His analysis of the two sides of Abraham's grandson, Jacob, was incredibly insightful, and instructive in so many ways. It is worth studying over and over on its own merits, aside from what it contributes to the rest of Kushner's book. He sees young Jacob as at war with himself, the weak struggling with the good, which is reminiscent of similarly insightful ideas from the Arbinger Institute.
Too often, we compromise our integrity, we do something we really don't believe in doing, to reach some important goal, only to find one of two frustrating things happening: Either we gain the prize and realize it wasn't worth gaining, or we end up with neither the prize nor our integrity. Some use it as an antibiotic to cleanse their systems of infection and make them feel healthy again. And some use it as an aspirin, to take away the pain of wrongdoing without affecting the cause of that pain. Evil people rarely feel guilty. They deny, they justify, they rationalize, they blame others without accepting their share of responsibility.
Only morally sensitive people struggle with the gap between who they are and who they know they ought to be. That may be why recent efforts to create alternatives to marriage — communes with interchangeable partners, couples living together without ceremony and with both partners having the freedom to leave whenever they feel their needs are not being met — have never managed to be as nourishing to the soul as the thousands-of-years-old institution of marriage.
Our relationship to God is not that of slaves to a master who demands obedience, but of students to a master Teacher…When God tells us not to steal or commit adultery… it is because He wants us to know the enduring satisfaction of living as people were meant to live. Ostensibly trivial things like my choice at lunch or my decision to read for pleasure on the Sabbath rather than write to deadline are transformed into religious affirmations, moments of connecting with God.
God has shown me how to invest the most mundane moments of my life with holiness. Apr 06, Walter rated it it was amazing. On the whole, it is written in a straightforward, common sense style, refreshingly free of dogma and cant. After having been disappointed by his earlier, far better known work When Bad Things Happen to Good People which, among other things, tended to stop short of convincing answers to some of the difficult questions that it raised and then fell back on the frequent use of the rationale or excuse that God is limited in nature , I was surprisingly moved by this tome, mainly because of its accessibility and reasonableness.
The only complaint that I would register is that in a few places, Rabbi Kushner's rationale for assessing the authenticity of God's presence in our lives is that we may not not like the message, but because it's from God, we're willing to share it anyway. In other words, if it's not exactly what you would want God to say to you, it's legit. Thankfully, this only occurred in a couple of places in this otherwise soundly reasoned and reflective work.
I recommend this book highly to help you gain greater clarity and appreciation for your sense of spirituality and how it can and should be reflected in your daily thoughts and behavior as well as to burnish your appreciation for the blessings that you have and the legacy that you create with your life and, ultimately, leave to future generations.
Nov 17, Jacqueline rated it it was amazing. I loved this book so much, I bought copies as gifts to share with others. Kushner gathers together material from many great souls and shares their combined wisdom in a lovely narrative interwoven with biblical exegesis. Some of my favorite quotes from this book: Kushner has a way of making all of us feel better about ourselves yet want to strive to be better. His use of the biblical Jacob to explain the internal conflicts within us all was fascinating.
Kushner is an intelligent yet thoughtful writer. Sep 13, Angela rated it really liked it. One of my favorite authors. Jun 28, Paul rated it it was amazing. I love the words of Harold Kushner. Though, I am not Jewish what he writes is timeless and for anyone who truly wants to become a better person. I finished this book last month but I already have started to reread the book.
The book definitely should be read many times. Sep 04, David Rickert rated it really liked it. A lot of good stuff in here. I really liked the chapter on revenge. Nov 24, JR Simons rated it liked it. Wasn't really what I was looking for. Sep 11, Rochelle rated it it was amazing Shelves: Loved this book and it is one that I will return to often. For its lessons are timeless. This is the first work written by Harold Kushner. I had heard of "Living a Life That Matters" and was looking forward to reading it. I would have to say that I appreciated the way that Rabbi Kushner used examples from the Bible, the Torah, and his conversations with people to emphasize points throughout the book.
I found him to be honest, to the point, yet not condemning, preachy, or self-righteous. I also greatly appreciated his sense of humor. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone wh This is the first work written by Harold Kushner. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who had questions about our need to matter. Hopefully, they would find the author as sympathetic and warm as other readers. And more importantly, may they have the courage to step out of their comfort zone and see what they have to offer another human being and maybe in the process find out a little more about themselves.
Dec 29, Roger rated it it was amazing. Rabbi Kushner has a way of talking to everyone. Would recommend this to anyone. Apr 04, Anju Mai rated it really liked it.
