application of various virtues and vices.  The improvement of the musar tradition, I think, requires guarding against the sorts of moral and intellectual errors that are exemplified in their teachings.

The complete essay is here.