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When Bad Things Happen to Good People [Format Kindle]

Harold S. Kushner

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Rarely does a book come along that tackles a perennially difficult human issue with such clarity and intelligence. Harold Kushner, a Jewish rabbi facing his own child's fatal illness, deftly guides us through the inadequacies of the traditional answers to the problem of evil, then provides a uniquely practical and compassionate answer that has appealed to millions of readers across all religious creeds. Remarkable for its intensely relevant real-life examples and its fluid prose, this book cannot go unread by anyone who has ever been troubled by the question, "Why me?"



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 to bear extraordinary burdens of grief and pain.

I was a young rabbi just starting out in my profession, when I was called on to try to help a family through an unexpected and almost unbearable tragedy. This middle-aged couple had one daughter, a bright nineteen-year-old girl who was in her freshman year at an out-of-state college. One morning at breakfast, they received a phone call from the university infirmary. “We have some bad news for you. Your daughter collapsed while walking to class this morning. It seems a blood vessel burst in her brain. She died before we could do anything for her. We’re terribly sorry.”

Stunned, the parents asked a neighbor to come in to help them decide what steps to take next. The neighbor notified the synagogue, and I went over to see them that same day. I entered their home, feeling very inadequate, not knowing any words that could ease their pain. I anticipated anger, shock, grief, but I didn’t expect to hear the first words they said to me: “You know, Rabbi, we didn’t fast last Yom Kippur.”

Why did they say that? Why did they assume that they were somehow responsible for this tragedy? Who taught them to believe in a God who would strike down an attractive, gifted young woman without warning as punishment for someone else’s ritual infraction?

One of the ways in which people have tried to make sense of the world’s suffering in every generation has been by assuming that we deserve what we get, that somehow our misfortunes come as punishment for our sins:

Tell the righteous it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked, it shall be ill with him, for what his hands have done shall be done to him. (Isaiah 3:10–11)

But Er, Judah’s first-born, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord slew him. (Genesis 38:7)

No ills befall the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble. (Proverbs 12:21)

Consider, what innocent ever perished, or where have the righteous been destroyed? (Job 14:7)

This is an attitude we will meet later in the book when we discuss the whole question of guilt. It is tempting at one level to believe that bad things happen to people (especially other people) because God is a righteous judge who gives them exactly what they deserve. By believing that, we keep the world orderly and understandable. We give people the best possible reason for being good and for avoiding sin. And by believing that, we can maintain an image of God as all-loving, all-powerful, and totally in control. Given the reality of human nature, given the fact that none of us is perfect and that each of us can, without too much difficulty, think of things he has done which he should not have done, we can always find grounds for justifying what happens to us. But how comforting, how religiously adequate, is such an answer?

The couple whom I tried to comfort, the parents who had lost their only child at age nineteen with no warning, were not profoundly religious people. They were not active in the synagogue; they had not even fasted on Yom Kippur, a tradition which even many otherwise nonobservant Jews maintain. But when they were stunned by tragedy, they reverted back to the basic belief that God punishes people for their sins. They sat there feeling that their daughter’s death had been their fault; had they been less selfish and less lazy about the Yom Kippur fast some six months earlier, she might still be alive. They sat there angry at God for having exacted His pound of flesh so strictly, but afraid to admit their anger for fear that He would punish them again. Life had hurt them, and religion could not comfort them. Religion was making them feel worse.

The idea that God gives people what they deserve, that our misdeeds cause our misfortune, is a neat and attrac- tive solution to the problem of evil at several levels, but it has a number of serious limitations. As we have seen, it teaches people to blame themselves. It creates guilt even where there is no basis for guilt. It makes people hate God, even as it makes them hate themselves. And most disturbing of all, it does not even fit the facts.

Perhaps if we had lived before the era of mass com- munications, we could have believed this thesis, as many intelligent people of those centuries did. It was easier to believe then. You needed to ignore fewer cases of bad things happening to good people. Without newspapers and television, without history books, you could shrug off the occasional death of a child or of a saintly neighbor. We know too much about the world to do that today. How can anyone who recognizes the names Auschwitz and My Lai, or has walked the corridors of hospitals and nursing homes, dare to answer the question of the world’s suffering by quoting Isaiah: “Tell the righteous it shall be well with them”? To believe that today, a person would either have to deny the facts that press upon him from every side, or else define what he means by “righteous” in order to fit the inescapable facts. We would have to say that a righteous person was anyone who lived long and well, whether or not he was honest and charitable, and a wicked person was anyone who suffered, even if that person’s life was otherwise commendable.

A true story: an eleven-year-old boy of my acquaintance was given a routine eye examination at school and found to be just nearsighted enough to require glasses. No one was terribly surprised at the news. His parents both wear glasses, as does his older sister. But for some reason, the boy was deeply upset at the prospect, and would not tell anyone why. Finally, one night as his mother was putting him to bed, the story came out. A week before the eye examination, the boy and two older friends were looking through a pile of trash that a neighbor had set out for collection, and found a copy of the magazine Playboy. With a sense that they were doing something naughty, they spent several minutes looking at the pictures of unclothed women. When, a few days later, the boy failed the eye test at school and was found to need glasses, he jumped to the conclusion that God had begun the process of punishing him with blindness for looking at those pictures.

Sometimes we try to make sense of life’s trials by sayi...

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 263 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 178 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 1400034728
  • Editeur : Anchor; Édition : Anv (18 décembre 2007)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B000XU4V48
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205 internautes sur 206 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Accept Your Fate and Thrive 9 avril 2015
Par Ryan Mackenzie - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle
Most of us like to think that we are good people. We go to work, pay our taxes, and love our families. But, doing admirable things does not necessarily mean that we are immune to bad things. From a Judeo-Christian perspective, this can be a hard pill to swallow. We want to believe that there’s a reason for everything and that God has our best interests at heart. If you have experienced a tragedy in your life, you have probably wracked your brain trying to come up with a reason. Instead of doing that, I would recommend reading When Bad Things Happen to Good People. This book was a lifesaver for me and many other people I know. It posits that there are certain events in a person’s life that are random and devoid of any divine meaning. Rabbi Harold Kushner is a true wordsmith and each sentence gradually helps in the healing process.

Another book that I like to keep by my side at all times is 21 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy. It may not be as philosophically lofty as Kushner’s book, but it still offers practical tools for attaining some measure of happiness. For instance, one of the chapters deals with complaining and why you should give it up. Some might say that to complain is to be human, but complaining often leads to no valuable change. Even if the object of your complaint can’t be changed, the act of complaining is still irrelevant. I think that is important to realize when tragedy strikes or even when you just don’t feel good about a particular issue.

I, like many people, incurred an unfathomable loss in my family, and I would say that these books have helped me immensely on my road to recovery. I know that my loss is not some cosmically-sanctioned incident that’s apart of some greater divine machinery. It’s just random, and it’s unfortunate that it happened to me. It’s truly unfortunate when grave events happen to anyone, but I think it’s also important to pull yourself out of the doldrums.
394 internautes sur 414 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A wonderfully-written perspective on God, life and suffering 7 juillet 2000
Par J. Lizzi - Publié sur
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.
164 internautes sur 176 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Classic of profound knowledge... 27 décembre 2002
Par Chris Peters - Publié sur
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.
176 internautes sur 194 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 INSPIRING!!! EYE-OPENING!!! INSIGHTFUL!!! 17 août 1999
Par K. Trinque - Publié sur
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!
46 internautes sur 48 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Very Helpful In Times Of Trouble 11 octobre 2005
Par Susan R. Cakars - Publié sur
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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