On Sunday night the 20th of Sivan (June 26 2005), Mrs. Marcia Lieberman, mother of Senator Joseph Lieberman, passed away. Mrs. Lieberman, daughter of immigrant parents, was born in Stamford, Connecticut, ninety years ago. Her father died when she was a young girl and, together with her four sisters and brother, was raised by her mother and grandmother, both women with a passionate attachment to Jewish observance. That passion and love was transmitted to her family. Together with her husband, Henry, they raised three children in a loving home where Jewish observance and commitment was the number one priority. Long before her eldest son Joseph rose to prominence as the very first observant Jewish Senator, Vice Presidential and Presidential candidate, Mrs. Lieberman was looked up to by countless members of the Jewish and non-Jewish community who turned to this extraordinary woman for advice, counsel and comfort.

When I learned that Mrs. Lieberman wanted me to speak today – and knowing that she realized full well that I am a Kohen – in fact she clearly understood that her “Aron” bier would have to leave the room before I could enter and speak – I am certain she knew what I would say.

The many hundreds of Motzoei Shabbat when my wife and I had the privilege of spending the first few hours of each new week in her company, benefiting from her incredible wisdom and unbelievable personality, will forever remain a precious part of our lives and in the lives of our children.

She literally became a second mother to both of us. There was no problem that we felt uncomfortable bringing to her – no difficulty that she did not have a wise response to, and never was there a challenge that she did not give us the assurance that we could rise to. She was that way for us and she was that way for so many, so many, others - rich and poor, wise and not so wise, young and old, Jewish and Gentile.

And at the same time that she gave, she did it with an awesome humility. She always wanted to hear what we had to say. She was always soliciting our opinions, she wanted to hear my insights on the Parsha, on the holiday, on current events, and she made me feel like she truly thought I was brilliant – although I knew that she really meant it when she would say – I want you to repeat that to Joseph!

The Talmud in tractate Sotah – the tractate that many have the custom to study during the period between Passover and Shavuot concludes with a discussion of the passing of eras.

When Ben Azai passed away scholarship ceased.

“When R’ Akiva passed away the era of Torah’s Glory ended.”

The Mishna continues and finally concludes -

“When the great Rabbi Judah the prince passed away fear of sin and humility passed away as well.”

A half page later at the very conclusion of the tractate, the Talmud in analyzing the text of the Mishna tells us “Rabbi Joseph said to the scholar reading the text, don’t teach that humility passed away – I’m still here.”

What a strange thing to say – do not say the era of humility is past – because I’m still here and I’m humble!

I would suggest that Rabbi Joseph wasn’t talking about himself he was talking about those who taught him – if those who taught him still affect him – then their era hasn’t passed.

Mrs. Lieberman is not the end of an era but the beginning of an era – an era where the values of a different world could be transmitted, authentically and genuinely to ours.

Where virtually everyone around her cut their  ties to a world and value system past -some enthusiastically, others with wistful nostalgia for a world lost - she set about making Yiddishkeit the most important value in her life and the life of her family.

What she did privately and quietly, was what the Rebbe proclaimed publicly and openly “America is no different”.

I can say honestly – Vivi and I weren’t the first to bring Chabad’s message to Stamford – she was!

She was a woman ahead of her times, enthusiastically embracing the opportunities that this blessed country, America, embodies, but even more fiercely and tenaciously holding tight to the Yiddishkeit, and the mentschlichkeit of her beloved parents and grandparents.

And she did it with awesome humility, never drawing attention to herself and what was – forever shining the light on others and on what needed to be.

Anava – humility – She was humble but not weak, she was modest but not meek.

She had uncompromising standards of Kashrus, forged at a time when keeping kosher  inside the home and outside the home presented a formidable challenge.

Her house was a place where all of the neighborhood children would find entertainment and refreshments on those long summer Shabbos afternoons – because she needed to be sure that her children would have an authentic Shabbat experience every Shabbat.

Mrs. Lieberman was proud to tell the story of when a new and modern mikvah opened in the Bronx. It provided an attractive alternative to the mikvah that existed at the time here in Stamford – a decidedly unpleasant experience –and virtually all of the women in the community started commuting to the mikvah in the Bronx. Finally Mrs. Lieberman was the only woman in Stamford using the local mikvah, and she considered going to the Bronx. But her mother said to her – “If you stop using the mikvah in Stamford – they’ll close it.” Mrs. Lieberman continued here – and it is to her credit there is a mikvah – a modern one – in Stamford today and used by many.

We all know of her tremendous love for her family and her pride in all of their accomplishments. Never was this was more evident than when she spoke of the Yiddishe nachas, the joy of seeing her children and grandchildren – learning Torah and living it joyfully.

At two o’clock this morning my wife and I were watching a video of Mrs. Lieberman speaking to an audience of several thousand. She said with a smile, that “it is true that one of my children has more visibility than the others, but they are all equally loved.“ And she continued, “When Joseph was elected to the Senate we all went to the Rebbe for a blessing. The Rebbe gave us each a dollar to give to charity – and I got two. I am proud of having raised a son who is a United States Senator, but I am even more proud of the fact that before he began his work as Senator he went to ask for G‑d’s blessings.”

I watched her speaking to a group of several hundred Jewish teens shortly after her son was elected to the Senate – they sat there drinking up every word as she told them “never for a moment think that living an authentic observant Jewish life will hold you back from being successful – on the contrary it will help you.”

And for that reason - all of us who share the incredible blessing and privilege of having known Mrs. Lieberman – In the words of the Talmud, “Rabbi Joseph says, do not teach that humility has passed away for I am still here”. We need to say, we need to declare, we need to proclaim with every fiber of our being, this era, her era, shall not pass, because we are here -  and because of her, we will ensure that those uncompromising values, that unshakable commitment to Torah and to Mitzvot will forever live in our lives and in our world, until the day when G‑d finally fulfills his promise, in the words of the prophet, “death will be vanquished forever, and G‑d will wipe away the tears from all faces,” with the coming of Moshiach.

As we walk behind her aron, accompanying her to her resting place, I can hear the words of the blessing she would give us every week at the conclusion of Havdala, “we should hear good news from everyone”.

It is not hard to imagine that as she approaches the Heavenly Throne, she is asking for this blessing for all of us, always. May G‑d answer her prayers, and ours.

May her soul be bound up in the bonds of eternal life.