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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Senator Joe Lieberman

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The transcript:

HH: So great to join you this morning, to be joined by our favorite Democratic Senator ever, Joe Lieberman from Connecticut for 24 years. He is now, quite surprising to me, the author, along with Rabbi Ari Kahn, of a brand new book, With Liberty And Justice: The 50 Day Journey From Egypt To Sanai arriving just in time for Passover. Senator Lieberman, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to talk to you.

JL: Good morning, Hugh, and thank you. Great to be back with you.

HH: All right, give us the genesis, and that’s a play on words, of this project about Exodus.

JL: Yeah, now that’s got to be one of the great sentences…

HH: I know, isn’t it?

JL: …in talk radio in recent radio. And so the genesis of this has been sort of in me for a long time. I am a lawyer. I’ve spent, you know, my whole life in various forms of the law, writing laws as a state senator, U.S. senator, enforcing laws as attorney general. So I’ve thought about it, and it just struck me that this was an opportunity to write a book about the necessity of law to build a civilized society, and to base it on the Biblical journey of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom, liberated by God out into the wilderness, the desert, but then ultimately the necessity of them receiving, and also the world, the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sanai. In other words, the basic larger point I’m trying to stress here is that we cherish our freedom. It’s our birthright from God. But freedom alone is not enough, and the Bible is telling us that with this journey. We need the law to give us standards and values to try to live by. And it’s just wonderful to have some time in my, this chapter of life after I left the Senate and active politics to write this book, so I’m grateful for your interest in it. Thank you.

HH: Well, I am going to read it in depth and then talk about it with you and with Dennis Prager, I hope, at the same time.

JL: Oh, good.

HH: But talk to me a little bit about how when Jews gather to celebrate Passover, and they go through the ritual, and they say the same thing, I think that’s connected to the rule of law. I actually believe the tradition of sitting down every year and doing the same thing and reminding people of the exodus and the giving of the law, that that has deeply attached the Jewish people, Jewish-Americans, Jewish anything, and of course, Israel citizenry, to the idea that there are laws and we have to stick to them.

JL: That is a really great insight, and I agree with you. In other words, within the larger context of law that societies adopt, beginning with the 10 Commandments and the laws that we have as a country in America, of the rule of law, the fact is that particularly during the time when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jewish people were sent into exile, the rabbis created what you’d call law. You might say they were rituals, but they really were religious laws that became not just customs, but that requirements, to repeat, this is all the laws related to the observance of Passover, the recollection of the exodus from slavery in Egypt. And it’s those laws that have, and of course, the appeal of the story of the liberation from slavery that has drawn people to the Passover Seders and to keeping alive the message of Passover. So I think your point is really well taken. Look, part of what I’m trying to do in this book is to say a good word for the holiday that follows seven weeks after Passover, which is called the Festival of Weeks or the festival of the giving of the law, which commemorates the receiving of the 10 Commandments on Mt. Sanai. And there’s an irony, and it’s one of the, it’s kind of a puzzle. But Passover is clearly the most observed of Jewish holidays, and not just by Jews, as you know, but my many others, particularly Christians. And…

HH: And when, go ahead…

JL: And Shavuot is probably the least observed of the holidays. But arguably, the receiving of the 10 Commandments is really what defined the children of Israel as a nation, gave them their mission and destiny.

HH: And you know what’s funny, Senator? This goy, with all the buddies he’s got who are Jews, and my wife is partly of the tribe, had never heard of that festival until you book, literally never heard of it.

JL: Yeah, so you’re not alone, Hugh, believe me. And so in some ways, I’m trying to mark it, but also really not just the celebration, but to bring people to the realization that the Israelites were not freed from Egypt just to kind of wander in the desert. They were freed by God, I mean, after all, what did Moses continue to say to Pharaoh, echoing the words that God spoke to him? Let my people go that they may serve me. And the original service, of course, I mean, the most important, was to accept the 10 Commandments, really, for the world. And the rest, as they say, is history. So I’m just very grateful to have been able to write this book, and I hope people find it interesting, and maybe it moves them to think a little differently about law, but even to maybe think about observing the Festival of, or the giving of the law seven weeks later.

