August 17th, 2011
04:00 AM ET

My Faith: Sen. Joe Lieberman embraces 'the gift of the Sabbath'

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, looks forward to Fridays, when he can get home, switch his BlackBerry off and just be Joe - Hadassah Lieberman's husband, father of four, grandfather of 11.

Lieberman is an observant Jew who has long made a point to put his faith before politics - even if that means a post-sunset vote in the Senate will force him to walk the four miles from the U.S. Capitol to his Georgetown home.

In keeping the fourth commandment to honor the Sabbath to keep it holy, he doesn't work or get in a car or turn on a light.

Last Friday, he and his wife celebrated a Shabbat dinner, as they do every Friday, in keeping with their faith tradition.

On this evening, Hadassah Lieberman moves with purpose through the house gathering plates and dishes and remarks it will just be the two of them tonight, she and Joey - as she likes to call the senior senator from Connecticut. He putters and mentions he isn't often home in time to help set up.

After a bit of convincing, he agreed to let us come to his house and talk to him about his faith, politics, and his new book, "The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath."

Lieberman sat in a dining room chair in the living room so the shot for the camera would work the best.

"Let me ask you a question," Hadassah chimed in before we began. "Should he wear a jacket? Does he look too casual?"

"He's at home," I explained. "It'll be just fine."

The senator picked up his book and mused that the publisher had sent him four cover choices for the front and told him, "Go with the one your wife likes best." He beamed. She blushed, shot him a smirk, and we began.

Lieberman explained the reason Jews have observed the Sabbath throughout the centuries is that they believe God rested after six days of creation in the biblical account of Genesis. "We aspire to work hard and be creative for six days, and rest on the seventh day, hopefully with some sense of satisfaction about what we've done on the other six," he said.

He walks through the history of the Sabbath and talks about how the observance in the Bible got to where it is today.

As Jewish rabbis began to interpret the Sabbath in their own day they "built a fence around the Sabbath. In other words (they said), 'We're going to give you a list of things you can't do on the Sabbath to protect the essence of the Sabbath as a day of rest, as a day of gratitude to God for creation, as a day of spiritual regeneration,' " Lieberman said.

One way he tries to honor his wife and the Sabbath is to bring home flowers for his wife and the Sabbath table each week. When a reporter on Capitol Hill learned about that a few years ago, Lieberman was dubbed one of the most romantic members of Congress.

The Liebermans sing songs, recite prayers, light candles, and partake in the wine and challah, a twisted bread. The two parts of the bread twisted together serve as a reminder of the biblical story in Exodus where God provides a double portion of manna, the magical bread from heaven, when the Israelites are wandering in the desert so they won't have to go out and gather the bread on the Sabbath.

And they celebrate wherever they are, even on the campaign trail. Hadassah tells a story of a campaign staffer desperately trying to find a challah bread in Wisconsin during the 2000 presidential campaign when Lieberman was campaigning as Al Gore's running mate.

As they walked through the streets to get to temple in Wisconsin with the Secret Service by their side, "people came running out to see the senator and his family on Shabbat," she said. They even got a few "Shabbat shaloms," the Jewish Sabbath greeting.

In a world of always being on and connected, the Liebermans say they relish the Sabbath and that it has sustained their marriage and family for years.

"It's been a life-saver to our family and our marriage and our home life because it's given us a moment to stop and break off from the nonsense we all deal with," Hadassah said. "We can talk to each other without the BlackBerries ringing in our faces."

When the sun sets on Friday, the matching BlackBerries are turned off and they focus on their faith and each other, unless the land line rings and there is a matter of national security.

Sen. Lieberman is in a unique position. His job can stretch and intrude into his religious practice.

He said when he first got into public service he made a conscious decision not to participate in political activities on the Sabbath.

"As much as my ambitions and my obligations would lead me to do that, it wasn't the right thing to do, it wasn't consistent with the Sabbath," he said.

While it does not happen often, he breaks his Sabbath observance when he has government responsibilities he cannot delegate, like voting in the Senate or dealing with matters of national security.

