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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. Holly Tuttle

    Thank you for reminding us of the value of the Sabbath in all of our lives. It is a day, if honored, a gift to each of us to renew covenants, remember blessings and truly rest.

    August 18, 2011 at 2:39 am |
    • Pete

      there's no danger or significance to the Jews monopolizing the media (controlling/dictating public "opinion" means nothing).... or... printing money at will (deliberately causing inflation and inevitable collapse).... or... taxing us (being enslaved to them is a "good thing", right?).... or.... writing our laws (who needs freedom/rights anyway?)....or.... controlling our food supply (think those Kosher symbols are just there for decoration?).... or.... opening our borders (only a JEWISH state must be preserved).... or.... stripping our nations worth and relocating our entire manufacturing industry to China (their next host)....or... war after war after pointless/bloody war (we like to kill each other so they can gain even more power over us all)....etc.....etc...etc.... 1+1+1+1 (Jew+Jew+Jew+Jew) somehow doesn't add up to much, does it? And I must be a horrible and "hateful" man for doing this SIMPLE math, right?

      August 18, 2011 at 3:17 am |
  2. The God Complex

    Everybody needs a day of rest after pinching pennies with greed perfected generations ago and stealing everything they can possibly steal while supporting genocide and on top of all that being a professional victim.

    August 18, 2011 at 2:33 am |
  3. billp

    This guy is still in office? Looking forward to the day when he is gone, along with his self-righteousness sanctimony.

    August 18, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • ElisabethinCA

      Self-Righteous sanctimony...you mean like your statement?

      August 18, 2011 at 2:56 am |
    • Pinchas

      Obviously this kind of spirituality is way over your head billp.

      August 18, 2011 at 2:59 am |
  4. i wonder

    Guess what, folks? It's going to get even trickier in the future, if/when we colonize in space. The stats out there are quite different. For example, the International Space Station orbits Earth once every 90 minutes, which gives astronauts 16 sunrises and sunsets a day... I wonder what sunset-to-sunset worshipers do about that? Pick some arbitrary spot on Earth and follow that schedule? Farther out there, the days of the week won't even match up.

    Can only hope that all this 'worship' stuff will be a curiosity from the past by then.

    August 18, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  5. Good Bless the Illuminati

    Joe, you were a fake Democrat. Then you were a fake Independent. How do we know you're not a fake Jew, too?

    August 18, 2011 at 1:33 am |
    • denim

      Oh, he's real in that sense. I have relatives who used to go to the same shul as he did.

      August 18, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  6. Frank Rizzo

    Who gives a rats @ss lol.

    August 18, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  7. Annexian

    How NICE he's so JEWISH and so high in power in the USA...

    Who's he loyal to, the USA or Israel?

    What if, during that budget p-ing contest, they'd shut down for a while? Somehow I'm so SURE he'd make sure the subsidies to Israel were so prioritized that not just Granny's Social Security but prisons, soldier's pay, etc. would go first...

    August 18, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • Bob

      His religion/race comes before politics, and his country (Israel) comes before his job (subverting/destroying our country).

      August 18, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Truth

      Both of you are idiots.

      August 18, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • Michael

      So you worry about every non-Christian where their national allegiance lays, how redneck of you.

      August 18, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • Leeroy

      Did you know that:
      the US financially supports: Egypt, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Jordan, and more Arabs countries?
      The US is like a business man, use money to buy power. Russia have navy bases in Syria, Iran have bases everywhere... The US needs an ally which is Israel. Just want to remind you that Israel got hit by missiles during 1991 because we got into Iraq (they did not get involved in the war), Israel supplies us with priceless intelligences that help saving US citizens! There are no friendships in politics, its all business!

      August 18, 2011 at 1:46 am |
    • denim

      Jews aren't necessarily Zionists.

      August 18, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  8. Da King

    As a Christian, I support the Jewish people because that is what God wants. Many Jews will accept Christ in the end times and will be saved. Most gentiles will not accept Jesus, ever because of their pride..

    August 18, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Truth

      But you're not as dumb as these two.

      August 18, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Frank Rizzo

      God also said not to steal, kill or create false images against they Lord and do it anyway you hypocrite lol

      August 18, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • Michael

      Somewhere across the world someone is saying "Someday you will accept ra, and if you do not, it is out of freakish pride, because everyone knows ra is the only God, they choose not to accept him." – You are a religious id1ot.

      August 18, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • @Bob

      You know I can take quotes out of context too and misinform people. It really isn't that hard. Nice brainwashing you've got going on there, I bet you're really proud of it. I'll just respond to one of your cherry picked quotes – Canaan was what the land of Israel was called before the Hebrews settled it. That quote isn't talking about Jews, it's talking about the values of a particular people who weren't Hebrew. You know why non-Jews aren't advised to study the Talmud? First off, because most of it doesn't concern you. Additionally, since you have not been trained how to think logically and creatively as in the Jewish tradition, you don't understand how to even learn a piece of Talmud. Without instruction, you might as well open up a PhD level physics textbook and cherry pick some quotes from there. You can quote all you want, but you don't know what you are talking about. If you want to blame someone for American problems, you could use your mind and find some real answers instead of sinking to the lowest level of "it's the joooz". Stop being a fool.

