By COLlive reporter
On Yud Shvat 5741 (January 15, 1981), the Rebbe delivered an address to more than 5,000 Chassidim who had gathered at 770 Eastern Parkway to celebrate 30 years since accepting the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch.
The words the Rebbe spoke were later written up in an essay, personally edited by the Rebbe, and printed at his behest in the Congressional Record of the U.S. Senate.
The defeat of an incumbent President in an election is viewed by many as an opportunity for rejoicing in his downfall. In the talk, the Rebbe explained that the Torah bids one to gratefully acknowledge the good which was achieved.
But while Presidents may change, the office of the Presidency does not; and it is the duty of the incoming President to strengthen the foundation of our country, stated on every form of currency — “In G‑d We Trust,” the Rebbe explained.
To ensure that such trust is instilled within every citizen, the proper education of children is mandatory, the Rebbe stressed. To this end, it is imperative that a simple non-denominational prayer be said by children at the beginning of each day.
The following is the Rebbe’s full talk and essay courtesy of Sichos in English:
In a democracy such as the U.S.A., an orderly transference of government is effected through the electoral process. The choice made by the people in the polling booths decides who will occupy the highest office in the land — the Presidency; thereby ensuring a smooth and peaceful transition from one administration to the next.
Yet a disturbing trend has been evident in past elections. When the previous incumbent in the Oval Office is the defeated candidate, his defeat has triggered a less than noble response; it is seized upon by some as an opportunity to rejoice in his discomfiture. Stripped as he now is of power, such critics fear no retaliation on his part; nor can they now expect to gain any favors. And so they indulge in the ignoble pastime of rubbing salt into the wound.
But such is not the way of Torah. Notwithstanding any past mistakes, Torah bids us to be grateful, to acknowledge those good things which were done. In the eyes of Torah, to be an ingrate is a despicable thing, unworthy of any decent human being. And in the past administration, the outstanding achievement was the prevention of war. There were instances in the past four years, which, but for the endeavors of the President, could easily have led to war. Not only did he thus save millions of Americans from the horrors of such a consequence, but in all probability the rest of the world. And for this he deserves our thanks and gratitude.
Possibly, political considerations would dictate greater caution in expressing gratitude, from fear of offending the new holder of the office. But the new President will undoubtedly tender recognition for the good accomplished; especially when the good was of such paramount importance as the prevention of war.
A short note of caution is in order here. The above acknowledgment is in no way to be construed as a retraction from my previous stand concerning the Camp David accords. I reiterate as strongly as possible that it was, and remains, a disaster and peril for Jews and the rest of the world. The President’s part in the accords was, no doubt, motivated by the hope that it would bring peace — and for this he is to be commended. But the fact remains that all that has been achieved is that one side has made numerous concessions, including giving up land and essential oil supplies, for no substantive return whatsoever. Such concessions merely prompt demands for further concessions, creating an even greater danger to peace.
To return to our main point: notwithstanding any errors made, we are enjoined by Torah to express gratitude where credit is due. This is a man who safeguarded the well-being of millions of Americans, and to him, we duly express our gratitude.
While Presidents can and do change, the office of the Presidency remains constant. The beginning of a new term of office will certainly elicit even more vigorous efforts on the part of the new President in the discharge of this office. The first and foremost duty is to strengthen the basis of our very existence. That basis is the foundation upon which this country was born and is stated on every dollar bill printed in the U.S.A. — “In G‑d We Trust.”
There are various words that roughly express the same meaning as “trust” — for example, belief, faith. Trust, however, has a meaning which is more profound than mere belief. Belief in a Deity does not always mean unquestioning confidence in that Deity’s willingness to help a person in every facet of life. One can believe in G‑d — but not to the extent that one puts his trust in G‑d. As in the business world, where assets are given to another to be held in trust, so too, our faith in G‑d must be to the extent that we “trust” in Him. We believe that G‑d is not some remote Being, removed and aloof from His creations, but that every detail of our lives can be safely entrusted to G‑d.