Then he heads back home to be with his family, pray, or to take part in what he called one of "God's great blessings," the Saturday afternoon nap.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • DC • Judaism • Politics • Torah • United States

soundoff (352 Responses)
  1. Iqbal Khan


    December 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  2. Iqbal Khan


    December 26, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  3. Iqbal Khan


    December 26, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  4. Margelit Hoffman

    This seems to be the zeitgeist now. The DaytoDisconnect and Unplug and Connect campaign addresses this beautifully: https://www.daytodisconnect.com/mt-register-quick.php

    September 21, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  5. L.A. Woman

    Please have someone with more common sense or at least not a goyishe kup edit this: aren't all rabbis Jewish? then no need to refer to rabbis as "Jewish rabbis." And saying "challah bread" is redundant.

    September 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  6. Believer

    there are seventh day adventists and seventh day baptists that believe in the bible sabbath.

    August 29, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  7. American Bridal

    Absolutely Did you realize that there are over 170 languages spoken in the world today that refer to Saturday as the Sabbath, ie in Spanish Sabado = Sabbath, Swedish-sabbatan, Russian-Cybbota, Polish-Sobota, etc.? Is this a coincidence? Absolutely

    August 26, 2011 at 7:23 am |
  8. maggie abrego

    its amazing that someone like him would be such a believer. I too try to keep the sabbath and know what others negative comments are. i have GOD on my side and that's all that matters. Keep your faith strong, bad times are coming.

    August 21, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  9. Faith

    America became poor by not-resting on the Lord's Day. Sabbath is good for godliness, character, health, family and business. God's commands are scientific.

    August 19, 2011 at 2:38 am |
    • The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar Almightily

      The United States of America did not "become poor" due to not resting upon the sabbath day of Faith. The rising sentiments around the onsloughts in the amalgamations of sending jobs to overseas' 3rd world economies where such trade-offs did lead to the U.S.A's current debauchle and among otherlinesses of pyramoidal-type aggressives within our economic mainstreams of "stock-marketed" continuations did lay waste to the U.S.A.'s economic driven mainstreams.

      August 19, 2011 at 6:27 am |
  10. Tom


    August 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  11. Haime52

    Kudos to Joe!!!! A man who stands up for his conscience! Living the courage of your convictions is the highest calling a person can aspire to. Too many people, especially politicians, greatest strength is the weakness of their convictions.( If I may quote Maude)

    August 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  12. Reality

    Rest is good !! Religious mumbo-jumbo is not !!!=............................................................

    August 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  13. ResurrectionGirl

    Check out http://www.sabbathtruth.com. Great website to learn about the Bible Sabbath and how the change from Saturday to Sunday worship was not authorized by God or the Bible. Be informed with the facts!

    August 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • LearnTruth

      ResurrectionGirl, this is a fantastic website. Let me first say that my wife and I are Christians and not Jewish, however we too, observe the Sabbath. After studying the Bible we believe the importance of the Sabbath, and have come to love it. First of all, if you truly believe in the Bible, then you know what it says is 100% true, and cannot argue that point.

      What is the reason we as Christians worship?
      The primary reason for worship, is because worship is supposed to remind us that God is our Creator, and we are His creation. Worship takes us back to the beginning of creation. This is stated both in the new and old testaments.
      Revelation 14:7 ‘ worship Him who made heaven & earth, the sea and springs of water

      God gave us (1) symbol that reminds us that He is our creator
      Genesis 2:3 – and God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it (or made it holy). He made this 7th day holy back at creation, long before any Jews were on this earth.
      Exodus 20:8 – Remember THE Sabbath Day to keep it holy… (it doesn’t say remember A Sabbath day. There is only one Sabbath day from the beginning of creation, and that is on Saturday. The Sabbath was always on the 7th or last day of the week. You can check any reference material you like to verify this). Also remember that a day back in biblical times started at sundown and ended at sundown (and there was evening and then there was morning), so the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday.
      Mark 2:27 – The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (Man=all mankind, humanity, not just Jews). Before God created Adam & Eve there was no Sabbath, as the angels worshipped Him everyday. So the Sabbath wasn’t established until after God made Adam & Eve.
      Ezekiel 20:12 – Moreover I give them my Sabbath to be a sign between them and Me. (the Sabbath is our sign of loyalty to Him).
      Rev 1:10 – John’s vision while on the isle of Patmous “ I was in spirit on the Lord’s Day”. The NT wasn’t written yet when John stated this, and Sunday worship did not get formalized until around 330 AD. Therefore the Lord’s day as John mentions is the Saturday Sabbath and NOT Sunday.
      Matt 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5 – Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath
      There are many more scripture referring to this.