      August 18, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Pinchas

      Michael, you really should educate yourself on religious thought before you post. You make a fool of yourself.

      August 18, 2011 at 3:09 am |
  9. Da King

    The Sabbath is good for Jews and Christians. A remnant of each of us will be raised together in the end.

    August 18, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Frank Rizzo

      What bunch of crock of BS, please stop this you're making yourself look like you need a freaking hug lol

      August 18, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  10. TIm

    So here's how this comment list is going to go.

    Person 1: Loves Judaism.

    Person 2: Loves whatever religion they are.

    THEN THEY GO BACK AND FOURTH DEFENDING AND OFFENDING: BLAH BLAH BLAH!

    August 18, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • Da King

      God does not like religion. I is of man. Faith and love in him is what God wants.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • mickey1313

      daking, god, acording to the books, does not want love and respect, he DEMANDS worship. Any being that is all powerful, all knowing and all loveing, would not demand worship, expecally with no proof.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • Frank Rizzo

      lol

      August 18, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  11. Bullet

    Does anyone believe or care what this back stabbing, ex- Democrat, opportunist thinks or does anymore? I do not!

    August 18, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • mickey1313

      Well, it is easy to see why he bailed on his dem friends, he prefers the company of ignorant thiests.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  12. Alex

    What a great practice. There was a time when most of the country observed a day of rest (albeit Sunday). That day was used for family and personal/religious reflection, and brought people together. Now we let work dominate our lives and all of our time. America is the most worked country, and what do we have to show for it, except a widening socio-economic gap and increasing national debt!

    August 18, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  13. Trav

    Can't say I've always agreed with him politically but Joe Lieberman has always struck me as a very decent human being, and that does say something in today's political climate. He's like Ron Paul in that regard, I may not like him, but he's honest and has integrity.

    August 18, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Da King

      Good observation Trav.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • Frank Rizzo

      excuse me while I throw up lol

      August 18, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  14. halito

    My family is Seventh Day Adventists. Our faith also keeps the sun-down Friday night to sun-down Saturday night as Sabbath in keeping with the Bible.
    To those of you who would deny the Senator his right to practice his beliefs need to go live in a country where one has to worship the way the Gov dictates. Don't forget, the pilgrims came to this country for FREEDOM OF RELIGION. So to the Raymundos and JoJos, let us tell you what to do and see how you like it.

    August 18, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • mickey1313

      Practiceing and believing what you want is your option, but he stated that when there is a conflict between his work (senator) and his faith, his faith wins out. Since the senitor has sworn an oath to THIS nation, putting his beliefs before the good of the nation is TREASON.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • Raymundo

      I Never said or think he should not honor his religious practices, BUT his religious practices can NOT interfere with his duties as a public servant. Public service take a big toll on the person life and that include wherever his religious practices are. I have NO problem with any person religion, race, color, etc, etc. But reality is .................If you choose to be a public servant your life will change a lot.

      August 18, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • denim

      Halito, you really need to work on your reading comprehension.

      August 18, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  15. Amy

    To answer your question Geek Squad Agent, the reason that the believers in Acts 20 met on the first day of the week was probably because the early church was very much influenced by Judaism (all of the first converts, disciples, etc. were Jews). Much of Acts is devoted to showing how the Gentiles (non-Jews) were included the community of Christ-followers. Acts and other Epistles mention how believers met together often for a variety of reasons and it was just natural to them to meet on the first day of the week.

    August 18, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Drew

      The reason they gathered on the first day is because the first day started after sundown on Saturday evening and they assembled together for Havdallah, a ceremony ending the Sabbath. Non Jewish believers and Jewish believers worshiped together for the first centuries , in the Synogogue (on the Sabbath).

      August 18, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • Pinchas

      Amy and Drew. You both seem to have been well indoctrinated by your church. The fact is that Jews never have and never will accept xtianity as anything but a break-away sect, and its messiah as false.

      August 18, 2011 at 3:12 am |
  16. Jason

    Very cool! While I'm not a member of the Jewish community, I respect and admire the senator and his family for observing their religious rites and staying true to their faith.

    August 18, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  17. JoJo

    I have nothing against Lieberman's faith per se, but the Manichaean element of it - we're good and THEY are evil, and therefore we can kill THEM is at the root of his militarism and the unnecessary deaths of thousands of human beings to say nothing of trillions of tax dollars spent with the result that we now have to cut life-support for the poor in our own country to pay the war debt. There are many so-called Christians of course who are just as bad or worse.

