…When you take the people out of Egypt you will serve G-d on this mountain. — Exodus 3:12
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. — Constitution of the United States of America, First Amendment of the Bill of Rights Thomas Jefferson in his Notes on the State of Virginia
…can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?… I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever… — Thomas Jefferson in his Notes on the State of Virginia
Liberty cannot be established without morality, not morality without faith! — Alexis de Tocqueville in his Democracy in America
Last night, watching the riot and chaos in UC-Berkeley, really put the latest events in stark relief. I’m not referring to political events, rather to the cultural and moral malaise underlying it and the reason for the political revolution we are witnessing.
America has always held the Right of Freedom of Speech and Religion to be sacrosanct. Not for nothing is it the first Amendment and underlying basis for all the Bill of Rights in our Constitution. If not for that first “right” none of the others can exist. There have been many cases brought to the Supreme Court and regardless of the repugnance it may have held to the citizenry at large, the minority, the disagreeable, revolting and unacceptable and their right to speak or worship as they saw fit were always upheld.
I remember with some clarity the planned march of the Nationalist Socialist Party of America — a neo-Nazi organization — in Skokie, Illinois in 1977 where many Holocaust survivors resided. The Supreme Court upheld their right to march as repugnant as they were. While it never really materialized to the extent they planned, nevertheless, the law was clarified and settled that repulsive and offensive speech cannot be curbed nor the rights of those who wish to express it.
This has been a fundamental hallmark of our country. It’s why flag-burning is allowed. It’s why each political party may raise millions of corporate dollars even if money flooding the political system is anathema to all sides. Contributions to a political party is a form of free speech and thus cannot constitutionally be proscribed. Other than the “you can’t cry fire in a theater” principle, where there is none, freedom of speech and religion is pretty much completely protected.
So, when you see young men and women, who go to college, where opposing ideas and debate should be inviolable, denying someone the right to speak, when there should be a welcoming of diverse cultures, ideas and religions it makes it all the more difficult to digest and accept. These youth will be our future leaders. They’re supposed to be our hope and the payoff of our investment and yet the sad truth is that these cultural narcissists and selfish children have become the very people they profess to fight and the very ideal they are supposed to oppose.
This week’s “WORD” is not here to discuss the underlying reasons and history leading to the abyss we’ve fallen into. I’m here to talk about the future and how to get out of it and fast. How to change the very fundamentals of our country if we’re to have it altogether.
As a bastion of liberty this has been a haven for Jews. We Jews have wandered and suffered enough. It would be nice to keep America a secure refuge until Mashiach comes.
So what to do? How do we change it?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe had foreseen and forecasted this turn of events many years ago, many times. This wasn’t a prophetic warning, but one based on vast knowledge, great wisdom and years of experience. The experience of living under tyrannical governments and dictatorships surely had to shape his philosophy. He warned, begged and cajoled our government that to ensure a generation of men and women able to assume the mantle of leadership. For future generations to be law-abiding citizens and for their to be a people to govern there must be one overarching premise that keeps us all connected, cohesive and communicative.
It’s an abiding faith and trust in a Creator and His Intelligent Design. It is an admission of His Divine providence and administration of natural order.
This is beyond respect to any one particular religion. No different then the erroneous interpretation and ruling on the right to an abortion by the Supreme Court was the Establishment Clause which forced G-d out of our daily lives. Ever since we’ve been careening into chaos and moral depravity. We are losing our youth and children and as a result there’s no more fealty to G-d and country. It’s almost an anachronism today. It started to take root in the baby boomer generation and their youthful narcissism and has fully blossomed to an openly depraved and profligate way for all. That is the meaning of “liberty” today. Liberty with no responsibility. Freedom with no obligation. Independence from any commitment.
There is no higher purpose any longer. All there is, is self-purpose and self-fulfillment. To that end we have safe-zones not secure zones. Cop-outs, no respect for cops. Safe-spaces but not for the Omni-spacial. Spacing out with no space for another. To turn it around we must change from within and bring about a grassroots transformation in this country. To make it a place of goodness, kindness; a peaceful oasis bringing all people of all colors, creeds and walks of life toward a purpose that will unite us and not divide us.
