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Sen. Joe Lieberman Z"L -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 03/28/24

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah


March 28, 2024

20 Adar II 5784

Parashat Tzav

Shabbat Parah

I was saddened to read about the passing of Sen. Joe Lieberman. Here is something I wrote shortly after he became the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000:

Democrats and Republicans in the Jewish community should be able to agree on at least one thing concerning this presidential election. The nomination of Sen. Joe Lieberman for vice president of the United States has given rise to more discussions of halakhah (Jewish law) in American society than ever before.

In the first few days after Lieberman was designated as Al Gore’s running mate, the various media were discussing the laws of Shabbat as they pertained to national security issues, as well as the laws of Kashrut as they pertained to state dinners.  What an amazing phenomenon!

Many Jews have already found themselves explaining fine points of Jewish law to their non-Jewish friends.  Still others have found themselves giving the same tutorials to their JEWISH friends.

If nothing else, Sen. Lieberman has given us all an opportunity to evaluate what we know about our Jewish tradition and what we do about it. The nomination of an observant Jew to high office challenges us all to re-assess our understanding of Judaism in the modern world.

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, Moses commands the people to “write on the stones all the words of this Instruction (Torah), explained well.” (Deut. 27:8) It was not sufficient to copy down the words of the Torah verbatim. Those words needed to be explained until they were understood.

In today’s world of mass publication and internet research, more Jewish texts are available to more Jews than ever before. More Jewish books are in print today than at any previous time in history. Websites with thought-provoking Jewish material—from both ancient AND modern times—can be brought into our homes in a matter of seconds. Yet, how many of us take advantage of the resources at our fingertips? Some of us do, but not enough.

As Americans, we can agree or disagree with Joe Lieberman’s political views. As Jews, we can agree or disagree with his religious views. Despite that, his candidacy is sending a powerful message to us all. If Judaism is going to be an item on the national agenda, we have an obligation as Jews to be educated participants in the discussion.

As we prepare for the coming year of 5761, may we all be inspired by the words of Moses in the Torah—and the actions of Joe Lieberman today—to ensure that the words of our Torah are “explained well.” 

May the memory of Sen. Joseph Lieberman be a blessing.



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