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Topic: Joseph Lieberman, Good for Jews & Israel?

Al Samarov wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

These days, I'm much more interested in the Olympics than in politics, but I have one question for you: What do you think about a person as Jewish as Joe Lieberman is, in a position as prominent as the Vice Presidency is? Is it "good for the Jews?"

Elana from Memphis, TN wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Hi! I don't know if y'all have received a lot of questions about this, but I was just wondering what the Orthodox think of this new Joe Lieberman guy running for vice president. Do y'all think it be good for the Jews and Israel or not?

Dear Al Samarov and Elana,

My great-great-grandfathers might have known; they were prophets. I am not. Certainly Mr. Lieberman personally is pro-Israel. But what might be the reaction of others to the phenomenon of a Jew in such a high office?

Let me offer one classical Jewish approach to this question, although there certainly may be others: The verse says that in exile, the Jews will suffer "many conflicting evils." The commentaries explain: "Evils that conflict with one another, like the sting of a wasp and a scorpion."

The remedy for a wasp sting, says tradition, is cold water. Hot water aggravates it. For a scorpion bite, it's the exact opposite: Hot water heals, cold water hurts. But what if someone gets stung by a bee and a scorpion at the same time? He can't heal it with hot water; he can't heal it with cold water. That's called "conflicting evils."

Sadly, this fairly well describes the Jewish position during much of our history. When we are weak, we're oppressed because we are weak. When we are strong, we're hated because we are strong. We seem to get stung either way.

In another vein, note that when Esther became queen of Persia, Mordechai instructed her to hide the fact that she was Jewish? Why? Among other reasons, Mordechai didn't want the Jews in Persia to say "Hey! We've got a sister in the palace!" and thereby increase their complacency and lessen their feelings of dependence on G-d.

But in the U.S. today, one hopes that complacency is already at its lowest, and that the nomination of a person who observes halacha and who calls Judaism "the anchor of his life" would evoke renewed interest in Judaism and Torah observance.


  • Devarim 31:17
  • Da'at Zekenim Mi'ba'alei Hatosefot, ibid.

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