Overcoming Life's Disappointments Hardcover – Aug 15 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. When life does not unfold as planned, Rabbi Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People) strongly but sympathetically urges his readers to take inventory, learn from their experiences and move on with an open heart. Who better to learn from, he contends, than Moses, the greatest hero of the Jewish people? Moses not only led the Jews from slavery in Egypt and through the desert for 40 years to receive the Torah, but had to continually bear the ingratitude and complaints of his people, and relegate his personal life to a distant second place. Threading vignettes of Moses' resiliency into his discussion, Kushner advises that when personal difficulties arise—whether in the form of illness, marital problems or job frustrations—readers should not allow their faith and dreams to die. Rather, they should draw upon hope and forgiveness to become stronger, channeling their love and fear toward a dream that incorporates the best of who they are. Kushner does not shy away from difficult issues and awkward dilemmas, and his years of rabbinical experience in dealing with congregants' troubles make him well suited to offer advice. This readable and sensitive discussion of "Life is tough; let's be strong enough not to be broken by it" should appeal to anyone who has ever been disappointed. (Aug. 16)
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Rabbi emeritus Kushner, author of, among other titles, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981), scores another hit with book number 10, which is based on the theme and philosophy of his previous best-sellers. His idea is to explain the inexplicable in terms that turn negatives into ways of coping. Kushner skillfully uses the tale of Moses to manage the oh-so-true statement, "Nobody gets everything he or she yearns for." Forbidden to enter the Holy Land? Having wandered for 40 years and endured complaints and rebels, Moses was tired; another leader deserved to take the lead. Plus, reading into the Bible and other religious tomes, the author finds that Moses ignored his family--a critical element comprising the complete life. Moses is not the only example used. Abraham Lincoln was weighed down by depression--or, in his case, what doesn't kill us makes us strong. Sondheim's second act of Into the Woods underscores the importance of assessing broken dreams and forging new ones. Joseph Campbell of mythology fame is cited, as are Tevye and wife from Fiddler on the Roof, among many others. In all, the universal lessons for overcoming disappointment remain simple yet profound: remember who you're working for, substitute new dreams for old, keep promises, be humble, maintain life's priorities, forgive and forgive, and always dare to dream. Amen. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Although based on the Bible's account of Moses' life, the message is universal and can be of help to members of all religions or those who do not hold religious beliefs.
It is written in Rabbi Kushner's typical down-to-earth and easy to relate to style. While the ideas on how to overcome disappointments are not new, they are presented in such a way that they give one a fresh view and useful reminder.
There are some contradictions in the book, such as talking in one chapter of how Moses' burden made him old before his time, and in another how bright and energetic Moses was in spite of his advancing age. However, these do not detract from the overall quality of the book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
However events would soon interfere and these best crafted, thought out plans were not to be so, nor, does it seem, will they ever be. I found myself instant robbed of meaning at age 46--in short, on the world's stage with no script and, hence, no part.
Rabbi Kushner's work is a deeply moving and profound look at the ultimate "what if..." question that haunts humankind; "What if things don't turn out for good?" His book is spiritual without being mystical; practical without being profane; humane without being overly humanist.
After reading and praying over this book, I've come to the realization that life is precious; that it is something more than to be mastered or even tolerated. Life itself is a sacred mystery, and whether we win or suffer defeat, gain or lose, achieve or fail, truly, that which does not destroy us makes us stronger. This, according to the good and blessed Rabbi, is our goal.
it? Did we fully commit and keep our promises? Can we let go of dreams, yet keep their memory with us, knowing something better is yet to come?
Here's an excerpt:"What can we do with the dreams we have learned we must shed? Can we simply discard them as the embarrassing fantasies of immature youth? I don't see how we can or why we should. They were too much a part of us for too many years for us to pretend we never dreamed those dreams. When life gives us the inevitable message that our marriage will not be the 'happily ever after' we hoped it would, that our children will be other than who we dreamed they would be, that our careers will grind to a halt somewhere short of our imagined goal, and that the only road to sanity and happiness involves freeing ourselves from the tyranny of those dreams and the feelings of failure that accompany their nonfulfillment, what do we do then? We do what Moses did when he realized that his dream of teaching people to walk in Gods' ways would not be realized as easily as he had hoped, when the shattered fragments of the commandments written by the hand of God lay in pieces at his feet. He lovingly gathered up the pieces and carried them with him in the same Ark in which the whole stones of the replacement tablets rested..."Broken dreams, broken hearts, hopes unrealized should not be seen as emblems of shame, badges of failure. If anything, they are tokens of courage. We were brave enough to dream, brave enough to long
for so much, and when we did not get it, we were brave enough to carry the fragments of those dashed hopes with us into the future, telling us who we used to be as a prelude to our discovering who we might become."
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