Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, January 15, 2023
Shavuah Tov,

“A Republic, If You Can Keep It” (Part 1 of 3)
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: I begin a series of three RRs to discuss certain aspects about the United States and ask whether our nation is collapsing. Serious situations in the United States imperil our nation. Too many Americans blithely stumble through life without any concern about the United States’ future. Neither you nor  I can affect the course of this nation or the behavior of her citizens or leaders, but we can be aware of the future in this life and prepare for the next life.

In the first RR, I will discuss a very, very few thoughts about how our nation became great. In the second RR, I will discuss interesting observations by a French visitor, Alexis de Tocqueville, about religion in early America. In the third RR, I will offer a few thoughts about how the United States seems to be unraveling. These RRs will necessarily be brief and not comprehensive, but hopefully they will contain enough ideas to start you thinking about these issues.

Is the U.S.A. really collapsing? To even suggest such a thing, one may ask: Is this uncontrolled pessimism? Is it a lack of patriotism? I love the United States, but I realize that this nation is not my home. I am a citizen of Heaven, not a citizen of Earth or any earthly nation, including the United States (Philippians 3:20-21): For our citizenship is in heaven, and from there we eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Yeshua the Messiah. He will transform this humble body of ours into the likeness of His glorious body, through the power that enables Him even to put all things in subjection to Himself.

A number of prophecy students have opined that the United States must fall in the end times to make way for the rise of the Antichrist’s kingdom. Existing or newly formed global (one-world) entities or existing godless nations (China?) will replace the United States as world leader.

SCRIPTURAL GUIDING PRINCIPLES: Regarding this topic, consider guiding principles in the Bible:

● (Daniel 2:21b): [Daniel said] “… [God] removes kings and installs kings….” Biblical principle: God is involved in the affairs of humans, including His removal or raising up “kings” (nations). Some readers may approve or  disapprove of President Trump or President Biden, but both presidents were appointed by God as America’s leaders for a reason (either as a blessing or a curse for a nation’s behavior/ sins).

● (Luke 12:48b): [Yeshua said] “… From everyone given much, much will be required; and from the one for whom more is provided, all the more they will ask of him.” Biblical principle: God distributes gifts/ blessings to nations and people unevenly. He expects more from a richly rewarded nation/ person than He expects from a less rewarded nation/ person. The United States has been given exceedingly abundant blessings, and owes more to God than does an impoverished nation. Are the people of the United States repaying God sufficiently for His rich bounty of gifts and blessings given to us?

● (2 Chronicles 7:14): [Adonai said] “… when My people, over whom My Name is called, humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Biblical principle: Adonai gave this well-known formula for the healing of a nation. Question: Will He only hear from people “over whom His name is called?” I interpret such people to be limited to Believers/ Christians and Jews. Are such people humbling themselves, praying, seeking Adonai‘s face, and turning from their evil ways?

● Are Americans following Scriptural mandates to receive Adonai‘s continued blessings and grace?

GOD WITHDRAWS FAVOR FOR A NATION: There are several examples of God withdrawing His favor for nations because of their sins. I will not attempt to list all examples in this RR. Suffice it to say that God’s Chosen Nation (B’nei Yisrael, or Israel) has been thrice stripped of His blessings and exiled to Egypt, Babylon, and the world. If God is willing to treat Israel so harshly, can we expect Him to overlook the United States’ sins?

ARE WE KEEPING OUR REPUBLIC? The title of this RR quotes Benjamin Franklin.

In Maryland delegate James McHenry’s journal, he wrote in an entry dated 1787 that a Philadelphia woman, Elizabeth Willing Powel, encountered Benjamin Franklin, as he was leaving the Constitutional Convention in which America’s Constitution had just been finalized. Mrs. Powel asked Franklin: “Well, Doctor, what have we got– a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin answered: “A republic, if you can keep it.” More than once in the founding of our nation, Franklin expressed concerns about the fragility of our nation’s government and whether citizens would have the will, dedication, and strength to preserve our nation (that is, whether we could “keep our republic”). Are we Americans  keeping or losing our republic in favor of some other form of government?

Mrs. Powel’s question has relevancy even today. If we count the United States as beginning her life at the adoption of the Constitution in 1787 and it is now 2023, the United States has existed approximately 236 years.

Alexander Tytler, a history professor at the University of Edinburgh, summarized the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years earlier as occurring in a cycle that has been repeated by other civilizations:

“A democracy [substitute ‘republic’ for the United States’ government] is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

“The average age of the worlds greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these Nations always progressed through the following sequence:

“From bondage to spiritual faith ► From spiritual faith to great courage ► From courage to liberty ► From liberty to abundance ► From abundance to complacency ► From complacency to apathy ► From apathy to dependence ► From dependence back into bondage.”