HH: I’m talking with Joe Lieberman about his brand new book, With Liberty And Justice: The 50 Day Journey From Egypt To Sanai. Now Senator Lieberman, I want to connect this with the rather tragic, the horrible events of the last month in Parkland, and the fact that I was at the March For Our Lives on Saturday. I’m very sympathetic to these young adults, and to Justice Stevens’ op-ed yesterday, with which I’m not sympathetic, where he called for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment. But throughout, they didn’t talk about how you change the Constitution. It’s all laid out in Article V. You need two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate, and three-quarters of the states to ratify, or a convention of the states.

JL: Yeah.

HH: Law exists, and has existed, and the 10 Commandments aren’t changing. There’s no amending procedure in the 10 Commandments, but there is in the Constitution. And I think, actually, our schools and our society are failing our young people to educate them in basic rule of law concepts. Does that concern you?

JL: Yes, it does. You made another good point. The Constitution has built into it amendment procedure. The 10 Commandments don’t. They are the word of God for those who take them. And for those who don’t think they’re the word of God, they’re a pretty good place to start.

HH: Yeah.

JL: The legal system, they’re not amendable, but certainly they haven’t covered every human act or relevance of the 10 Commandments, or human act, so they’ve surely been interpreted over the years. And amending the Constitution is very hard. And it was, the founders, I think, intentionally made it so, because they didn’t want it to be amended very often. And remarkably, the general principles stated in the Constitution have stood the test of time. But, and let me go back directly to your question, Hugh. You’re absolutely right that the young people today, in schools across America, civics, law, history is not taught as much as it was in my day. And I think the rising generations have lost something as a result. So this tremendous passion and energy and desire for change that comes out of these students as a result of the tragedy of Parkland, and in some ways, as a result of their own wonderful youthful idealism, really also should now, I hope, lead to some focus by them on how you change laws. If you feel that there ought to be a ban on a semi-automatic weapon, so we ought to close the so-called gun show loophole or whatever, there’s a process for doing that. And it’s got to go now to that level in order for change to occur. But the great thing about our system, when it works, and of course, our political system, and there hasn’t been lately, is that you can bring about change through the law.

HH: And through persuasion. It requires persuasion.

JL: Yeah.

HH: I want to close, Senator Lieberman, by asking you your interpretation. You’ve been studying, obviously, Torah to write this book. Exodus 32 – The Lord says I have seen these people, the Lord said to Moses, and they are a stiff-necked people. What does stiff-necked mean? And how does the rule of law help a stiff-necked people?

JL: Wow. So the basic intention I make here is that freedom without law leads to chaos, immorality, probably violence. But there’s something else here. People, we’re an imperfect species, human. We’re gifted in so many extraordinary ways. We’re blessed, but stiff-necked, I have always taken to be kind of arrogance and too much self-confidence. And the law, and the overall belief in God tells us that as good as we are, there’s a lot of reasons to be humble, and we ought to learn from, well, what they used to call in the advertisement, a higher authority. And that’s what the, obviously, God and the 10 Commandments are.

HH: And that’s what the book, With Liberty And Justice: The 50 Day Journey From Egypt To Sanai, accomplishes. Congratulations, Senator Lieberman. I’m going to set up that interview with you and Dennis, and maybe we’ll go on the road with that, because I think you’ve written an important book. And With Liberty And Justice deserves wide readership. Thanks for spending some time with me this morning.

JL: Thanks, Hugh. Listen, have just a very wonderful and meaningful Easter. It’s always nice, I always find, when Passover and Easter come at the same time, which they do this year.

HH: It does, and you a blessed Passover, and to Hadassah Lieberman as well, and from all your fans in our audience who appreciate, even if we disagree on politics, your earnestness and your graciousness. Thank you, Senator.

JL: Thank you, my friend. Be well.

End of interview.


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