Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Av 5760 - August 16, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Joe Lieberman - a True Kiddush Hashem

A number of important keys to understanding the recent choice of Senator Joe Lieberman by the Democratic Party's nominee for President Al Gore, are found in a story that Lieberman told at the U.S. Aguda dinner three years ago, in 1997.

Soon after Lieberman was elected to the U.S. Senate there were some important votes that were scheduled for Shabbos, and he had to stay overnight to be on hand without chilul Shabbos. Lieberman planned to sleep in his office. But then Senator Al Gore came over to him and, as Lieberman tells it, Gore "said, `This is your Sabbath, isn't it? Where are you going to stay tonight?'

"I said, `I am going to sleep in my office.'

"`I won't let you do that. My parents have an apartment across the street. They're away.'"

Lieberman went on. "You know, in good European fashion I rejected his offer twice. The third time, I accepted! And, that night, he took me across the street. He understood everything; turned on the lights, and turned off the lights when he left."

This took place 12 years ago. We see Al Gore's selfless and completely unprompted offer of help to a colleague in need of a place to sleep, and full of respect for the religious convictions that lay behind that need. We also see Joe Lieberman's quiet, matter-of-fact acceptance of the demands of Torah, yet ensuring that he can do his duty.

In these days when it so often seems that the only way to fame is to commit some greater outrage than has been hitherto attempted, there is no doubt that the selection of a man who is an unapologetic, dignified adherent to the laws of the Torah as a candidate for the second highest office in the greatest country of the world is a resounding kiddush Hashem.

In this particular case, the kiddush Hashem is compounded by the fact that one of the aspects of Lieberman's public record that led to his selection was his thorough identification with high standards of morality. Lieberman has been a highly visible crusader against the excesses of modern entertainment media, and he was also among the first prominent Democrats to speak out strongly against the moral failings of President Clinton. As such, Lieberman is a shomer mitzvos whose career reflects what the Torah is trying to instill in our people, in contrast to some other infamous people who keep mitzvos but won their fame for acts that are in flagrant opposition to the thrust of the Torah way of life.

We wish to state explicitly and stress that our applause is for Joe Lieberman the man and the Jew, but we emphatically are not endorsing Joe Lieberman the candidate. In the U.S., the frum community is deeply involved in the political issues that matter to it, but it does not usually choose among the candidates.

Also, though these considerations undoubtedly weigh in Lieberman's favor, the behavior of religious office holders is often very disappointing to the religious community. When Yaakov Ne'eman was tapped by Netanyahu for an influential Cabinet position in his government, high hopes were raised since he is religious, learns Torah regularly, and generally spoke to gedolei Torah. We soon were dismayed to see him attack the yeshiva world, lead a committee that recommended giving the Reform an official share in the conversion process, and even break a taboo by being the first Israeli Government Minister to speak at an official Reform convention. The current Israeli Attorney General also seems to sometimes go out of his way to show that his beliefs are fully independent of his official rulings.

We do not know how -- or if -- this applies to Joe Lieberman, but it shows the complexity of the decision of whom to vote for.

In any case, all this has nothing to do with our wholehearted applause for the kiddush Hashem that Joe Lieberman has brought so far. Halevai vaiter -- would that it continue!

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