Tikkun: Repairing the World

A popular term borrowed from the language of the Kabbalah has become common in the Jewish world: "tikkun". "Tikkun" literally means "fixing", or "repairing", and, far from being a particular political or social agenda, refers to the essential purpose of Creation. In addition, each one of us, individually, has certain "tikuns" or "repairs" to make on our own soul; it is for this reason that we were born.

Teachings of Kabbalah

Kabbalah teaches that before the world actually came into being, certain specific spiritual energies were arranged lacking harmony with one another. The strictly hierarchal relationship among these entities was not created (or able) to last, resulting in what Kabbalah calls the "Shattering of the Vessels" (perhaps similar to the Big Bang), whose outcome was the creation of the universe. Hardly a random occurrence, this is the stage which the Creator made upon which we perform - to repair the lack of balance.

Sometimes these repairs are made within ourselves, i.e. parts of our soul, among our emotional traits, our mental factors, etc. Sometimes we are asked to fix things within our families and communities. And sometimes we are called upon and inspired to make "tikkun" on a global scale, perhaps even among various elements of creation. It is important to note that the effect of a particular fixing is not always perceived by us. Whether signing a peace treaty moves the world closer to perfection more than an individual overcoming his qualities of selfishness or anger is rarely obvious.

Understanding Tikkun

In order to understand "tikkun", or the rectification of world (whether for an individual soul or universally), it is important to understand a few basics: Kabbalah describes three archetypal qualities, sometimes referred to as "right", "left", and "center" columns. These three relate to the qualities of loving-kindness and giving ("right"), strength and restraint ("left"), and the harmonious blending of the two ("center"). Loving-kindness is characterized by generosity, selflessness, revelation, and infinity. Strength is exemplified by limitations, structure, and discipline. The healthy fusion of the two is what is called the "middle" column. In the same way that a classic functioning family must have father and mother roles, so too, within each of us do we have these various qualities which must work together, each utilization his/her own unique strengths and talents for the betterment of the family.

In addition, Kabbalah adds another dimension: that of process. Not only are there right, left, and center columns, but there is also an element of stages of growth. For example, not only are there parents in an archetypal family, but children as well - each with their unique roles, albeit in their limited level of maturity. All members of the family, like all limbs and organs of a healthy body, must cooperate, acknowledging their respective roles within each unique context, for the good of the whole.

In the system of "tikkun", sometimes roles shift. Every particular component is growing and maturing, ready to impart greater levels of conscious and healing to those less mature, i.e. on a more constricted level of consciousness. In any case, a deep understanding of Kabbalistic concept of "tikkun" demands that we see ourselves as part of a greater whole and attempt integrate each element to the best of our ability.