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on July 7, 2000
In a time when so many people are striving for an explanation of why their lives turn out a certain way, or why things (good or bad) happen to them, the expressions "it's all part of God's plan," "everything happens for the best," or "it just wasn't meant to be," and so on, have became a little tiresome. In "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," Rabbi Harold S. Kushner offers a refreshing point of view that differs from those who think everything occurs on earth because God wants it that way, and at the same time provides a surprising comfort in the fact that events actually can, and do, take place for no reason at all.
I read the original version of this book in the early 80's (several times since), and what struck me was that Rabbi Kushner was able to reconcile a common Judeo-Christian view of God and causality with a perspective of life that holds a place for randomness and happenstance. Yes! Things happen in life that God has nothing to do with, and there is a way to find peace in accepting this. For those who enjoy contemplating and discussing the purpose of life, faith, and good & bad, you MUST read this book . . . then set aside some more time for thought and conversation.
If you've ever experienced the untimely loss of a loved one, or been through any traumatizing life experience, get this book. It is personal, thought-provoking, well-written, and very easy to understand. I am certain you will find comfort.
If you're just simply interested in learing about God and the meaning of things in your life from a wonderful man and a great writer, get this book. Without intending to write a best-seller (read his Preface), Rabbi Kushner was able to put into words what I had been trying to figure out (despite loads of "help" from others) concerning God, how we should relate to Him, and what to do about all the things that happen to us during our lives.
This book is important; I give it my highest recommendation.
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on December 26, 2002
When I faced incredible loss a few years ago, I was amazed at the insensitive words my so-called friends offered in their "compassion", words that cut me right to the bone of my soul. It seemed that my grief was a burden for many. I painfully watched many of my closest friends distance themselves from me and even resent me for the tragedy and emotion that I had no control over. I questioned my feelings, my thoughts, and even my faith.
This book is a comfort for all people who have been forced to swallow such stupid sentiments in their times of grief and loss. It is an exploration of how we comfort each other in such terrifying times, and the dumb mistakes we make. Most of these sentiments wax on about God, why He created a world in which such pain exists: Is this all part of a greater good, a higher order? Is God testing you, expanding your soul for your own good? Has He taken your loved ones to a better place? This book gets right to the heart of the matter, that people in fact say such things as disguised justification for their own lack of understanding. They say things in defense of God to keep their world in order and the senseless tragedy in your life out of theirs. For example, someone might tell you, "God gave this grief to you as a test, because He loved you so very much, and knew you would become a better person for it," (to which the author replies, "If only I had been a weaker person, my daughter would still be alive.")
And yet, author Harold Kushner weaves this with a deep exploration of God and how He helps us and loves us. This is no cheap excuse for shallow religion. The knowledge Kushner shares has obviously been earned through incredible personal pain. You will never feel like some therapist is philosophizing about some subject they know nothing about - this is the Real Deal. Kushner makes no apologies or defense for his anger and pain, and fearlessly questions the ways we comfort each other, and God Himself. Having lost my own faith for a time, I found every word in this book deeply satisfying, the logic pure. Strong recommendation for anyone with deep pain in their life.
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on August 17, 1999
I just finished reading this book by Rabbi Kushner. It was an easy book to read and understand. I recently experienced the loss of my beloved brother. He was 36 years old and a murder victim. I am a practicing Catholic and I never questioned God. However, I found myself wondering why this had to happen to us. My brother was just an innocent bystander. A victim of being at that wrong place at the wrong time. Rabbi Kushner's book opened my eyes. His book offered me comfort and let me understand my faith a little better.
I highly recommend this book to all who question God. If you find yourself asking, "How could there be a God when bad things happen to good people?" get this book ASAP!! Rabbi Kushner offers a logical and intelligent answer to this question. He makes sense. If you think you are not a religious person this book will change that.
I am passing this book onto my mother. I know this will bring her comfort.
Thank you Rabbi Kushner for this wonderful insightful book. It has helped me with my grieving!
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on October 11, 2005
I had heard about this book and had looked at it, but I didn't read it until 2003 when I was disagnosed with cancer. This book really helped me deal with the diagnosis and treatment. I've been recommending this book ever since then. I gave a copy to a friend of mine whose husband died of cancer and now I am sending it to my niece & her husband, who has cancer.

This book has a good philosophy. Sometimes things happen for no reason. God is not sitting in heaven sending us bad things. God loves us and cares about us when bad things happen.

Rabbi Kushner says that when bad things happen, we'll ask, "God, why did you let this happen to me?" when a better response is to say, "God, help me with this".

