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
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
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