In Jewish tradition, all of Tanach (in English known as the Old Testament) contains prophetic vision, at different levels of prophecy. The five books of the Torah are understood to have been dictated directly from God to Moses (however that works); the works of the Prophets are the record of prophetic visions (there are differences of opinion as to how prophecy works; for one interesting view, see Maimonides' Laws of the Foundations of the Torah, chapter 7, where he is clear that prophecy is not like what we commonly call inspiration), and the Hagiographa record "ruach hakodesh,' Divine inspiration at a level that qualified to be in Scripture.
The concept of tikkun olam, near as I can find it, is only first found in the Mishnah, such as the fourth chapter of Gittin, where it speaks of helping the world function well. In addition, I always am struck by people speaking of "tikkun haolam" without noting that in Aleinu, the prayer at the end of services, we speak of hoping ìú÷ï òåìí áîìëåú ù÷é, to repair the world in the Kingdom of God. Meaning, it's not tikkun olam for it's own sake, it's tikkun olam to bring all humanity to realize, recognize, and engage with their Creator.
The Hebrew Bible, which is composed of the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings, contains a written record of prophetic vision from ancient times. Regarding the nature of prophetic vision and its translation into what we know as the Biblical text, see Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book, God in Search of Man. Despite differing interpretations regarding the nature of prophecy and of prophetic vision, the common thread that unites our understanding of prophecy is that prophetic vision reminds us that God cares about the world and about human beings.
Tikkun olam, as we understand it today, means that as we incorporate acts of loving-kindness and of social action in our daily lives, we are in fact partnering with God in the on-going process of Creation. It involves our working toward the eventual fulfillment of the vision of our prophets; a vision of a world filled with knowledge of God, a world filled with holiness, justice and peace.
The world is a work in progress. Accessing the inspiration of prophetic vision, we are reminded that by our actions we can take part in increasing the blessings of holiness, justice, and peace in the world.
Just as there are different understandings of the nature of prophecy and of prophetic vision, so too, throughout history there have been different understandings of the phrase “tikkun olam.” From a phrase originally denoting the goal of communal stability and order, tikkun olam has evolved to our current usage that denotes a sense of responsibility to engage in social action in an effort to repair the world. See Jill Jacobs’ article: “The History of Tikkun Olam” for a more detailed description of the evolution of phrase “tikkun olam” from its post biblical, second century origins, and up to modern times.
Question: What sacred text is prophetic vision contained in, as well as where is the concept of tikkun olam (repair of the world)?
The overall message of prophetic vision is one where the world is transformed into a much more beautiful and peaceful world, but accomplished through human leadership with God beside us. We generally label this kind of transformation as tikkun olam, or as you have translated, the repair of the world. So the “prophetic vision” you mention is tied very closely to the notion of tikkun.
Most of the prophetic biblical texts offer some kind of vision of the prophet, whether speaking about the particular future of Israel or the world in general. One of the more famous ones is the selection in Isaiah 58:1-14. In this passage referring to the ancient observance of Yom Kippur, the author advocates the performance of sacred obligations over the mere observance of the sacrificial rites of the holidays as being the highest form of actions leading to fulfillment of the prophetic vision. Isaiah 11 is a chapter which also contains a prophecy of the advent of God’s future messianic world, where all peoples will look to God for divine leadership and toward Jerusalem as the center of learning.
In the Mishnah, the first stage of Rabbinic commentary on the Mitzvot found in Torah, the phrase “mipnei tikkun olam”, “for the sake of the repair of the world,” is found in relation to practical matters and not in connection to the matters of messianic transformation.
In the liturgy, the concept of “tikkun olam” is found in the Aleinu prayer, said to have been composed during the era of the persecutions of the Crusades. The words we use – tikkun olam – are really a euphemism for the longer expression in the Aleinu “l'takken olam b'malchut Shaddai,” or “to perfect the world under God's sovereignty.” This could mean that when all people of the world abandon false gods and recognize the one true God, the world will have been perfected. If we employ the concept that we have established a partnership with God in the acts of tikkun-repair, we know that it is humanity’s responsibility to improve the state of the world; we accomplish this by helping others (through acts of “tzedakah,” or “righteousness”), which also brings honor to God and God’s sovereignty of the world.
Copyright 2020 all rights reserved. Jewish Values Online
N O T I C E
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN ANSWERS PROVIDED HEREIN ARE THOSE OF THE INDIVIDUAL JVO PANEL MEMBERS, AND DO NOT
NECESSARILY REFLECT OR REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF THE ORTHODOX, CONSERVATIVE OR REFORM MOVEMENTS, RESPECTIVELY.