Some magazines are lightweight, with no aim higher than trumpeting good taste. As spelled out in its cover tagline, Tikkun has a loftier goal, namely the translation of its Hebrew title: "to mend, repair, and transform the world."
A tall order--though it's hard to argue with the notion that the world could use some changing. I'm just not sure that the Tikkun way--spiritually tinged, progressive activism--is feasible. But it sure sounds lovely in the abstract.
Consider the questionnaire that readers are encouraged to use to "educate" local political candidates and the media. One question asks if the pol would help implement a 'New Bottom Line," in which "organizations, corporations, social and governmental practices, and legislation" are judged whether "they increase our capacities to be loving and caring, kind and generous, ethically and ecologically sensitive, able to see others as embodiments of the sacred and able to respond to the universe with gratitude, awe and wonder."
Wow. That's an example of the high idealism and writing style on view through much of the book. Edited by Rabbi Michael Lerner partly to advance the cause of his international, interfaith Tikkun Community, the pubis not an easy or entertaining read. There are pages of long, rambling sentences, some of which fail to make much sense. Consider the article that discusses how Judaism treats homosexuals, written in an impenetrable mix of occasional Hebrew and academic doublespeak (sample: "Yet the extinction of nothingness does not build homes or till the earth." Huh?). The bare-bones layouts--many gray pages of tiny type with few graphics to relieve the monotony--don't help, either.
Much of the theorizing addresses topics like environmentalism (which the author argues should be promoted as a moral issue), Israel, economics and the spiritual Left--those trying to take back spirituality and moral values from the Far Right.
I think the latter movement is great. In fact, I agree with and support much of the mag's analysis; I'd just like it to be more clearly written, and, well, engaging.
By contrast, it's easier to relate to the spiritually themed articles, though they tend to veer toward fluffy pop psychology. Consider the spiritual "workbook" that includes a little chart to fill in "what is spiritually out of alignment in my relationships with parents, spouse, friends and children." Another piece makes the women's-magazine-type point that the concept of a soulmate may be unrealistic; one should make do with friends, and strengthen one's relationship with oneself.
Of all the political content, I most appreciated a snappily written (short!), useful piece on Web sites that provide an alternative to U.S. news sources on the Middle East. The sites include an Israeli paper (http://www.haaretz.com) and the English version of a London-based, Saudi newspaper (http://english.daralhayat.com) described as "the best source for opinion editorials in the Arabic-language newspaper world."
Perhaps because the culture writers have less of a heavy ax to grind, their pieces are the best written.
I enjoyed learning about the documentaries made by Anat Zuria, who shows the sexism in Orthodox Jewish circles from a unique perspective: as a member of the community. Then there's an interesting Q&A with Israeli novelist Aharon Applefeld, who talks about writing fiction that's based loosely on the Holocaust. Echoing his childhood as a near-mute after the trauma of escaping the Nazis, Applefeld's books are models of spare, lean prose. He believes that "Less is more. Speak less... Language doesn't always reveal; language can be camouflage." A man after my own heart.
If only Tikkun's editors would heed his advice.