And this is one of the main areas in which we hope the new President will invest special efforts, working to instill such trust in G‑d within each and every citizen, ensuring that their conduct is proper and becoming to He in — Whom we place our trust. The only way to assure that such conduct will become second nature is through the proper education of our children. In the U.S., the state is responsible for the education of its citizens. It is thus the responsibility, and indeed a privilege, of the public school system to instill in its charges the knowledge that G‑d is not only the Creator of the world, but a Being in Whom we trust. It is this knowledge which is the foundation for a life of productivity and decency.
Of course, there will be those who object to this with the argument of separation of religion and state. They however, base their argument on a faulty premise. Separation between religion and state is not, nor ever was, meant to imply antagonism to, or even indifference to religion. Historically, the founding fathers were refugees from religious persecution, and hence, when founding this country, sought to ensure that there would be no interference by the state in the religious beliefs and practices of its citizens.
But there is no question that their intention was to safeguard against any form of religious intolerance or persecution. Today, however, separation of religion and state has been taken to extreme, if not absurd lengths. Any attempt to help parents defray the costs of educating their children in the way they feel proper is met with outbursts of protest and condemnation. But actually, the reverse is true: Such financial aid is not incorrect; it is not illegal; it is perfectly within the boundaries of the Constitution. Indeed, to withhold finances from religious schools is tantamount to religious persecution! For it is the inalienable right of every parent to choose their child’s education; and since in public schools one — cannot receive a religious education (not even that stated on our money — “In G‑d We Trust”) parents are forced to build their own schools. Yet they are still required to pay, through their taxes, for the public schools! And surely all excuses are invalid when it comes to the question of helping religious schools pay for the cost of non-religious components of schooling — e.g. travel, health, secular subjects, etc. Refusal to help defray the cost of religious schools, or at least to grant tax rebates to those parents whose children attend the religious schools, is thus a subtle form of financial persecution.
But even financial help such as that described above is not enough. Every child, including those attending public school, must be inculcated with the belief “In G‑d We Trust.” This should be the very foundation of education, with each day beginning with a non-denominational prayer affirming our trust in G‑d. Obviously, this is not in any way meant to give license to the state to differentiate between one religion and another. We refer to that which is common to all religions — a simple declaration of trust in G‑d. This does not negate the concept of separation of religion and state, for in no way is this religious intolerance, which was the sole concern of the founders of this country when instituting this concept.
All of the above may be verified by actual experience. The best, if not only way to train a child to be a moral and decent citizen is to instill in him the knowledge, at least through a simple recitation every day, that we trust in G‑d. Such knowledge helps to check temptations to do wrong, and ensures that a child’s conduct is fitting and proper. And those who automatically raise the objection of separation of religion and state do so without reckoning with the devastating consequences of a generation reared without any knowledge of G‑d. The results are obvious: many adults of today feel no responsibility to train or influence their children, resulting in the frightening state of our society.
It is, we firmly believe, imperative to instill in children the knowledge that the basis of our society, and indeed of each individual, must be the awareness and trust in He Who is the true Existence — G‑d. And, as noted earlier, this is as a beginning carried out through a simple declaration by children at the beginning of each day those four words which so succinctly sum up what we have been saying “In G‑d We Trust.”
The importance of the above demands an urgency that must transcend the normal length of time taken to implement legislative action. Besides being perfectly within the framework of the Constitution and law, it is the foundation of the existence of our country, and as such cannot, must not, be tied up in the usual legislative red tape. No committees are necessary, no-cost/benefit studies are needed, but instead direct action.
American money not only bears the inscription “In G‑d We Trust,” but also “E Pluribus Unum” (out of many — one).1 This motto sums up the American democratic process. A government is installed when the “Pluribus,” the many, participate in free and true elections. The entire purpose of any election is the unity that will be its consequence; for once the majority has expressed its choice, even the dissenting minority must unite behind that decision. In the case of Presidential elections, those who cast their ballot for a different candidate, representing different policies, will now, after the elections, also accept the victorious candidate as their President. And the reverse is also true: The victorious candidate is not only the president or the majority that elected him, but also of the minority which opposed him. He will fulfill his Presidential duties with complete integrity, not differentiating between those who previously voted for or against him. He is the President of the United States of America — of all Americans.
May it be G‑d’s will that this country conducts itself in all its matters with justice, kindness and peace. May all the above suggestions be speedily implemented, making it truly fit for G‑d’s presence, by everyone and all of us becoming a shining example in everyday life of “In G‑d We Trust.”