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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. Satan Lord of the Underworld

    Yes you should rest for the other six days you are mine

    August 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  2. Plumm

    @LRoy... "but regardless who made the change (you're on your own here-you need to find out yourself) the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday because Jesus ROSE on a Sunday. I know many of you think this is BS, but my point being for the sake of debate-if you take religion out of it-take just ONE day out of the week (say Wednesday) and relax, don't work and shut the world out for 24 hours.
    First of all, please show me where it is written in the Bible that the laws (ANY of them), that existed even before man, were changed. Also please show where exclusive authority was given to a church body to change and pervert such a clear and easy to understand command. What does the Bible say about a people who 'take anything from or add anything to' the word of God?

    August 18, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Cornelio

      Oh Brother, people like to change the LAW to fit their own lives, JESUS never! said that sunday was the new worshiping day, even when he died he did it on friday, rest the body on SATURDAY to reflect the holiness of such day and resurrected on sunday.

      August 18, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  3. Reality

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

    August 18, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  4. Reality

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

    August 18, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  5. smb

    We deffinately need a day where we can unplug and relax, recharge, and connect with each other and G-d

    August 18, 2011 at 6:32 am |
    • jimtanker

      I was right there with you until you got to the god part.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • LRoy

      I have many things to say. First off, even though I don't agree with his political views, this story is very warm and fuzzy. Even Christians can learn more about the Jewish faith (after all, it's part of our religion too...it's like OT=high school courses and NT=college courses.
      I once new an Orthodox Jew at work and his poor secretary had to come in on Saturday because he wouldn't use the phone, copier, a neighbor had to drive him...nice person. I heard his family was murdered during the Holocaust.
      As a Catholic, I try not to work not only on the Sabbath (Sunday), but Holy Days of Obligation too. Doesn't always work out that way.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • LRoy

      But then again, Jewish laws don't have to be followed by us Christians. Still, we can take a lesson from this and shut the world out after Mass even if it's in the privacy of our own hearts and minds.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:02 am |
    • jimtanker

      So the ten commandments are out?

      August 18, 2011 at 7:34 am |
  6. 3rdEyeOpened

    Pope Gregory was not responsible for the sabbath being altered to Sunday like someone posted earlier. It was Constantine the Great. After adopting Christianity (Catholicism) for his own purposes, he claimed that Sunday should be the new day of worship in honor of the Roman mythical sun god. I don't know where Pope Gregory came from. http://www.biblehistory.com/The Origin of Sunday Worship.html

    August 18, 2011 at 6:25 am |
    • LRoy

      Excuse me, but regardless who made the change (you're on your own here-you need to find out yourself) the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday because Jesus ROSE on a Sunday. I know many of you think this is BS, but my point being for the sake of debate-if you take religion out of it-take just ONE day out of the week (say Wednesday) and relax, don't work and shut the world out for 24 hours.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  7. Byrd

    Because it's the one day each week for which he can't be blamed for doing nothing?

    August 18, 2011 at 6:23 am |
    • LRoy

      Only to other human beings.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:12 am |
  8. Mike

    This ultra religious or orthodox Judaism, explains why Lieberman can justify dragging the US into bloody wars of choice.
    "Yahweh" or "God" never was too much of a humanitarian and tended to justify mass murder as long as it was perpetrated by his chosen people or race. There's nothing inherently wrong with holding a faith, but I see problems when people start believing that they have more of right to exist than others.

    August 18, 2011 at 6:16 am |
    • Margaret

      You can't find one source to back up your statement. Well, maybe a white supremacist site.

      August 18, 2011 at 6:23 am |
    • jimtanker

      Margaret,

      Have you not read the bible before?

      August 18, 2011 at 6:58 am |
    • LRoy

      If more Christians, particularly Catholic, was as open and faithful about their religious belief (and some Catholic politicians are lousy at it because they are voting against what the Church has taught since Day One) as Liberman then this country will be better off.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:15 am |
  9. deedle

    Wow, I guess Joe isn't an NFL fan!

    August 18, 2011 at 5:21 am |
    • Chaiah

      NFL is on Sunday, isn't it?

      August 18, 2011 at 5:29 am |
    • timk

      And thanks to technology, Joe is ablle to record Saturday games and play them Sunday morning. He has an even better NFL Sunday than we gentiles.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:02 am |
    • LRoy

      Not necessarily. I don't like football (foolish sport) either and I'm not even Jewish. It can be golf, baseball, basketball, tennis (boring but at least I know how to play). Remember Monday Night Football? The holidays is torture (not as much since the advent of cable) with all the games on.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:18 am |
    • Howie

      Observant Jews cannot be serious College football fans. Hardly any NFL games are played on Saturday.

