WASHINGTON - Call Joe Lieberman the unlikely evangelical.
The Independent senator from Connecticut - and the best-known Orthodox Jew in American politics - is probably more cognizant than most of his Jewish congressional colleagues about rabbinical interdictions against encouraging non-Jews to mimic Jewish ritual.
Yet here he is, about to release a book advising Christians and others not to drive to church, to welcome their Shabbat in the evening, to cut off the wired world and to, umm, enjoy your significant other.RELATED: Shabbat - the day of text?Joe Lieberman, role model
Upon meeting with Lieberman in his Senate offices last week, before the Aug. 16 release date of his new book, “The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath,” he laughed at the term evangelical. But he also embraced it.
“In a way it is” evangelical, he said.
Not that he wanted to convert anyone, Lieberman emphasized.
“This gift, I wanted not only to share with Jews who are not
experiencing it, who haven't accepted it, but also in some measure to
appeal to Christians to come back to their observance of their Sabbath
on Sundays,” he said.
Lieberman does so in a surprisingly engaging read - surprisingly because
books by politicians fronted by photos where they pose in studied,
open-collared casualness are usually a recipe for a surfeit of encomiums
packed with feel-goodness but bereft of intellectual nourishment.
Instead, melding an unlikely array of tales ranging from 16th-century
Safed to tension-soaked Republican and Democratic back rooms, Lieberman
makes the case for a structured day of rest that offers freedom within
The book also provides a glimpse into how religion shaped this most
adamant of congressional centrists, whose stubborn hewing to his beliefs
brought him within shouting distance of the vice presidency before
propelling him toward the end of his political career (Lieberman
announced in January that he will not seek re-election in 2012).
One potent example of Lieberman’s championing of freedom through
restrictions is how the dictates of the holy day liberate him from his
“Six days a week, I’m never without this little piece of plastic, chips
and wires that miraculously connect me to the rest of the world and that
I hope makes me more efficient, but clearly consumes a lot of my time
and attention,” he writes. “If there were no Sabbath law to keep me from
sending and receiving email all day as I normally do, do you think I
would be able to resist the temptation on the Sabbath? Not a chance.
Laws have this way of setting us free.”
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