This book helps the reader to remember that when we are dealing with any type of loss, e.g., loss of a loved one, loss of health, loss of home, God loves us and will help us deal with our loss.
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on December 18, 2003
Rabbi Harold Kushner takes a hard look at difficult issues in "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." Written out of his own personal grief and struggle with spirituality, this book is an important and groundbreaking reassessment of what it means to believe in a god and how to reconcile that belief to the cold fact that horrible things happen in this world on a daily basis. This is the fundamental tension of religion, and Kushner approaches it from an original and profound perspective.
Kushner is a Reconstructionist Jew and a former student of Reconstructionism's founder, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan. Reconstructionist Judaism examines spirituality from a metaphorical perspective, seeing God as the impulse in us that brings out our best traits and leads to live honestly and ethically. It does not see God as an all-powerful father figure in the sky, interfering in people's lives and letting things like the Holocaust happen for a "reason." It is, in other words, a religious worldview that takes a more mature, probing approach to divinity than the standard "God controls everything and we cannot understand His ways" religious line. There are numerous precedents for the Reconstructionist view in Jewish history.
Thus the negative reviews here from fundamentalist Christians, who believe every word of the Bible literally (though they can't be bothered to actually read it) and are unable to consider the thought of a more abstract god because their entire intellectual and spiritual house of cards would collapse. This sort of "God-is-my-protective-daddy" view inevitably forces people of this mindset into a state of denial, obfuscation, and pretzel logic when they try to explain or defend their faith--even to themselves.
"When Bad Things Happen to Good People" is an enormously powerful book which offers a vital glimpse into a more humane and compassionate view of God. I recommend it to everybody.
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on December 5, 2006
I bought this book once upon a time when I was still married and my then husband's best friend was living with us. The best friend was suffering through a divorce. I purchased this book for him, to help ease his pain.

I ended up reading it before actually giving it to the friend. My husband made fun of me for reading a 'present'.

I went out and purchased it myself after going through my own divorce.

I've has such issues with my faith, because I find so many to be blindly stuck in their ways afraid to ask questions, only saying that mantra,"God has his reasons." To this I always want to tell them what they are full of...

This book is not afraid to ask the questions that matter and while it doesn't give you black and white answers, it just basically lets you know that 'stuff' happens! It's a very good book, no matter what your religion.
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on December 16, 2000
Although I do not share Kushner's Jewish belief system, he asks the same questions we all have. Why? Why me? Why now? etc. While his presuppositions are different from mine as an evangelical Christian, I still think he lays out some worthy bones to chew on, making you think through your personal theology and ideas of who God is and just why it is that bad things happen to good people. Another book readers might want to look at is C.S. Lewis' 1940 work entitled The Problem of Pain. A comparison of the two authors, one Jewish and the other a Christian, might interest some who take this issue very seriously and are willing to stretch their own viewpoints.
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on September 11, 2006
Heard the taped version of WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO

GOOD PEOPLE by Harold Kushner, a Jewish rabbi . . . although

written some 25 years ago, it is still amazingly relevant . . . and, in

fact, it was reissued in 2001 with a new preface by the author.

Kushner originally wrote the book when faced with his own

child's fatal illness . . . it deals with death and, also, with

other situations where evil enters our life . . . though it gives

no easy answers, WHEN BAD THINGS got me thinking about

with this one particular bit of advice . . . he urges people not to

ask why all the time, but instead ask this question: What can

I do now?

What Kushner has to say applies to people of all religious

faiths . . . I urge you to get a copy of this short book . . . like

me, you'll want to go through it more than once.

There were many worthwhile tidbits; among them:

* God never gives you more than you can bear.

* We can't make sense of God's thoughts by saying it is God's will.

* Things of nature don't make exceptions for good people.

* We suffer because we misuse our power to choose.

* God intervenes when in a tragedy, he takes ordinary people

and has them behave in an extraordinary way.

* If you know somebody who has been hurt, reach out to him

or her.

* People don't want theology, they want reassurance.

* When we most need it, God gives us more strength.

* You have no control of the past. You have a lot of control over

the future.

And, lastly, this one:

God has given us the tools to live meaningfully in an unfair and

unpredictable world.
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on July 24, 2006
I singled out this book as I felt I'd come to a fork in the road of my life. I could choose to be bitter after the premature birth and death of my son or I could try to seek out better ways to live my now very different life. I started this book dubious of its content. I expected to be lectured. Instead I found myself reading with an open mouth; shocked at how accurately my loss was explained. It was as if this wonderfully gifted rabbi had invisibly witnessed the events of my life, the times when my relatives would say the dumbest and most cruel comments. Instead of being talked at, I found I was reading a book a kind friend had written just for me. I am not religious or spiritual, I guess you could say I'm confused, however his book has opened my eyes to a different, kinder religion than the one I had always felt was judgemental.

I have since purchased the anniversary edition and this book will be one of my most treasured possessions. If you feel life has let you down, if you feel every door that was once open has been slammed in your face, if you feel alone in your sorrow and have nowhere else to turn for relief, this book is for you. It won't make the pain go away, but it will make the pain and sorrow less personal. You will no longer feel `why me', you will just realize that it is what it is and that in itself will make your pain easier to cope with. This is certainly how I feel upon it's ending, I hope you experience the same comforts.
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on February 4, 2001
For anyone who has suffered loss of any kind, ever doubted your faith, ever wondered why God didn't stop the pain, WATCH THIS VIDEO. Without a doubt the best message on how to deal with loss, grief and recovery. More powerful than reading the book. Dr. Kushner is down to earth, easy to understand and even more important, has experienced a tragic loss in his own life that led to his realization of the mistakes that are made by friends and family (and himself as a rabbi) trying to help with the grief process. Whether you are experiencing loss of any kind, or want to help someone who is, this is the perfect video.
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