All Commentary
Thursday, September 1, 1977

Needed: A National Nucleus

Dr. Shumiatcher is a prominent lawyer in Regina, Saskatchewan, well known as a lecturer, writer, defender of freedom.

Whether we like it or not, every society must have a nucleus—an es­tablishment, if you will. Without it, wrote William Butler Yeats:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

But the world does not disinte­grate of its own accord. It is the individual who first breaks down and, losing faith in himself, falls apart. I sense that the personal dis­satisfactions and the vagrant, dis­ruptive forces that agitate and gen­erate strong currents of dissident opinion and aberrant conduct in our country today flow from the loss of confidence of men and women of intelligence, learning and experi­ence, in their own judgment and in their own ability to lead.

No nation can long survive with­out a genuine establishment that is nourished by the innovative, the in­ventive and the energetic, and that is tempered by the sensitive, the conscientious and the compassion­ate. No individual will find the polestar by which to guide his steps except in the standards of excellence that men and women of high pur­pose and good will adopt, and ac­cording to which they perform their public duties and live their private lives.

If you choose to march to the beat of your own drummer and to no other, you must be sure you are a skilled and gifted percussionist. If you lack the gift of rhythm it is better to listen to the music of a virtuoso.

I’m reminded of the true estab­lishment conceived by the ancient Hebrews. It is said (and still be­lieved by many) that the destiny of the whole world rests upon the shoulders of thirty-six just men whom God chooses in each genera­tion to assure that right and justice prevail on earth. They are the Lamed-Vav Tzadikim—the thirty-six saints—the men who serve as the conscience of all mankind. They are the touchstone of reason and human understanding.


Upon their influence and good works depends the future of the world. These are the nameless ones. No one knows who they are. The identity of the thirty-six is concealed from the world. So modestly do they live their lives, it is concealed even from the thirty-six just men them­selves.


When the world has great need for their counsel and their heroism, they appear and act out their ap­pointed role of rescuing mankind from disaster. And after their work is done, they vanish from the scene as mysteriously as they came, their identity still unrevealed.


Who are the thirty-six just men? No one really knows. You may be one of them. Or I. We shall never know.

But if you believe that you may be a Lamed-Vav, that belief of itself will move you, each day, to act more justly, in your own world, in your own way and in your own place. The light of the just will be reflected in the multi-faceted actions of your day. If you are able to achieve that small miracle, then you will be tak­ing upon your shoulders the respon­sibility to shape the destiny of the world in the image of the just. The world and all who inhabit it will then, one day in turn, reflect the image of perfect truth and absolute justice. That is the hallmark of man’s authentic establishment—the pedigree of a nation’s true elite.

How may we recognize the cre­dentials of the members of that small, select band?

The thirty-six are the men whose curiosity impels them to acquire knowledge, whose compassion brings to them the gift of under­standing, whose conscience moves them to accept the burdens of injus­tice and whose strength enables them to resist and take up arms against it.

They are the exceptional people of the age. They are the members of the establishment who prevent things from falling apart, who hold the centre fast, who assure that order and not anarchy rule the world.

Who, then, would not be one of the just?