Questions: Do you see a pattern for the U.S.A. in Tytler’s cycle of the life and death of democracies (republics)? If so, where in the cycle is the United States  presently located? Are Americans voting for “generous gifts from the public treasury?” Are politicians giving out these “generous gifts” to the public in record number; and, could we call these “generous gifts” a weakly disguised scheme to buy votes? Could the United States be caught in Tytler’s “loose fiscal policy” that will lead to our collapse? As you ponder these questions, watch America’s admitted debt whirl out of control at: U.S. National Debt Clock : Real Time (usdebtclock.org) . Scary, huh?

DEMOCRACY OR REPUBLIC? If asked what type of government the United States has, many citizens will answer, “A democracy.” Wrong. The United States was founded as a republic, as one of its founders, Benjamin Franklin, is quoted in the preceding section. What is the difference?

● Both a republic and a democracy are governmental systems which choose representatives (elected officials) to represent their interests.

● In a true democracy, laws are made directly by the voting majority, and the  rights of the minority are largely unprotected.

● In a republic, laws are made by representatives chosen (elected) by the people, but must comply with a governing document (for us, the Constitution) and laws enacted under and in compliance with that governing document. The governing document demands that the rights of the minority must be protected from the unfair, illegal will of the majority.

● Although the United States is described as a republic, it may also be defined as a “representative democracy” or a “constitutional republic.” An important feature of the United States’ form of government is its co-equal tripartite (three-branched) government. Each Branch– Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches– has a system of checks and balances, defined in the Constitution, in which each Branch can hold the other two Branches in compliance with the Constitution.

● Another group, although unofficial in the Constitution, has been recognized as “the Fourth Branch” of government. This group is the press (called “the media” today). The media are in disarray and deserving of the lack of recognition and respect they should have because of corruption and strong political partisanship within their ranks. Many news venues serve as propaganda arms of one political party, reporting or censoring “news” to serve their political agenda and coloring any reported news to favor or disfavor one of the political parties. With Elon Musk’s opening suppressed Twitter files, another widely used, partisan force– social media platforms– is exposed.

THE BIBLE’S ROLE IN DEFINING THE BRANCHES OF THE UNITED STATES’ GOVERNMENT: At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, James Madison, called the “Father of the Constitution,” proposed dividing the government into its present three Branches, interestingly based on his reading of Isaiah 33:22: For Adonai is our Judge, Adonai is our Lawgiver, Adonai is our King– He will save us! (Scripture is quoted here from the Tree of Life Version, which was not present in Madison’s lifetime. Adonai‘s role: Adonai as Judge = model for Judicial Branch; Adonai as Lawgiver = model for Legislative Branch; Adonai as King = model for Executive Branch.)

WASHINGTON’S WARNINGS UNHEEDED: In 1796, President George Washington penned a lengthy letter to “friends and fellow citizens.” Although called his “Farewell Address,” it was never delivered as a speech, but was published in Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser. The letter summarized Washington’s twenty years of service to the fledgling American nation, and offered his thoughts on what would be best for the nation. Washington’s address contained three major warnings for the American people:

● Importance of unity: Washington urged Americans not to put regional and sectional interests above the interests of the nation. He wrote: “You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together…. The Independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.”

● Loyalty to political party– “the worst enemy” of government: Washington warned that divided loyalties would lead to factionalism– specifically, the development of competing political parties. Voting in the interests of a political party, rather than the interests of a nation, would foster a “spirit of revenge,” enabling the rise of “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men” who would “usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

● Danger of foreign entanglements: Washington feared that partisanship would open the door to “foreign influence and corruption.” While favoring foreign trade, he argued that “inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded.”

In my opinion,Washington was correct in his fears, and the United States is weaker because we have failed to heed his warnings, such as:

● Unity: The United States lacks unity, and has become a dysfunctional hodgepodge of competing interests. This RR is not long enough to list the numerous factions that are at odds with other factions. Think how wonderful this nation could be, if we were unified and working together, rather than against each other. A Biblical principle is to resist division (Mark 3:24-25): [Yeshua said] “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

● Political party loyalty: Much of our efforts in government involve fighting between Democrats and Republicans. Some of this fighting is ideological and unsolvable, e.g., pro-life versus pro-abortion factions, but most of this fighting is to ensure present elected officials retain their offices in the next election. I recognize that in deliberative bodies, such as the Congress, friction between opposite sides is desirable to come to a more reasonable conclusion. However, purely partisan fighting is to be decried. Think how great our nation could be, if we abolished all political parties, and candidates ran for election against each other based on ideas and not on appeals to party loyalty. A Biblical principle is to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters (Psalm 133:1): … Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!

