One of the hardest things for anyone to learn, no matter where you are in life, or how much money you have, is coping with times when things don't turn out as you expect. Some people never recover, while others seem to sail past a disaster with hardly a break in stride. The trick isn't in what the disaster is, but how they've handled it.
Longtime author Harold S. Kushner, best known for his When Bad Things Happen to Good People, takes an intriguing look on the ability to cope by using the figure of Moses from the Bible. Yes, that Moses. Out of all of the various people in the Torah, he is undoubtably the most complex. Most of us tend to visualize him as a certain actor from Hollywood, brawny, noble and imposing, able to smite down miscreants when a single blow, but for those who have studied Moses in the Bible find someone a bit more closer to earth.
And if anyone had to deal with disappointment, it's certainly Moses. Called upon to lead the captive Jews out of Egypt, and facing down the most powerful ruler on Earth, it seems that once he's got them out in the wilderness at Sinai, things ought to be improving. Instead, what is happening when he returns with the first set of tablets? Why, they're worshipping an idol in the shape of a golden calf. And it doesn't even stop there -- throughout the forty years of exile, the people complain of thirst, hunger, and on and on and on -- enough to make anyone throw up their hands in disgust and walk away. And perhaps most bitter of all, Moses is denied entry into the Promised Land, and only allowed a glimpse of the goal that he's worked so hard for as he is dying. You have to admit, that's quite a disappointment.
But not once during all of these setbacks, does Moses tell God that he gives up. he might protest that he might not be able to handle the burden, but he does try to complete it. And it's this message that Rabbi Kushner uses to best effect in this book, giving a positive use for the times when disappointment enters our lives, and not to give up. In a society where it seems that perfection is demanded, and failure is viewed as a moral failing rather than something that occurs in every person's life, getting the view across that disappointment is a means of building character rather than a sign that you're not going to amount to much.
It's not a very long book, easily read within a few hours time, but the contents are informative and meaningful. Rabbi Kushner's writing style is very fluid and readable, keeping technical jargon, and while he does go off on tangents regularly, he never forgets what he is talking about. The only problem that I did have was that the tangents occured quite a bit, and were occansionally annoying.
Still, despite the flaws, it's a good book, and earned the four stars that I gave it overall. More importantly, it gives a positive human message that is reassuring and needed in our rather complicated, perfectionist society, and one that is sorely needed.