    August 18, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • You Have No Clue

      The only thing more obvious than you're desire to be noticed is your absolute and complete ignorance.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • Da King

      jojo, you don't know what you are talking about.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • halito

      You make no sense – other than sounding like an idiot.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  18. Bergen County resident

    Did you know that Bergen County, NJ (Next to NYC) home to 1 million has Sunday blue laws and COMPLETELY closed on Sundays except food places and pharmacy. We are the only county in the nation keeping Sunday the sabbath a day of rest for all workers. I love it!

    August 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Sabatica

      You don't get it, the day of rest is NOT Sunday, it is Saturday the true day of rest, the true Sabbath...Jesus kept the Sabbath by resurrecting on Sunday...worshiping on Sunday was an abomination to the true God.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Raymundo

      And where are the law enforcement?? having the day off also? what about the 911, hospitals? How many millions live in USA? What do you think the consequences may for the USA as a country may be having only pharmacies and restaurants open??? Lets be REAL

      August 18, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  19. Matt

    God Bless all Christians ! Only 13 million Jews in the world vs. 2.2 billion Christians. Who wins? Christianity!

    August 17, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • Robert

      Really? When was the last time a "Christian" President received 29 standing ovations from Congress like Netanyahu did?
      Lieberman serves Israel like many others in Congress. The United States is not his primary concern.

      August 17, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • md2205

      Did you know that in the Bible it says 24 times that G-d gave the Torah to Moses in front of the entire Jewish people? That means He gave the Torah to about 3 million men, women and children. They passed down this information from their generation, to the next, to the next, etc. until our times. There was no break in this information over all these years. And if anyone would have come to any generation and said that, and it hadn't happened, he would have been kicked out of the community right away as an imposter because everyone would have known that didn't happen. But J. says G-d told him things and no one was watching. No one was there, and he was told things all alone. No matter how many people you have believing that, they are following only one man with a claim that no one else saw or heard. However, even though you have less Jews in the world, they follow a historical fact: three million people saw Moses getting the Torah from G-d. Not only that, but you have to realize that you have 2 billion Moslems in the world also. They say Mohammed received G-d's word, again with no one else seeing it. Now either the Moslems are right, or the Christians are right, but they can't both be right. So numbers mean nothing.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Guess What

      "Now either the Moslems are right, or the Christians are right, but they can't both be right."

      It is quite possible that they are both wrong, you know.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • TIm

      @ MD..Yup, God gave Moses the Bible in front of the Jewish people. AND THEN THEY WORSHIPPED A GOLD CALF IN FRONT OF MOSES AND GOD...HAHA

      Good Luck on that buddy!

      ps Ur statements are skewed. Ask daddy and mommy to clarify other religions for you, especially your own.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Bob Decker

      Matt your god is fictional. All gods are made up.I checked the bible , old, new , and not real, and nowhere does it say don't turn on the light ??? Wacky religious ways. Lieberman is for Israel 1 st. and screw the USA. Ask him to check goggle for 9-11 Israel connection.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • hi

      jeez, get over yourself already. Christians have been attempting to eliminate Jews for the past 2000 years and they have yet to succeed. In a time where being different is the most accepted you think it'll happen now? Get real

      August 18, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • len

      Sorry you’re wrong. Christianity is a pagan faith and a false one at that!

      August 18, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • denim

      Tell it to the Muslims.

      August 18, 2011 at 2:14 am |
    • Pinchas

      Matt, you must have gotten an A+ in king-of-the-castle judging by your infantile mentality. Since when do numbers equal correctness in regard to spirituaal reality? Please tell me you aren't that moronic... and that you are joking.

      August 18, 2011 at 3:16 am |
  20. Raymundo

    I do respect his religious practices and beliefs, BUT will he put the well being and security of the country because he need to keep his religious practices? Does he expect the problems, internal and external security will hold for him to finish his religious practice/s or will they take the opportunity to strike? How is that he was expecting to fun for higher office?

    Religion and government SHOULD not be mix. From my point of view this is another practician of some form of Dominionis

    August 17, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • halito

      Everyone, including public officials, have a right to a personal life with personal choices. Hate to break the news to you but this is not all about Raymundo.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • Susan

      Raymundo – I suggest you go back and read the article again, this time with comprehension in mind. It said very clearly that when he needs to address some issue of national security or there is a vote on the Sabbath he fulfills his duties as an elected official. There is no need for him to put aside his religion to run for higher office. There is a way to honor both and he seems to be doing so very well.

      August 18, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • Doesn't Matter

      So we expect every senator whether christian, jewish, etc to give up their religious beliefs because church and state should not mix? The separation of church and state was meant to separate federal government from enacting religious restraints on the people, so people could practice freely, Like in the first amendment, The FIRST, Freedom of religion is specifically expressed, and it isn't meant as a guideline. Furthermore anything of immediate importance like a roll call vote or national security situations Lieberman will attend and participate, whether or not he breaks religion. Not to mention that a day of rest calms the mind and clearly leads Lieberman to a successful political career, otherwise he wouldn't still be a senator. nd if you say his religion should disable him from office, maybe you should be wondering who the traitor to the country is.

      August 18, 2011 at 1:49 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.