      When is the 7th day Sabbath
      Luke 23:54 – this verse speaks of the preparation day, and the Sabbath drew near
      Luke 23:56 – … and they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment
      Luke 24:1 -…first day they returned to…
      So these order of events
      Friday – Jesus died ‘preparation day’ when they prepared His body
      Saturday – Sabbath (Jesus rested on the Sabbath after His crucifixion)
      Sunday – 1st day
      Leviticus 23:32 Keep the Sabbath from sundown to sundown, evening to evening
      Luke 4:16 Jesus observed the Sabbath day
      Acts 17:1 Paul observes the Sabbath
      Acts 13:42 the gentiles begged for these words to be preached the next Sabbath
      Acts 16:13
      You can review the history books, the internet, on what day is the Sabbath. You can ask any minister, and if they are HONEST they will also tell you that the Sabbath is on Saturday.
      Who changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday? The church of Rome or what we call today the Catholic Church
      The Convert’s catechism (catholic manual)pg 50 …because the Catholic church transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday…
      Catholicism & Fundamentalism P38…it was the Catholic church that decided Sunday should be the day of worship for Christians, in honor of Jesus’ resurrection.
      So the Roman ruler Constantine officially changed the Sabbath to Sunday. Many early Christians were fearful of their lives and also they did not want to be associated as a Jew. So many adopted Sunday as their day of faith in honor of Jesus’ resurrection, and unfortunately it has stuck with many protestant Christian religions as you see today. So many Christians today are never taught this fact, because generation after of Christians have gotten so comfortable with Sunday worship, and also because it is easier on their personal lives, and this has become the norm for so many.
      Will we keep Sabbath in heaven? The answer is Yes
      Isaiah 66:22 In heaven & new earth…from one Sabbath to another ALL flesh shall come to worship me.
      When God gave Moses the ten commandments, there is a reason he wrote them in stone and not on a piece of paper. That was to show that His laws are to be a permanent reminder that will last forever and ever. If God felt that it was important enough for Him to write His laws to us with his own finger, don’t you think He would have told us directly that He was changing His laws or that He made a mistake. But He didn’t because God is perfect and doesn’t make mistakes, He doesn’t make a decision only to change it later. God gave us 10 commandments to obey, NOT 9. He doesn’t want us to be ‘buffet’ Christians where we get to pick and choose what we want to believe in. We believe ALL or none of it. If we break one commandment, we break all, and we know that the definition of sin is the breaking of God’s law, and the penalty for sin is death. There was a reason God wrote the 4th commandment stating Remember THE Sabbath day to keep it holy. He knew that the Israelites and the rest of humanity would be weak and easily tempted by the ways of this world, and forget the Sabbath day. The devil is a great deceiver, and he has deceived so many people and Christians regarding this.
      In the New testament Jesus gives us a new command: To love Him and your neighbor as yourself. So many Christian believe that this one verse eliminates God’s ten commandments. It doesn’t, as the meaning is much deeper. Our demonstration of loving God is by obeying His first 4 commandments, and our demonstration of loving man is in commandments 5-10. So this command which Jesus gave us doesn’t destroy the 10 commandments it goes hand-in-hand with it.
      I am saddened to think that there are so many Christians in the world that claim that they love Jesus, and yet do not obey God’s commands. There are so many churches that are teaching false doctrines. There will come a day when Jesus returns, when many Christians who believe that they have gained salvation will not, and even sadder when Jesus tells them that He does not know them. For many will claim to know Him and cry out Lord, Lord…and Jesus will say, I do not know you.
      At the end we know that we are saved by His grace and grace alone. We are not saved by our works or by keeping God’s commandments. However, although we are not saved by our works or faith, we will be held accountable for our actions, and those actions can keep us from gaining salvation if we do not ask Him for forgiveness.
      I can go on and on and show you evidence regarding the Sabbath in the bible. You will NOT find one piece of evidence where God changed His holy day from Saturday to Sunday. Why, because it was NEVER changed. This was man’s doing. So do we want to obey what man says or what God says?
      Acts 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, we ought to obey God rather than man.
      I am very passionate about this topic, as I believe according to the Bible that it is the absolute truth. Our foundation of Christianity is to be based on truth, for without it Christianity is meaningless. But don’t believe what I say, please Pray about this and study the Bible for yourself, and see what the Bible says. That’s what Jesus would want us to do. And once you know the truth, the truth will set you free. As for me it is very simple, I do what God tells us to do, and if the Sabbath was good enough for Jesus and His disciples, then it is certainly good enough for me.

