Tikkun Olam

Sermon in a Place of Prayer---Israelite, Edouard Moyse (1897) (public domain)

I’m watching, for the second time in two years, the documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

And in honor of Fred Rogers and my childhood, I drink a cup of hot chocolate with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream.

I sip this delicious concoction out of my “Tikkun Olam” coffee cup.

A souvenir mug, I purchased on my first visit to Safed.

A mug with pictures of the mountains surrounding Safed and another of the shops on the City of Kabbalah’s main street.

A mug that bares Rabbi Tarfon’s quote on it, “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”

Well enough about my drinking and traveling habits.

Do you remember watching the PBS’s biography of Fred Rogers?

No, but I bet you saw, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” with Tom Hanks portraying Fred.

No, didn’t see that either.

Well at least you know that Tom Hanks was Fred Rogers sixth cousin?

No, but you do recall watching the Mister Rogers with your kids?

Good because watching how Fred Rogers developed a relationship with children was amazing.

A relationship filled with smiles, sweaters and sneakers.

Well of course you remember the way Fred tossed his shoe from one hand to the other?

No, but you do recall how Fred’s words were like embers warming your stomach, heart and  soul?

Good, then you will recall how Fred’s voice calmed your kid’s nerves?

His tone acting like a safety net protecting your kids during times of crisis.

You recall how Fred loved children.

And how children reciprocated by adoring him.

Great, then you remember how Fred’s as the star of, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” had to  compete for the kids attention with his cast of puppets: Daniel S. Tiger, King Friday XIII, Queen Sara, X the Owl and Henrietta?

Good. How about the red toy trolley chugging past King Friday the XIII’s castle recall that?

Great. How about the song that opened the show?

Excellent. Lets sing it together.

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?”

“Won’t you be my neighbor.”

Wow you did a great job!

Well, ya know I loved that documentary.

And as a tear rolled down my face, I marveled that I had just watched a saint, a Presbyterian minister and a mensch on my television.

“Why a mensch?” you ask.

Well in the middle of the documentary as I sipped on my spiked hot chocolate, out of my Safed coffee cup, Fred startled me by saying, “Tikkun olam.”

As Rogers defined the Hebrew phrase for his audience as “repairing, healing, or perfecting the world.”

In wonder, I stared at the words painted on my coffee cup.

What a coincidence.

I realized that Fred Rogers summed up his life’s work in two Hebrew words, Tikkun olam.

A goal he marvelously accomplished.

For Fred Rogers repaired, healed and perfected the lives of many small children and their parents for over 33 years.

So you know what I did?

You’ll never guess.

I stood up in front of the TV, holding a sheet of paper and awarded Fred Rogers a Tikkun olam degree from Mensch University.

Don’t laugh, I’m now striving to obtain that same degree.

And when I get it, I want both of us to sing the school’s alma mater at the commencement ceremony:

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?”

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Well, neighbors, in the spirit of Tikkun olam, let’s commit to making the world a better place.

And not to forget those, like Fred Rogers, who repaired, healed and tried to perfect our lives.

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. Mort is a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal.
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