Our congregation hosted many distinguished guests this Yom Tov season. Among them were Senator and former Vice-Presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman and his wife Hadassah, who spent Yom Kippur and Sukkot with their children and grandchildren, new olim and residents of Ramat Bet Shemesh.
Although I had the honor of briefly meeting this wonderful couple once prior when speaking at their shul in the US, this Yom Tov afforded me the opportunity to daven and schmooze with them several times.
Senator and Mrs. Lieberman are truly unique people. They are humble, friendly and “down to earth”. They blended into the diverse crowd with ease and comfort.
As the Rabbi said, it was an honor and a privilege to have them with us.
Personally, that privilege had a meaning far beyond the presence of a renowned politician who came very close to being second to the most powerful man in the world.
The Liebermans joined us for Yom Kippur, a day of complete holiness. A day so special, that it is referred to as a mikve, the ritual bath which encompasses and surrounds one with spiritual purity.
My seat in shul faced that of Senator Lieberman. While watching him over the day the following came to my mind.
It is said that “Tzedaka tatzil mimavet”, the act of charity can save one from (a decree) of death. In fact, Tzedaka is one of the three things that can change the evil decree from Rosh HaShana through Yom Kippur.
What is the power of charity that it can help one avert death?
Money is one of the dirtiest of all things, both figuratively and literally. We all know that “money is the root of all evil”. Money itself carries many germs as it is passed from hand to hand.
An act of charity transforms the potential hedonism of money into an act of selflessness. God therefore says: “if you can resist the strong draw of money by using it to help another, then I will change a decree of death into life”.
Money can tempt one in many ways. Using it for good shows a depth of character worthy of Divine protection.
Joe Lieberman rose through the ranks of politics and nearly reached the second highest leadership position in the United States. The world of politics is not always the nicest or “cleanest”. One can only imagine the challenges that the Liebermans faced throughout the years.
Like another “Yosef” in our history, Senator Lieberman did not allow the influence and prestige of office taint his values or his goal of being a true servant of the people while remaining a servant of God. Mr. Lieberman made a great Kiddush HaShem numerous time and left political office with the respect and admiration of politicians and citizens across the spectrum (and from across the aisle).
Yosef “Hatzadik” was called so because of his ability to remain righteous while serving as viceroy in Egypt, a depraved and corrupt society. Like using one’s money for tzedaka, he overcame the temptations and did good for his people.
The privilege of davening with the Liebermans was not due to their notoriety or prestige. The real privilege was in the opportunity to spend Yom Kippur, the pinnacle of purity and holiness, in the company of those, despite the temptations and challenges of the political world and its power, kept their ideals and integrity as an example for all.