This article is based on the recently found tape of a Sicha of the 12 Tammuz 5741.
A Light unto the Nations
by Israel Teitelbaum
The torch of Mitzvos and light of Torah that the Rebbe’s Shluchim disseminate throughout the world is not limited to the Jewish community, most especially when it comes to education. “When we observe the makeup of any human being, whether Jew or non-Jew, we see that the human being consists of two parts: his soul and his body.” With these words the Rebbe began explaining the role of education as it applies to every child. In the Farbrengen of 12 Tammuz of 5741 (1981) the Rebbe devoted a Sicha of more than one hour to explain in detail the most critical element of education and how its removal from the American educational system has lead to major strife and a breakdown of society. Now, 35 years later, that this has become most apparent, we have the opportunity to shed a little bit of light to shine away the darkness.
The Rebbe began to explain how proper education must be geared to mold the moral character of the child, primarily to address the “conflict between the pleasure of the soul and that of the body; between the will of the soul and the will of the body. As described in Koheles – the spirit of the animal goes downward, while the soul’s desire will rise upward.
“The intellect and the divine soul draw the person to intellectual pursuits, while the body, which requires food, drink, and the like, is drawn by the spirit of the animal.” The overwhelming needs and material cravings create a major challenge to properly develop ones character. “When one looks at the world, one sees the coarseness and materialism at every turn. Whereas the world’s higher and finer things, the design within nature, requires reflection. One must lift one’s eyes above to recognize that this is all Hashem’s handiwork and to appreciate how great and abundant are Hashem’s wonders.
“This challenge exists from the moment of birth. For this reason we require Hashem’s assistance – the Creator of both soul and body. Despite the fact that the body has a head start, the spiritual has the ability to overcome the material and is required to do so. This applies to both Jews and non-Jews.”
The Rebbe went on to describe a dramatic change that came over society over recent years and decades – “a constantly growing darkness. Only several short years ago, no one could have imagined that such shocking events would occur as has occurred over the past year between man and his fellow and among the seventy nations; the quarrels of the nations amongst themselves and the provocations between one government and another.” This is all attributable to “the spirit of the animal that goes downward.”
He described a meeting with an attorney general of many years, with whom he discussed the dramatic increase in crime that occurred over his years of service, despite diligently carrying out his duties to enforce the law. When the attorney general offered no explanation for it, the Rebbe suggested, “Perhaps, if we investigate we will find that the education of the children has changed. If this change were positive, it would have had a positive effect on adults as well. But if the change is negative its effects on adults will also be negative.
“When we look at the changes in education, what is most striking from a generation ago and earlier, is that both the father and mother believed that there is Creator of the world; the world is not abandoned, but ‘this palace has a master.’ This is a core principle of the Seven Laws of Noach. All the more so in these united States, which was founded on this principle. There was a group of people who wanted to live according to their faith - their faith in a Creator of the world Who is also its Director. Not a philosophical Creator who exists only in books, a deity ‘Who exists in the Heavens,’ but surrendered the earth to people, allowing them and their bodies to rule. They believed in a Creator Who directs the world. Their faith was so strong that they were confident that if they held firm to this faith, they would succeed. They ventured out ‘from their land, their birthplace, and their father’s house,’ similar to what Avrohom Avinu did. They crossed the sea and founded a new country, established a new leadership, so they could each believe in G-d and worship Him according to their beliefs.
“They didn’t need the school to instill faith in their children. The child had it naturally. This was the way the child grew up, and from the moment he reached self-awareness, he saw how his father and mother, his older brother and older sister, and certainly his grandfather and grandmother all believe that ‘this palace has a Master.’ So if G-d was mentioned in school only rarely, it didn’t harm the child. He brought to school, in healthy measure, that which he received from his father and mother in his home.
This all began to change in response to a United States Supreme Court decision in 1962. Without citing the fateful Angel v. Vitale decision, which ruled nondenominational prayer to be “unconstitutional,” the Rebbe described a political movement determined to “banish faith from the schools, Heaven forbid!” It was a long time in coming, he explained, because faith was viewed by most Americans to be of great importance, critical to the education of children. Most people recognized that “children must be taught that there is a Higher Being – an eye that sees and an ear that hears – and all one’s deeds carry consequences.”
The solution to our educational crisis is within the reach of “every father and mother, and anyone who can influence the education of a school.” All people are granted the ability to “overcome the darkness of the evil inclination, the coarseness of the world, and illuminate it with the light of the Seven Laws of Noach.”
Every one of us has the potential to influence the world around us. “A person who behaves decently, and influences those around him to behave decently, will succeed. May Hashem grant that this effort lessen the darkness of exile through increasing the observance of the Seven Laws of Noach, which increases the light. This becomes a preparation of ‘Let us go in the light of Hashem,’ which the nations say to one another, as stated in the prophecy of the redemption. This will further hasten the true and complete redemption of the Jewish People, and during the redemption, ‘Hashem will transform all nations to serve Him as one,’ and ‘Hashem will reign supreme.’ May it be speedily in our days.”
Less than two years later, in a Sicha to the children of Tzivos Hashem, on 18 Nissan 5743, the Rebbe called on the children, with the help of their teachers, to petition their public officials, including the President: “We feel the necessity and importance of knowing that there is a Creator to whom we are all responsible. We therefore request that the President do everything within his power to enact a law requiring every school in the country to begin the day with a Moment of Silence, set aside for thought and meditation about the Creator of the universe. We further request the nullification of the shocking policy that religious schools cannot receive equitable financial assistance from the government.”
Over recent years the movement for school choice has gained momentum. There are now 59 school choice programs in 28 states and the District of Columbia, providing parents with better opportunities than previously, but none that provide school choice for all children. New Jersey is the first to have such a bill – the NJ Parental Rights and Property Tax Reduction Act (S1106/A1785). Intensive efforts are now under way in New Jersey to reach out to New Jerseyans of all stripes and political affiliations to prevail on their public officials to support this bill. Leading proponents have advised that passage of this legislation is entirely dependent on the influence of public pressure. It appears this universal school choice legislation is waiting for us to shine a light unto the nations.
Please use your influence on behalf of the first bill to empower all parents in our nation’s capital to send their children to quality schools of their choice by supporting the National Educational Freedom Accounts Act (S-2455). This will serve as a model and trail blazer for all 50 states to restore parental rights to all parents in the country.
Thank you for your efforts on behalf of us all.
Check out the video below, entitled