      August 18, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  10. Chaiah

    Whether one is religious or not, it is healthy to set aside a day each week to renew one's self and one's relationship with those closest... We are not particularly religious Jews, but we observe Shabbat. As I light the candles at sundown every Friday evening and see the light of the candles through my fingernails – I remember what has come and gone. Reflection about how one has behaved in life on a regular basis – and how one has treated others is not a bad thing. It isn't about what we believe- because that may waiver as we travel through life. What matters is how we behave because if we behave appropriately, then no matter how we waiver – everything will be okay. So, I happen to celebrate Shabbat. You may do something else, but in the same vein. I hope you do.

    August 18, 2011 at 4:52 am |
    • LRoy

      LChaim, Mazeltov (sorry for the spelling) and all that. See, I've watched Yentel & Fiddler on the Roof (often). If you ever want to convert to Catholicism, let me know.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:22 am |
    • jimtanker

      Why go from one delusion to another?

      August 18, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • Stevie7

      @jimtanker – maybe because you're a closet cannibal and eating human flesh sounds appealing?

      August 18, 2011 at 7:28 am |
  11. FunHiking

    Check this youtube to explain you reason why keep Sabbath day as Holy. http://youtu.be/qRYakFjhy2Q

    August 18, 2011 at 4:28 am |
  12. Love HimFirst

    People need to realize that Jesus Christ(known as Y'shua haMashiyach) was a a kosher eating,Sabbath-abiding observant JEW. He is NOT like what historical Christianity has painted Him out to be, which is a man who "did away" with the law. A TRUE Messiah will never do away with the law that the Creator has given, because the He gave the commandment out of LOVE. As for the Sabbath, the almighty YHWH commanded it to be kept forever, the Messiah didn't come to do away with it. If anything, He upheld it. Read Matthew 5:17-19.

    August 18, 2011 at 4:15 am |
    • TheTruth72

      I agree with what you said, I believe Jesus did those things. But He also said that we should find rest in Him. He also had talks with the Pharisees about the Sabbath that show that the law was written not in their hearts but on their tongues. I believe all of the laws that were given to Moses were to be a foreshadowing or a setting up leading to Jesus. By Jesus' commandments that He had given about Love, you can incorporate all of the 10 commandments. If a person sets their mind heart and soul to be like Jesus and walk in His footsteps everyday, then aren't they resting in Him everyday as well as that translating to having Sabbath rest everyday? Just a thought.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:28 am |
    • LRoy

      You are very correct. Jesus was an observant Jew...so was his mom, all his other relatives, and many of his friends. All the apostles were too. So in a way, you Jews are doing EXACTLY what Jesus did when he was alive (only he did oh so much more). Keep the faith, Baby!

      August 18, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • jimtanker

      Jesus probably never even existed and you have no hard evidence that he ever did.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • Love HimFirst

      @ The Truth 72.

      Sure, believe that Messiah is our sabbath all you want, but in no way does His coming, His death, burial, and resurrection negate the command to keep a literal Sabbath(on the seventh day of the week) holy. As long as we physically work, so should we physically have a sabbath. The command to keep the Sabbath is an eternal command that man does not have any authority to change nor alter.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  13. FunHiking

    I tired of all Sunday church for false teach about The Sabbath is Sunday. They are WRONG!! The Sabbath is Saturday as 7th day. I'm member of Seventh-day Adventist. I do believe Sabbath. Check this to see yourself about Sabbath issues itiswritten.com and amazingfacts.org

    August 18, 2011 at 4:10 am |
    • i wonder

      It is all superst.itious claptrap anyway. I'll bet you guys also argue over which direction to point your lucky horseshoe when you hang it above your door....

      August 18, 2011 at 4:22 am |
    • TheTruth72

      Can I ask you if you are lukewarm? Please read about the 7 churches in Revelation to understand what I mean. Also check out fellowship of the martyrs dot co m.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:30 am |
    • LRoy

      I know but the fact is that Jesus (which I understand is whom you also believe), rose from the grave on a Sunday, not Saturday. In my book, because you seem like a nice person even though we have very different religious faith, at least you keep your OWN sabbath holy which is more than I can say for some. Try learning the truth about the Catholic faith, if only to understand where we're coming from and not be so bitter.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Cornelio

      @LROY of course he rose on sunday to reflect the rest we should observe on SATURDAY, He came to obey the law not to change it. people want to change the law to fit their life, of course the WORLD worships sundays, not saturdays, but who's frind of the world is enemy of God, he the LORD has nothing on this world.
      if you want to belive truly in your heart you will follow his commandments which did not change AT ALL, do you think that God made such laws then to change them?, what the LORD says is forever

      August 18, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  14. Mich

    Beautiful - I'm Catholic, but share our Jewish brothers' and sisters' belief in resting on the sabbath. It refreshes the body, mind, and soul. Even if one does not have any faith, a day of rest is a wise custom.

