Lux et Veritas is the Latin phrase emblazoned on the Great Seal of Yale University. Light and truth are the watchwords of this venerable academic institution. Remarkably, as early American academic centers were places where religion was taught and ministers ordained, the Hebrew words Orim v’Tumim also appear with Lux et Veritas (light & truth) being the translation. The Orim and Tumim were the oracular gems that were displayed on the vestment worn by the High Priest Aaron (brother of Moses) representing the Divine light and moral teachings which brings everlasting verities and truths out of the shadows and into the bright light of our lives.
Lux et veritas captures the angst that so many in our country are still experiencing in the aftermath of our recent Presidential election. The incendiary rhetoric of the campaign ignited many passionate emotions throughout our country. President-elect Donald Trump is congratulated for an electoral victory and Hillary Clinton commended for most gracious concession remarks after the election. Yet truth and civility were horrific casualties in this bruising campaign and the damage inflicted at this point in time, are still in need of great healing. We have yet to transcend the poisonous rhetoric of the campaign into the healing of governance where all Americans and our constitutional values are not only respected but actualized.
We look to the Genesis of Jewish values in the book of Genesis to illuminate these turbulent times. We learn from Genesis that there was a hard fought campaign waged by an older man who was independently wealthy. He had charisma and the gift of eloquence, and attracted many passionate adherents yet in the process of his campaign he demonstrated a distinct intolerance and even arrogance and conveniently set aside commonly accepted moral values for the sake of winning. And against all odds, he did win and victoriously lifted the banner of monotheism into our world. Abraham is his name and his campaign story clearly has many modern parallels.
Yet once monotheism comes into this world Abraham pivots as he prepares to become a leader. His journey in the campaign for monotheism is most disruptive, yet once the campaign closes and he wins, Abraham abruptly shifts from intolerance to tolerance, from insensitivity to sensitivity and from exclusiveness to inclusiveness. He no longer is Avram as his very name is changed to Avraham (Abraham – the parent of multitudes) to incorporate his new role as a leader not of some, but of all.
Abraham becomes the Abraham that we recognize and emulate – a mentsch, a man of defined moral character and soulful audacity. As a winner and newly appointed leader, he battles on behalf of those whom he had opposed during the campaign. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were far from monotheism and far from paragons of virtue – yet he with passion and moral rectitude argue and battles on their behalf – to provide them dignity and a voice. Abraham battles against injustice and sets a clear course of creating a just society where righteousness will prevail. He sets asides petty grievances and finds fashions to de-escalate conflict as with Lot and his fellow herdsman. Abraham transcends the vitriol of the campaign and creates a model of good governance and inclusion based upon the moral values becomes the core of Judaism.
President-elect Donald Trump is given the full respect of the office that he assumes as the leader of these United States. I pray that the model of Abraham can be meaningful to him in this transitional period as many Americans are filled with real fears and trepidations. The rhetoric of the campaign needs to pivot into governance that demonstrates the full depth and breadth of our Constitutional democracy.
Lux et veritas, light and truth means that the light must shine so that truth, respect and tolerance are not overshadowed. The campaign was one in which the President-elect trafficked in intolerance and bigotry, and his own words in the campaign denigrated women, people with disabilities, minorities and religious faiths. Now that the campaign has ended, President-elect Trump has pivoted on many of his core political platforms. The role of leader and President-elect has us witness President-elect Trump backing away from many core campaign promises into a more pragmatic, and inclusive role of governance. Yet there has yet to be a pivot to fully disavow the dark forces that his rhetoric unleashed in many shadows in America. Lux et veritas is that the light that President-elect Trump must shine brightly so that those in the shadows who advocate for bigotry, racism and peddle in hatreds will be exposed for their intolerance and poisonous beliefs. For America to remain great, the greatness of this country is e pluribus Unum – out of the many emerge one people united by bonds of moral goodness where the pursuit of liberty and justice is embraced and offered to all.
Imagine if on Veterans Day, the President-elect would have tweeted, I salute all veterans of this great country – and I apologize for questioning the courage and honor of Senator John McCain and Gold Star family Khan. That profound statement is worthy of Abraham and our American President to let the truth of our American beliefs shine brightly. As I pen these words, President-elect Trump has tweeted: In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
Lux et veritas: let the light of truth shine on this baseless claim. Too many falsehoods and specious claims were made during the election. For the President elect to make this baseless and fraudulent claim is an affront to democracy and the Constitution he will be sworn to uphold. Now is the time for President-elect Trump to follow the paradigm of Abraham and cease dividing and cease divisiveness and follow Lux Et Veritas – let the light of truth and moral clarity guide him into good governance.
Lux et veritas is the leitmotif of Hanukkah celebrated beginning on Saturday evening, December 24. Our ancient ancestors, the Maccabees were descendants of the Priestly aristocracy (Cohains). They battled against the intolerance of the Seleucid empire and the baseless hatreds that were sown by Antiochus, the Syrian Greek tyrant. They fought the first war in human history dedicated (the root of the word Hanukkah) to preserve human dignity, freedom of worship, and had the spiritual audacity to fight for tolerance, justice and inclusion. The didactic truths of their mission are a shout out to every generation. The light of the Hanukkah menorah is meant to eradicate the darkness rooted in bigotry and vitriol and insure that the light of moral justice reigns supreme for all. May the light of Hanukkah of lux et veritas illuminate the truths that we hold self-evident.
I also pause to note in these all too partisan times, that these words advocate truth and justice and are in consonance with the values of our ancestors from Abraham and Sarah and evoke the values enshrined in our Constitution. Our 501 c 3 status is not jeopardized as religious and charitable institutions do not to advocate for candidates for office and /or use their status to advocate for a political candidate. We always advocate for truth.
I will continue to advocate for moral justice, dignity and righteousness and as I have on many occasions demonstrated the deficits and failures of Presidents on both sides of the aisle ( President Obama for his moral failings in Syria and with Iran). Judaism cherishes that truth be spoken to power (to quote the late Elie Weisel) on either side of the political spectrum. May the healing we seek and the values of truth illuminate the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump and may God always bless America.
With my hopes and prayers for a joyous and beautiful Hanukkah with the true light of Hanukkah illuminating this great country. Hanukkah teaches every seeker of freedom that light, truth and moral vision UNITE us while in contrast darkness, falsehoods and intolerance divides people. May the light of Hanukkah unite us and this great country.