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When Bad Things Happen to Good People
Cover of When Bad Things Happen to Good People
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
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The #1 bestselling inspirational classic from the nationally known spiritual leader; a source of solace and hope for over 4 million readers.
When Harold Kushner's three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that meant the boy would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of life's most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, Rabbi Kushner wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. In these pages, Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being. Often imitated but never superseded, When Bad Things Happen to Good People is a classic that offers clear thinking and consolation in times of sorrow.
The #1 bestselling inspirational classic from the nationally known spiritual leader; a source of solace and hope for over 4 million readers.
When Harold Kushner's three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that meant the boy would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of life's most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, Rabbi Kushner wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. In these pages, Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being. Often imitated but never superseded, When Bad Things Happen to Good People is a classic that offers clear thinking and consolation in times of sorrow.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One One

    Why Do the Righteous Suffer?

    There is only one question which really matters: why do bad things happen to good people? All other theological conversation is intellectually diverting; somewhat like doing the crossword puzzle in the Sunday paper and feeling very satisfied when you have made the words fit; but ultimately without the capacity to reach people where they really care. Virtually every meaningful conversation I have ever had with people on the subject of God and religion has either started with this question, or gotten around to it before long. Not only the troubled man or woman who has just come from a discouraging diagnosis at the doctor’s office, but the college student who tells me that he has decided there is no God, or the total stranger who comes up to me at a party just when I am ready to ask the hostess for my coat, and says, “I hear you’re a rabbi; how can you believe that . . .” —they all have one thing in common. They are all troubled by the unfair distribution of suffering in the world.

    The misfortunes of good people are not only a prob- lem to the people who suffer and to their families. They are a problem to everyone who wants to believe in a just and fair and livable world. They inevitably raise questions about the goodness, the kindness, even the existence of God.

    I am the rabbi of a congregation of six hundred families, or about twenty-five hundred people. I visit them in the hospital, I officiate at their funerals, I try to help them through the wrenching pain of their divorces, their business failures, their unhappiness with their children. I sit and listen to them pour out their stories of terminally ill husbands or wives, of senile parents for whom a long life is a curse rather than a blessing, of seeing people whom they love contorted with pain or buried by frustration. And I find it very hard to tell them that life is fair, that God gives people what they deserve and need. Time after time, I have seen families and even whole communities unite in prayer for the recovery of a sick person, only to have their hopes and prayers mocked. I have seen the wrong people get sick, the wrong people be hurt, the wrong people die young.

    Like every reader of this book, I pick up the daily paper and fresh challenges to the idea of the world’s goodness assault my eyes: senseless murders, fatal practical jokes, young people killed in automobile accidents on the way to their wedding or coming home from their high school prom. I add these stories to the personal tragedies I have known, and I have to ask myself: Can I, in good faith, continue to teach people that the world is good, and that a kind and loving God is responsible for what happens in it?

    People don’t have to be unusual, saintly human beings to make us confront this problem. We may not often find ourselves wondering, “why do totally unselfish people suffer, people who never do anything wrong?” because we come to know very few such individuals. But we often find ourselves asking why ordinary people, nice friendly neighbors, neither extraordinarily good nor extraordinarily bad, should suddenly have to face the agony of pain and tragedy. If the world were fair, they would not seem to deserve it. They are neither very much better nor very much worse than most people we know; why should their lives be so much harder? To ask “Why do the righteous suffer?” or “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is not to limit our concern to the martyrdom of saints and sages, but to try to understand why ordinary people—ourselves and people around us—should have...
About the Author-
  • Harold S. Kushner is Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts, where he lives. His books include The Lord Is My Shepherd, Living a Life That Matters, and How Good Do We Have to Be?

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 1, 2001
    When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, this book features Rabbi Kushner's perspective on how people can better deal with evil that enters their lives.

  • Harvey Cox, Harvard Divinity School "Whether religious or not, this book will speak because it touches–profoundly, but simply–on questions no parent and no person can avoid."
  • Elisabeth KŸbler-Ross "When Bad Things Happen to Good People offers a moving and humane approach to understanding life's windstorms."
  • Andrew M. Greeley "A touching, heartwarming book for those of us who must contend with suffering, and that, of course, is all of us."
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