The Preamble – The Whole Is Greater Than the Parts

Patrick Edaburn


It has been said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. There is perhaps no better way to apply this dictum than with words.

I Love You

It’s A Boy

She’ll Be Fine

The phrases are made up of words that are basic on their own but develop a much deeper meaning when brought together. As special as each one, for me there is one phrase that proves the rule more clearly than any other.


On the surface it is a simple phrase of three common words and yet to many they convey a meaning so deep and profound for they touch the very soul of our nation. They represent a fundamental shift in the thinking of how a nation comes into being.

For centuries nations were born and rights were granted through the actions of some sort of a monarch, the people only had those things that the ruler decided to give them and those rights could be taken away at his or her discretion.

Even in the days of ancient Rome and Greece there was a concept that while the people ruled, the right to rule was given to the people rather than being held by them in the first place. Not everyone had these rights and they could be taken away for a myriad of reasons.

But when our founding fathers drafted the Constitution they wanted it to be clear that this was to be a new kind of nation one where the people created the nation, not where the nation gave privileges to the people.

It is for this reason that the document begins with the bold words We The People, written bigger than the rest, tall and proud words which proclaim that it is a document for all, a document for the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, the big and the small.

It is the document our military has fought and died for, the document that has carried us through good times and bad, the document that has made us the longest operating republic in the history of the world.

Today too many of our fellow citizens fail to recognize or even care about this grand document, the document that gives them so much, a document that millions around the world would give anything to have.

There is the additional problem that when a person fails to understand they have certain rights then they are unaware or unconcerned that they are in danger of losing them. One cannot be expected to miss something they never knew they had.

As I see it, this lack of understanding is something that cannot be allowed to continue.

There is a Hebrew word, Shibboleth, which literally means the part of a plant containing grain (such as an ear of corn). But more than three thousand years ago this word took on a new meaning.

The people of Gilead had won a great victory over the people of Ephraim and were trying to deal with the problem of Ephraimite refugees trying to escape across the Jordan River and back into their homeland. In order to stem this tide of escapees the leaders of Gilead came up with a unique solution.

The Emphraimite language did not have the sound “h” and so anyone trying to cross the Jordan was asked to say the word Shibboleth. As recorded in the 12th Chapter of Judges:

“Gilead then cut Ephraim off from the fords of the Jordan, and whenever Ephraimite fugitives said, ‘Let me cross,’ the men of Gilead would ask, ‘Are you an Ephraimite?’

If he said, ‘No,’ they then said, ‘Very well, say “Shibboleth”

If anyone said, “Sibboleth” because he could not pronounce it, then they would seize him and kill him by the fords of the Jordan”

In time the term “speaking Shibboleth” has evolved to mean a way in which a common group of people demonstrates their unity, their common culture and shared experiences. It is most commonly applied to religious situations but can apply to any group.

While we are all of many faiths, we have such a Shibboleth in our national consciousness, that of our Constitution.

It is my goal in this project to reawaken the national Shibboleth of our Constitution and our Republic. To have our fellow citizens speaking and understanding the beauty and majesty of our national compact.



Posted on January 22, 2013, in Constitution, Patrick, Preamble and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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