Sivan Rahav-Meir / The Daily Portion / The Senator's Shabbat

By Sivan Rahav-Meir/Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Posted on 11/20/21

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He's the Jew who made it to the highest rung of American politics. He wrote a book entitled "The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath," which has just been translated into Hebrew. Joe Lieberman was a Democrat candidate for vice-president of the United States. This book is important for three reasons.

First, it reminds young American Jews that they do not have to give up their heritage in order to go far as it is possible to go in life. On the contrary. Lieberman's Shabbat observance, even in the middle of a presidential campaign, only increased the admiration of him as a man of principles.

Second, Lieberman reminds us Israelis of the beauty of Shabbat, that it's such a magnificent gift to us, and how it can shine the light of the Jewish state all over the world.

Third, he brings us into the Shabbat experience itself: He relates how on Shabbat he is not "the honorable senator," not Joe Lieberman, and not even Joe, but rather Yosef ben Chanan, the name by which he receives an aliyah to the Torah. He describes how during the Torah reading on Shabbat he feels that, finally, he is not listening to political speeches, but to the word of God. He mentions how, during the three festivals of Sukkot, Pesach, and Shavuot, the nation of Israel was accustomed to go up to Jerusalem to experience the holiness of the Temple there, but on Shabbat the holiness of Israel comes straight to us, into our kitchen and our living room. He mentions that no less than the Kiddush on Friday night, the Havdalah ceremony at the close of Shabbat is of the utmost importance, since we have a need in our lives for separation (havdalah), for boundaries, for distinction between different times and different situations.

The following is perhaps the key quote from Liberman's book: "When they ask me: How can you interrupt all your work as a senator once a week in order to observe Shabbat? I answer: How could I do all my work as a senator were it not for interrupting it once a week to observe Shabbat?"

Shabbat shalom.