Gemilut Hasadim 101
Lovingkindness--the act of caring for others--is a fundamental of Judaism.
Jewish communal efforts on behalf of the poor extend beyond charitable giving (tzedakah) that reaches recipients in the form of money. People in need of food, shelter, or clothing are often provided with these directly, whether by individuals or by community institutions. Even more specialized needs, such as those of families marrying off a child, have often been provided for by Jews who took this on as their personal contribution to the needs of others.
The concept of "repairing the world"--the notion that the world itself is somehow disjointed, incomplete, and in need of reworking so that it will function as it was meant to function--has ancient roots, but it is primarily a product of certain schools of Kabbalah in the sixteenth century. Its fascinating history has culminated in a new, broader usage. Since the mid-20th century, it has come to be associated with modern social welfare efforts and even with a liberal agenda regarding social policy. Tikkun olam does not strictly fall into the category of gemilut hasadim, which usually refers to acts which help individuals rather than working towards larger societal change.
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