“Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.” (Is. 58:12)
Several years ago, I joined the board of directors for the Coalition for the Homeless in Houston. Shortly after joining, our executive director left, and we started a search process for an interim director.
During one of the interviews for this position, I asked the candidate why he wanted to join our work. The man said, “I believe in Kikkun Olam.”
I said, “What does that mean?” He said, “The expression comes from my Jewish tradition, and it means to be a repairer of the tears (as in rips) in the world.”
I came across this expression once again. This time it was when a Jewish Synagogue opened its doors to an African Episcopal Methodist congregation that had lost its church in a fire. When the people in the synagogue were asked why they were offering hospitality to this Christian Church, they said that they were committed to “Kikkun Olam.” Interestingly enough, the repairing of this tear happened in the epicenter of the civil rights movement—Birmingham, Alabama.
We see the intent of “Kikkun Olam” in today’s scripture. Just look at the words: rebuilt, raise up, repairer, restorer. Isaiah prophesied these words to those who were just returning home to the ruins in Jerusalem after being exiled to Babylon.
If we look around us, we will see many tears in the world. Tears in our criminal justice system. Tears between the races. Tears around immigration issues. Tears in our government and communities.
What could Isaiah’s words be saying to us? What will we do with the tears that are all around us?
We have three choices. First, deny that we have any responsibility to do anything. Second, add to them. Third, repair them.
I encourage us to make the only faithful response, and that’s to pledge our God-given abilities to “Kikkun Olam.” Even if this expression comes from the Jewish tradition, I believe Christians can see that Jesus was the repairer between God and us and between heaven and earth. The repair work Jesus came to do, He calls us to continue with each other and in this world.
- What tears in the fabric of the world do you see? Do any of them grieve you? If so, what are you going to do with your grief?
- Have you ever done or said anything that made for any new, or any further, tearing in the world? If so, is there anything you need to do or undo, any words you need to say or unsay?
- What are you going to do with Isaiah’s words? How might you be called to rebuild, raise up, repair, and restore? In other words, how will you be an agent and servant of “Kikkun Olam?”