Nov. 29, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Lieberman’s Sabbath Guide Worth a Look

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“Read or sing Psalm 23, which offers God’s assurance of His providential protection as we contemplate the coming week.”

As you can see by these suggestions, the book is ecumenical. Christians can nap as well as Jews, and fewer wristwatches would probably serve everybody well.

The book is old-fashioned in the best sense: It reveres the past and is sentimental without devolving into nostalgia. Lieberman employs the lovely archaic language of the King James version of the Bible rather than more modern translations.

And although Lieberman’s book is naturally focused on the practices of the Jewish Sabbath, he never loses connection with the gentile reader, whether he is discussing the Mishnah, Maimonides or Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Lieberman tells a number of heartwarming tales about his family, but my favorite story in the book concerns not a relative but a rabbi and a young student (it’s a story a theology professor of mine told to a classroom full of young, doubting students many years ago).

The rabbi and the student are debating whether the world was created by accident or design. After a while the rabbi said he had to leave but invited the student to return later to resume the debate. When the student returned, he saw a beautiful landscape painting of mountains, rivers, flowers, animals and people. When the rabbi came into the room, the student praised the painting and asked who the artist was. There was no artist, the rabbi told him. The house painter accidentally spilled his paints on the canvas covering the floor, and the painting was the result. The student, incredulous, said that was impossible.

A response for which the rabbi was ready: “You find it impossible to believe that this beautiful painting happened by accident, and yet you nevertheless argue that our much more beautiful world was created by accident.”

Far from the loud debates and bustling burdens of the Senate, Lieberman has given us a gift of active contemplation and quiet appreciation.

“The world can get by for a day without me,” Lieberman said.

That might be the most valuable lesson of all.

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