      August 18, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Well, since there have been calendar changes, neither Saturday nor Sunday align with the old seventh day of the week. So your attempt to please god with your fussy precision fails. I guess you're going to hell, after all!

      August 19, 2011 at 7:19 am |
    • LearnTruth

      John – My response to your comments would be that God wouldn’t tell us to do something, and then not provide us a way to do it. Post Noah's flood, there are several litmus tests that validate that the Sabbath was and still is on Saturday. I’ll just state a couple. Credit goes to the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans for formalizing the calendar system as we know today, and yes I agree that some adjustments were made. Having said that, the Jewish calendar was based on a 29 day month, but still on a 7 day per week cycle. The Israelites had 40 yrs of wandering in the wilderness to know without a shadow of doubt as to what day was the preparation day (Fri) and which was the Sabbath, as a double portion of manna was given on Fridays. Jesus was also crucified on a Fri, and rested on the Sabbath as clearly outlined in the Bible. The Jewish days of the week are basically a weekly countdown of the days until the next Sabbath. The many generations of Jewish people, starting with their journey in the wilderness, and still today, are the most meticulous timekeepers of the Sabbath. They have since those times continued to track and log the 7th day Sabbath with utmost precision. Other nations have also meticulously tracked the seventh day Sabbath with accuracy. Did you realize that there are over 170 languages spoken in the world today that refer to Saturday as the Sabbath, ie in Spanish Sabado = Sabbath, Swedish-sabbatan, Russian-Cybbota, Polish-Sobota, etc.? Is this a coincidence? Absolutely not.

      BTW. Regarding hell as 'most' Christians and non-Christians teach and believe, is also false doctrine. Study of the Bible and prayer to God for His guidance, will also provide a true answer as to what/when hell really is.

      August 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • found

      I also found this site about 4 days ago while looking for answers to what is the Sabbath. I have recently discovered God and am implementing his Word. Also, look for the Sunday laws, and how they intend to contridict the Sabbath. I am sure you will be shocked if you hadn't already heard of them. Thank you, and may God be with us all!

      August 23, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  14. Keri

    Why are we trying to make God in our image? Whose to say what one day is to God. God created the world in 7 days. Does that mean that that was seven 24 hr time periods? What if one day to God is 1000 years to us? Time measurement is a human construct. Galileo, Pope Julian, Gregory, etc... all developed units of measure to help us make sense of "time".

    I bet God really doesn't care what day a person chooses to be respectful of Him.

    August 18, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      The one thing that is certain is that God is very precise about what he says. When you consider a little more than what you have considered- such as the Jews absolutely understood that the Sabbath was a 24 hour period, as did Jesus, that no time has been lost, etc. – then the question only becomes shall I choose to obey God. The Sabbath commandment is the great test commandment. everyone has "time". The poorest have the same 24 hour day as the richest. The lower IQ to the highest IQ. No one is at a disadvantage or advantage vis a vis another. The Sabbath is the test of faith. Shall I obey God even though I can come up with seemingly plausable excuses why any day is as good as another day? every day has 24 hours. etc. Faith says yes Lord. Rightousness by works says I will pick my own way (day), sort of the same process as Cain.

      August 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Actually, since Sabbaths go from sunset to sunset, they are almost always a little more or a little less than 24 hours. I also don't think the ancient Israelites recognized the 24 hours we do.

      August 19, 2011 at 7:17 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.