● Foreign entanglements: The United States has sought to be the “policeman of the world” following World War II. If there is a disturbance somewhere in the world, Uncle Sam needs to be there. We are spending down our military might, due to casualties and failure to meet recruitment goals. This complicated dilemma partially amounts to young men and women becoming unwilling to volunteer for military service when they are not appreciated and when leadership is dangerously stupid (development of a “woke” military, emphasis on pronouns and restroom facilities for transgender personnel, panicked retreat from Afghanistan, etc.). The United States faces immensely powerful, nuclear-capable enemies– China, Russia (although weakened by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine), North Korea, Iran, etc. Our foreign policy is to send aid to any country, expecting nothing in return; trade with our enemies, supporting foreign labor practices that would not be tolerated in America and having profits fund our enemies’ war efforts; and other policies that favor generating dollars for corporate interests, rather than strengthening a nation of “we the people.” Think how great our nation could be, if we put America first and our enemies last.

You may read Washington’s address at: George Washington’s Farewell Address (1796) .

THE FOUNDING OF THE UNITED STATES–  JUDEO-CHRISTIAN?SECULAR? Many of the United States’ Founding Fathers were practicing and devout Believers, strongly guided by Judeo-Christian principles. I started to list some of the quotes of these Founders, but there are too many for this RR. A sample of the quotes may be read in: TOP 25 FOUNDING FATHERS CHRISTIAN QUOTES (of 213) | A-Z Quotes (azquotes.com) .You may also purchase a Bible through Amazon or other booksellers of one of the favorite Bibles I own,The American Patriot’s Bible. (Amazon price for NKJV Patriot’s Bible = $30.49.) This Bible contains the complete Scriptures as well as quotes and biographies of American patriots who founded our nation relative to their faith. If you need another Bible, this is a good one to consider.

There is vigorous debate among historians about what to call the United States in her infancy. Was the United States established as a Christian nation? Or, a secular nation? Or, something else?

I have read multiple opinions, and find little consensus. Many scholars’ works seem to be colored by their preexisting ideas, which limits the value of their contributions. The late eighteenth century was a complicated time, with numerous philosophical and religious ideas floating around. Many of the Fathers were brilliant men with inquisitive minds, and they personally and collectively explored many ideas.

SIDELIGHT: It seems to me that God gives men and women to the world in a limited time frame to accomplish magnificent feats. I suppose we can lump such feats as periods of “genius.” The United States has had two periods of genius, when, I believe, God gave us special people to accomplish special works:

● The first time of American genius occurred in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A small number of men– the Foundling Fathers, Constitution Framers, and a few others– met under penalty of death for treason to forge a new nation out of relatively uncivilized frontiersmen. The documents they wrote and the governmental system they devised have exceeded any form of governance yet devised. Thank you, God, for these visionaries.

● The second time of American genius occurred in the 1930s and mid-1940s. An entire nation of “ordinary” men and women answered the call to accomplish the  extraordinary. They fought and were instrumental in defeating the Axis Powers, they liberated and saved millions of European Jews from annihilation, they produced war materiel at a pace that boggles the mind and could not be duplicated today, they fed a nation and her allies, they overcame the Great Depression, and they accomplished many other feats that could not be duplicated today. After the war, they quietly returned to civilian life and rebuilt a nation with honor and humidity. Thank you, God, for America’s “Greatest Generation.” END sidelight.

It seems to me that the Founding Fathers crafted a magnificent framework for a new nation, under ideas expounded in the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Even though the United States was not created as a Judeo-Christian nation (a theocracy), the nation was created under Biblical principles by men of whom the majority were devout Believers.

I believe the Founding Fathers’ view of and hope for the United States in 1787 would be far removed from what our nation has become in 2023. I suspect the Founding Fathers, if they could come to life now, would be ashamed of the present United States and would feel their great experiment in representative democracy has failed. I suspect a resurrected Benjamin Franklin might shake his head and say (in a pithier, more humorous manner): “We gave you a republic, and you failed to keep it fully.”

In my lifetime I believe President Ronald Reagan more closely understood the proper role of the United States in God’s Kingdom than have most other presidents. Reagan said, “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” – AND – “I’ve spoken of the Shining City all my political life…. In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”

Reagan took his example from the Bible, including Yeshua’s Drash on the Mountain (Matthew 5:14, 16): [Yeshua said] “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. |…| In the same way, let your light shine before men so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Is America’s light to the world being dimmed, and soon to be extinguished?

DE TOCQUEVILLE’S ASSESSMENT OF RELIGIOUS FAITH IN A YOUNG AMERICA: In next Sunday’s RR I will discus some observations by a French visitor, Alexis de Tocqueville, about the influence of religion in the early nineteenth century United States. Until then, Shalom and Maranatha.

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 15-Jan-2023 22nd of Tevet, 5783
Ex 6:2-13 1 Ki 2 Ps 103 Lk 18 (Eph 2)