Book Review: The Gift of Rest by Joe Lieberman

“The Gift of Rest” was an enjoyable read on Senator Lieberman’s devotion to Shabbat (Sabbath). Growing up Jewish, the Senator has continued to pursue his devotion to God by honoring the Jewish tradition of Sabbath. This book is an easy-flowing read explaining his appreciation and explanation of God’s gift of Sabbath and how it draws the devotee into communion with God and others. That one day of Sabbath rest regenerates him for the next six days of labor. Lieberman is mindful and respectful of other people as they might consider God’s principle of one day rest (worship), whether on Saturday or Sunday.

Lieberman developed each section of the Sabbath by explaining the reasons for it, the draw of others to enjoy it together, but also the holiness of it related to the Divine. For example, some might be troubled by the enjoyment of wine or bourbon at the Friday evening meal and the conclusion of the Saturday services. But what struck me was the connection of every aspect to the holiness of God and the symbolic meanings. It seems that the deep devotion of each prayer, reading and action are acts of devotion to God and therefore the drink is a celebration of the holiness of God, rather than a personal celebration apart from God. Maybe that is what so many Protestants have missed and chosen legalistic abstention, rather than holy awareness.  It also struck me how important relationships are as a mirror of emphasizing relationship with God.

Lieberman revealed how practical his devotions to Torah and God are. There are 613 commandments in the Torah, but he gave an abundance of examples of how he adjusted the meaning of the commandments to the higher principles of life and security, whether personally or in his case, related to his work as Senator. He cited many examples of why he did answer his phone on Sabbath or took a ride in a car on Sabbath (contrary to Jewish Sabbath teaching), because it was a matter of emergency, security or highest level of importance. It was easy to respect his thought process, because he related every action to his relationship with the Divine, rather than a rule.

It’s obvious that the simplicity with which he and his wife Hadassah live has had a great impact on many religious and non-religious people in D.C. His devotion to Sabbath reveals how he is separate from the world itself and how others cannot escape notice that he is different than the rest of the world.  His openness to Christians is relaxed and non-confrontational. As he waits for Messiah to come, my only prayer is that the Lord would open his eyes to the reality that, yes, while Messiah is coming again, He has already come once.

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