Living a Life That Matters: Resolving the Conflict Between Conscience and Success
What a lovely, moving and warm-hearted book! I will read more of Harold S. Kushner's books in the future. Kushner again exercises his gift of finding practical wisdom in religious stories of the Old Testament. Jacob struggled with many—his father, his brother, his father-in-law—but mostly with himself. And should not we all struggle with ourselves? Kushner counsels that it is only good people who feel guilty.
Evil people rarely feel guilt—they deny, they justify Kushner again exercises his gift of finding practical wisdom in religious stories of the Old Testament. Evil people rarely feel guilt—they deny, they justify, they rationalize, they blame others without accepting their share of responsibility. Kushner also notes that sometimes the problems we face in our struggle to be good people is not so much a matter of doing what is right, but in choosing between two rights.
You will find yourself able to do something that is right and good only by sacrificing an equally good and right goal. Life does not always provide us with even the dignity of selecting a good option, and we must concede to a lesser evil. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good.
The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. The fight within our self is often fixed, by none other than ourself. But Kushner believes this statement can be understood not as dictating religious exclusivism with a particular church or faith and furious intolerance of others, but rather as insisting by living example that divinity and salvation for each person lies within our self or himself as an individual, and not through membership in some denomination or institution. Another review I read on this book identified and important and salient point: On the other hand, if your words make you popular and win you easy applause, or if people don't like hearing them but you get a certain pleasure from speaking them When I hear politicians and preachers condemning the sinful ways of the society around them, I often agree with their criticisms but I don't hear the pain in their voices.
It ought to hurt them more to condemn their neighbors We would do well to eliminate tones of contempt from our thoughts and words. I, truly, learned some valuable lessons from Rabbi Kushner's wise, thoughtful advice about life, and about how to respond to tragedy. To use a word from The Simpsons , his insights into the human condition embiggened me. This slim volume is more of the same. People struggle, the Rabbi rights, with two conflicting parts of their soul: The takeawy here is that nothing matters more than love, and that having a life that matters is one where you have loved, and been loved.
Not your possessions, not your accomplishments, not your successes.
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So simple, so profound. The Rabbi uses lots of stories from the Bible especially the story of Jacob, which made me want to go back and re-read those parts of Genesis , his own work in his temple for many decades, and anecdotes from literature, from movies, and from the news. God, he tells us, in not in people, but in the relationships between people, and every single one of us has the power, for good or ill, to affect those around us. Our goodness sends ripples of goodness into the world, while our evil or cruelty or indifference or selfishness does not have to define us, but should be recognized for the damage that it can do to others.
While Rabbi Kushner certainly talks a great deal about God and faith, there is a definite strain of humanism in his writing. He is speaking, as he did in his previous book, about what it means to be a human being, and how best one can live one's brief life. I admire this man's wisdom and insights tremendously. I wish I knew him personally.
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I want to thank him. Here are a couple of great quotes: For some, there are more pieces. For others, the puzzle is more difficult to assemble. Everyone carries with them at least one and probably many pieces to someone else's puzzle. Sometimes they know it; sometimes they don't know it. And when you present your piece, which is worthless to you, to another, whether your know it or not, whether they know it or not, you are a messenger from the most high.
I should become Jewish. Maybe I am on the wrong team. Oct 17, J rated it really liked it Shelves: Living a Life that Matters uses the story of Jacob in The Book of Genesis as the background for discussion regarding why and how a person should live a life that matters. Harold Kushner is a Rabbi so his logic carries a spiritual component. However, his writing is devoid of self righteousness.
Using stories and references to popular culture he argues that integrity defines character.
He tempers his words with sensitivity and understanding to explain that personal development is an ongoing process Living a Life that Matters uses the story of Jacob in The Book of Genesis as the background for discussion regarding why and how a person should live a life that matters. He tempers his words with sensitivity and understanding to explain that personal development is an ongoing process that involves commitment and courage to change. His reflections on religious fanaticism and the perspectives of fundamentalists at the end of the book are thought provoking.
He points out the patterns of collective behavior relative to age. He wrote, "Remember that Islam is less that 1, years old. When Judaism was 1, years old, it was converting the inhabitants of captured territories by force. When Christianity was 1, to 1, years old, it was graduating from the blood shed of the Crusades to the tortures of the Inquisition. It may be that a world religion has to go through an "adolescent" phase of believing that it has total truth plausibly, as in so many adolescents, a cover for insecurity; why else would a world wide religious organization be so panicked at the thought of a roomful of heretics somewhere in its domain?
It is an aspect of terrorism and the Jihadist mentality that I never gave much thought to. I adhere to the belief that knowledge is power. Rabbi Kushner's insight reinforces my conviction that violence rarely settles an issue once and for all. Perhaps it is time we reach out to Islam in tangible ways by reverting swords into plowshares and vitriol into dialogue.
