Tikkun Olam, or to Repair the World
A very old man is planting a fruit tree. A passer-by wonders why he would bother to plant a tree that won’t bear fruit until decades after he is dead. The old man responds, “As my father planted before me, so do I plant for my children.” This story from the Talmud models tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase that means loosely, “repair the world.” The traditional Jewish belief is that we have an obligation to leave this world better than we found it. What we give is not so much for our own enjoyment, but to sustain and improve the world for the current as well as the next generation. It is really not a choice, but rather a requirement, to make our entire community a better place for everyone.
—Jim Friedman, from Why Jews Give