Senator Joe Lieberman and Rabbi Ari D. Kahn offer readers fifty essays in “With Liberty and Justice.”[1] The number is built on the brilliant rabbinical idea to connect the holidays of Passover and Shavuot by instituting the practice of counting 49 days between the two holidays (changing the biblical requirement to count seven full weeks), and by inventing the idea that Shavuot commemorates the date the Decalogue was revealed at Mount Sinai (even though the Torah gives no date). The counting of the 49 days with Shavuot being the fiftieth day creates a bridge that links the two holidays and teaches an important lesson. As the senator and rabbi highlight in the essays, liberty, represented by Passover recalling freedom from Egyptian bondage, is not complete and is even possibly dangerous unless it is connected with law, especially divine Law, represented by Shavuot.

Each of the easy-to-read fifty essays contains a significant idea and is usually just two pages in length, although a few are three pages. Some reveal interesting facts about the Senator, such as President Barak Obama telling him that he made it possible for him to run and win the presidency because he a Jew opened the door for minorities when he was accepted to run for the vice presidency.

A few of the ideas presented in the essays are: Law is important. “It represents the ideals and goals we have for ourselves and our country, much as the commandments and values of God-given Law have done for thousands of years.”

“Without law, freedom cannot guarantee a secure or good life.”

Jews have different opinions about many things, and the son in the Haggadah called the Evil Son, could and indeed should be called the Challenging Son. “We may not all pray together, but we can study the Law and its values together, imbibing this spirit of genuine inclusiveness and the willingness to ask questions as incisive and important as the one posed by the “Challenging Son.”

“Good debates [as in the examples cited] produce good laws.”

Many Jews know Hillel’s summary of the essence of Judaism “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow,” but they do not know or they ignore the end of his statement: “The rest is commentary. Go and learn.”

Similarly, they know and ascribe to the value of tikkun olam, “repairing and improving the world.” But they do not know or ignore the end of the phrase – it is in the prayer Aleinubemalkhut Shaddai, “under the sovereignty of God.”


[1] Maggid Books and OU Press, Jerusalem and New York, 2018.