I find it impossible to believe that all Muslims are violent extremists. There have to be more settled minds among the Islamic faithful whose spirituality is not shored up by willingness to resort to violence and terror. We need to be seeking out those religious leaders who have enough conviction in their religion that they are not obsessed with forced conversion.
Such leaders won't be shaken when their core principles are subjected to scrutiny and they are less apt to resort to violence when their beliefs are challenged. I had an "aha" moment as I read Chapter 4. Several other books came to mind, to bring into focus the concept of Purgatory. It's my belief that the pain of Purgatory is caused by us coming to full realization of our sins and the pain that we caused other people, and our contribution to the evil of society. In Heaven, we will be with lots of other forgiven souls, some of them who have hurt us in the past, and some who we have hurt.
Yet we will be living in full harmony, with no ill feelings. Chapt I had an "aha" moment as I read Chapter 4. Chapter 4, "Wild Justice, the Seductive Pleasure of Getting Even", talks about South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, formed after apartheid "to get perpetrators to confess their crimes and show remorse under a promise of amnesty, but mostly to serve as a forum for victims to tell their stories in public and be listened to.
Through this commission, victims felt that they got their dignity back, and were able to reclaim power in their own lives after seeing their perpetrators contrite. Other books that came to mind are: Dawn by Elie Wiesel, where a Holocaust survivor, in seeking revenge rather than peace, becomes like his perpetrators; The Great Divorce by C. Lewis, where a controlling and nagging wife can't join her husband in Heaven until she understands her sins she yearns to join her husband because he "can't get along with out her" ; The Shack by William Young, where a man must forgive the father who abused him, and he must be forgiven by his father for killing him; and When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner, where one of the causes of the Bad Things is us exercising our personal free will, and our collective free will as a society.
Purgatory fixes all of those problems caused by the wrongs that we have all committed against each other, by bringing us to full realization of our sins and helping us to feel perfect contrition, so that we can forgive our perpetrators, and our victims can forgive us. A small example is what happened as a result of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after apartheid in South Africa. May 02, Shiri rated it liked it Recommended to Shiri by: I was debating whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars.
On the negative side, this book overuses God in crafting a vision for life. Of course this is natural coming from a Rabbi, but a more secular message could have resonated with a larger audience. Also, there was one downright sexist comment that made me mad. On the bright side, Kushner writes with a compassionate voice and has a deep understanding of the human psyche, including our wish to transcend death, the capacity to forgive though wantin I was debating whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars.
On the bright side, Kushner writes with a compassionate voice and has a deep understanding of the human psyche, including our wish to transcend death, the capacity to forgive though wanting revenge not sure I agree on the latter , etc. Still, the lack of openness towards non-monotheistic religions or atheists limits the scope of the message. While Kushner is willing to accept Christianity or even Islam gasp! Additionally, the dichotomy set up in the book between succeeding in business and being a good person seemed artificial to me. Despite the excessive God references, Kushner did hand me a small puzzle piece as he described eloquently that may lead me on a path to better life specifically: When all is said and done, I was going to give the book 4 stars when I wrote the review, but when time came to rate it I clicked 3 stars.
The book held some value to me but there are much better alternatives. May 02, andrew y rated it liked it.
1. I expect to win. I deserve to win.
I was lost and confused and needing to find direction again in a world that no longer made sense when compared against the idealistic worldview I'd always subscribed to. I needed to read a book that was not the Bible but contained the sort of timeless wisdom that book, I believe, contains.
I am no longer in that place. Yet I still wanted to give Kushner another try, wanted to lea when I read my first kushner book, "when bad things happen to good people", I was in a place where I needed that book. Yet I still wanted to give Kushner another try, wanted to learn from him, wanted to yet again bring myself to a rabbi who I know is wiser than I will ever be. Again, he brings concepts down to a level I can understand. He takes the wisdom of the Talmud and Bible and other sacred texts and makes them palatable. Especially in his chapter on integrity I found myself learning, fascinated, and drawn into a theological discussion I normally would avoid.
But overall, I am past that part of my life. I found myself more interested in reading the actual Talmud or the actual Torah commentary Kushner references and regurgitates. He does a great job and I think his books serve an important place in our society, and I think it is small-minded to dismiss them as silly. You must believe you can succeed. One of the problems many people have in common is low expectations. They don't expect the best; they don't really expect to succeed. Maybe they set a high goal but expect only to make it halfway there.
Some claim having low expectations saves them from disappointment, but they're only holding themselves back. You must not only expect to win but feel like you deserve it, too. If you don't think you deserve it, then you may unintentionally self-sabotage. Fear of people is another major obstacle on the road to success. If you're scared about what other people think, then starting that business, training to one day make it into the NFL, or changing careers in your 50s will be extremely challenging.