    August 18, 2011 at 4:03 am |
    • LRoy

      Me three. I love you! Couldn't have said it any better. JMJ

      August 18, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  15. kevin

    Wow its remarkable that atleast one person in the senate does keep sabbath, though i must say there are extreme views that i read above in this article because if you do turn a lightswitch on its not breaking the sabbath at all. The essence of Sabbath is indeed to rest from all secular activities done during the week and the essense of sabbath is to have a 24 hour holy time with God and with your fellowmen. Its a time to come together with friends and churchmembers and worship God. But at the same time its good to do good things on the sabbath like if someone is sick you can go to that place wash the dishes, or care for the needs visit the hospitals do good works. Jesus healed on the sabbath and though pharisees told him he broke the sabbath He only could know what the essence is of the sabbath thats why He said I am lord of the sabbath.
    The sad thing is most of the world keep the first day as sabbath but actually the bible directs it to the seventh so actually all christians who say and belief they go only by the book should keep the sabbath day holy which is on the seventh day. But if you want to follow tradition then you will keep the first day. In a stressed world like this we need rest

    August 18, 2011 at 3:52 am |
    • cooper

      Dear KEvin.

      Closing a circuit to render a device operational might also violate the Biblical prohibition of makeh bapatish (striking the final hammer blow, i.e. completing a product). The argument would be that an electrical device is not complete because it does not function unless the electricity is turned on.

      In the event that a human life is in danger, a Jew is not only allowed, but required, to violate any Shabbat law that stands in the way of saving that person. The concept of life being in danger is interpreted broadly: for example, it is mandated that one violate Shabbat to take a woman in active labor to a hospital.

      August 18, 2011 at 4:25 am |
    • LRoy

      About the light switch (and the phone, and the car). And observant Jews, please correct me here. As I remember, it is against Jewish law to create "fire". Any appliance (light, phone, television) produces electricity. In Jewish law, electricity is the same as fire, so it is forbidden to use any object that uses electricity because it is the same as lighting a fire. And sorry, no cooking either because that also has electricity/fire.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:38 am |
  16. Jarod47

    A grown man doing silly things. A pitifull sight ...

    August 18, 2011 at 3:50 am |
    • Michael

      He is exercising his faith and freedom religion. To him it is not silly at all and that is the only thing that matters.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:23 am |
    • Tracie

      Why are you so critical? Because the foolishness of God confounds even the wise. Your comment was unimportant and unneccesary. Take a look at yourself and stop beind such a turd.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:37 am |
    • Carl

      Yes, but we forgive you for posting in a forum. 🙂 Seriously, I am a non-believer, as I assume you also are, but the simple rituals of the sabbath or of any religion are powerful tools for centering one's life. Maybe in my case I might make it a night of eating out with my wife, but I assure you we have our own "rituals" in how we go about it. There have been many bad things done in the name of religion, but this is not one of them. It is a family bonding ritual, and it helps to remind him that even though he is a US Senator, he ought to obey some rules bigger than his own selfish choices.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:11 am |
  17. KM

    All religions are crazy. Sadly, the religious are a super majority and will continue to be for a long time.

    August 18, 2011 at 3:44 am |
    • Tracie

      You just simply lack understanding. Maybe you are the crazy one.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:37 am |
    • LRoy

      Yes we are, and I'm not going to say one religion is mightier than than another (but Catholics REALLY are) because I'll be shot down. Get used to it pal, or shut about it, or better yet get with the program.

      August 18, 2011 at 7:45 am |
  18. Sick O' Lie-berman

    This shallow weasel has consistently stabbed America in the back. It's possible a good number of orthodox will sing his praises because of his unwavering support for grift handed to Israel and his enthusiastic willingness to commit young American lives in pursuit of Israeli adventures in the Middle East. Absolutely disgusting. Don't forget his established role as the cash conduit from Hadassah and the Pharma trade to congress. We would all be better off if this ugly little traitor would resign, or better yet, be called up to heaven, the sooner the better.

    August 18, 2011 at 3:40 am |
  19. Pinchas

    divineinformation . com NUFF said.

    August 18, 2011 at 3:21 am |
  20. tadaham

    These revealed religions are crazy..

    August 18, 2011 at 2:52 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.