Truth be told, this is not my idea or even that of our Rebbe. It started back in the former Soviet Union when the Rebbe’s father-in-law and master, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph I Schneersohn, ob”m, fought for and almost died for this ideal.
As this coming week, Sunday night/Monday, the 10th of Shevat is his yahrtzeit, it is worth noting, perhaps, out of the many teachings and lifelong lessons he left behind, there are two that go to the heart of this matter:
a) During his incarceration in the early days of the Bolshevik Revolution and Communist regime, when the government and especially the Yevsektzia –the Jewish Communist Section– were busy rooting out any vestiges of religion and G-d, especially in the youth and educational system, with heavy emphasis placed on the Jewish community and Chabad in particular, the following response to one of their interrogations stands out most. After he resolved from the time he was arrested (as recorded in his memoirs) not to give them any satisfaction in any way and having decided to take the tack of utter indifference and defiance, being, as he said, that a Jewish soul can never be incarcerated and is always free. And, furthermore, the very constitution of the Communist regime gave each citizen the right to worship freely, his Jewish interrogators lost their patience and angrily pulled a revolver out of a drawer and pointed it at his head. The interrogator threatened: This little toy has made many a man talk. The Previous Rebbe smiled serenely and with stoic conviction replied: This toy can make one who has many gods and one world talk but not someone who has two worlds and one G-d.
This was a declaration of faith and trust in G-d in the most darkest and dangerous places and times of his life. As one who led an underground movement, not of insurrection and anarchy (as they tried to accuse him), but of the right to worship and educate, lawfully, and without government interference and to propagate Judaism into perpetuity based on a G-d given gift to humanity. This foundation protects us from tyranny and despotism.
b) This same philosophy was followed immediately when he stepped off the ship onto the shores of America and was told by his own coreligionists to take a vacation and retire comfortably now that he was in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Told that the “old ways” –the “alter heym”— no longer works, nor applies. He replied, firmly and publicly, broken body and all, but a heroic and powerful soul: “America is nisht andersh“! America is NO different. G-d is not an “old” world concept. A relic of the past. To be shelved in a world of democracy and freedom. There can be no freedom without G-d. It’s what the Bolsheviks preached and we see how that ended. How prescient then and how prescient now.
The Founding Fathers of this nation themselves knew it! Before the Constitution which instructs us how to govern came a Declaration of Independence. It was the predicate and basis to the Constitution. Therein is clearly stated and affirmed the basic belief in a Creator and His Divine Providence. The revolution and its success was attributed to G-d not to men. And to that end, these revolutionaries established a constitution affirming the freedom of their people from tyranny but at the same time affirmed the duty of the people to establish itself as a nation of law that ensures the continuity of this new nation.
No nation can endure for long without the underlying obligation to serve others and be governed under law. That, however, cannot happen without an organic acceptance of a Higher Power and a Creator who makes this all possible.This acknowledgment makes freedom coupled with justice an enduring possibility.
This is what Moses intones throughout the Torah-portions we are reading prior to the Exodus from enslavement. He keeps telling Pharaoh in G-d’s Name, “send out my people so that they may serve Me!” G-d never promised us freedom from servitude. He merely promised us freedom of servitude! Self-absorption, self-importance and self-worship was never the deal. That leads to self-destruction. G-d merely gave us a trade off and not necessarily an easier one. It requires a sense of determination and life-long discipline to service and sacrifice. He gave us the choice to serve a higher purpose and not be slaves to a king of flesh and blood or to our own flesh and blood.
I’m taking you out of Egypt and slavery to a Pharaoh and his self-aggrandizement which you’ve been working for all these years to a “slavery” and life of worship to the King of Kings. This has always been the path to true freedom and redemption. You may not like it but history proves its utility over and over again.
It is time to re-introduce G-d to the world and mostly to our youth. We must be strong and disciplined. We must be exemplars of a G-dly way of life if we are to see our children have a chance of experiencing a free and beneficent country. Let us not get stuck in partisanship and political debates. Let us look to the future and see what we can do to make this country a beacon of life and hope for all again. Let us emerge from darkness and slavery into light and freedom.
Let’s give G-d a chance again!!!