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When Bad Things Happen to Good People

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  11,174 Ratings  ·  608 Reviews
When Harold Kushner’s three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease and that he 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. Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 24th 2004 by Anchor (first published 1981)
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K.D. Absolutely
Mar 01, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: Barbara
Yesterday, while I was trying to compose this review in my mind, I saw this headline in The Philippine Daily Inquirer: Corona Leaving Fate to God. For my foreigner friends, this impeachment trial of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines has been one of the favorite topics for discussion nowadays among us Filipinos. Our Chief Justice is facing 8 Articles of Impeachment. Among these are failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets and liabilities, partiality and su ...more
Skylar Burris
Dec 24, 2007 Skylar Burris rated it liked it
Shelves: judaism
Rabbi Kushner's position is that, because suffering exists in the world, only three options are possible: (1) God does not exist. (2) God exists but is not good, or (3) God exists and is good but is not all-powerful. He chooses explanation (3). Explanation (4), that God exists, is good, and is all-powerful, but for reasons we cannot now fully comprehend, chooses to allow suffering, is not an option.

Despite its unsatisfying theology, I was reminded of three very important things from this book,
Jennifer Lane
Jul 22, 2015 Jennifer Lane rated it it was amazing
Savvy Spiritual Guidance

I often recommend this book to psychotherapy clients because it gives me peace of mind when struggling with the pain of life. Written by Rabbi Harold Kushner, this collection of philosophical wisdom is not tied to a particular religion.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does a loving father die of cancer when a murderer lives? How can a young, innocent child suffer a disfiguring injury? This book attempts to answer such questions.

Sometimes well-intentioned indiv
Oct 20, 2007 Ellen rated it really liked it
I wish I could say that this book answers the question posed by its title. Instead, it is more of lesson on how "God" doesn't cause bad things - humans do. If this a concept unfamiliar to you then you might find this book mind opening and perhaps relieving. On the other hand, if you already felt this way, then this book might seem a bit elementary and disappointing. However, I give this book four stars for two reasons. One, the author seems like the coolest rabbi around. He seems to "get" it - s ...more
Dec 10, 2007 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best I can do to explain this book is to quote it:

"But if Man is truly free to choose, if he can show himself as being virtuous by freely choosing the good when the bad is equally possible, then he has to be free to choose the bad also. If he were only free to do good, he would not really be choosing. If we are bound to do good, then we are not free to choose it." Harold Kushner, p. 79.

I think a lot of things come down to choice. And this book explains it really well. I really liked this bo
Mar 29, 2010 Jenny rated it it was amazing
God is not all powerful. God does not inflict suffering. Suffering is not a divine means to punish, to test our faith, or to teach us a lesson. These ideas fly in the face of what most every believer has been taught, and the ideology that is embedded and reinforced by the Judeo-Christian folk religion of the larger society. And yet, read Rabbi Kusher's reasoning and you, too will gain a broader understanding of God and what it means to be human and to endure pain, suffering, and joy. I have come ...more
Oct 01, 2015 Elyse rated it really liked it
I read this book when it came out! I heard the author speak.

Its an old book. It was one of the books marked for a new friend here on Goodreads.

I 'think' the author has a more recent book out --(I'll have to check)

About this book: It can be valuable to read if a person is going through a loss -a death of somebody close -(any tragic situation) --

Personal tragedy is the context of this book --then the reader can look at different perspectives and beliefs.

The topic of GOD is examined (not pushed dow
Yassin Omar يس
May 04, 2016 Yassin Omar يس rated it really liked it
The most important thing that rabbi Kushner really did is breaking the taboos of bad fate and destiny being all directly from God, and the silly ridiculous consequent statements it entails.
-You must have done something horribly wrong and that's your just punishment, even we are pretty sure of one's goodness. Blaming the victim attitude!

-God sends tragedies only to those who can bear them!
“Does God "temper the wind to the shorn lamb"? Does He never ask more of us than we can endure? My experi
Jul 14, 2011 Holly rated it it was ok
Shelves: religious
I only finished this book by Rabi Kushner because I truly wanted to understand the author's position and therefore that of thousands in this world. I enjoyed his logical methodical manner of understanding trials and God's role, there are some points I agree with.
1. God follows the rules and laws of nature.
2. Many bad things happen because of the nature of the world.
3. God is deeply saddened by the pain and cruelty of the world.

However, I heartily disagree with a few main points. Here are some o
Apr 21, 2011 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book has been in my personal library for many years, but I do not forget it. Although it is written by a rabbi, it is well suited for people of any faith. Rabbi Kushner, whom I have met, has had his own share of personal tragedy, so it is fitting to state that he is not just sermonizing. His words help in many ways to make sense of loss, grieving and turmoil. An important feature of his writing is that he enables a traumatized individual to shed guilt or fault-finding related to the problem ...more
I wasn't all that keen to read this book. I read it because my friend (who picked the book for our bookclub) is struggling with the question of why her husband is having to fight ALS, as well as the millions of other questions that impact her and her family.

I realized that I have been asking myself those same questions, but about my mother. Let me tell you about her. My mother is truly a wonderful person, and I'm not saying that just because I am her daughter. Her many friends who have not aband
Apr 24, 2012 Margaret rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was greiving the death of my husband. I was hurt, angry and was all alone - feeling abandoned by everyone, including God. A therapist jotted down "When Bad Things Happen to Good People", and I bought and read the book. I was still angry and said, but I want to know, "why"!

It wasn't until several years later that I could accept Rabbi Kushner's message that bad things will happen to all of us at some time in our lives, but it's how we receive and process that event that wil
Jun 07, 2011 David rated it it was amazing
This book has a religious structure, but it’s absent the kind of proselytizing that not only is of no interest to me but often makes me bristle with antagonism. In fact, the author takes a number of well deserved potshots at conventional religious pretense. With religion, Kushner says one question really matters: why do good people suffer? Actually, this is a question that has plagued not only theologians, but philosophers and regular folks throughout history. You don’t have to be a theologian o ...more
Karen Field
Mar 25, 2009 Karen Field rated it it was amazing
The byline of this book is “for everyone who has been hurt by life...”

The author, a rabbi by the name of Harold S Kushner, wrote this book because he had been hurt by life. His only son was born with progeria, “rapid aging”. His son died two days after his fourteenth birthday and When Bad Things Happen to Good People was the result of the pain and hurt the author felt. But, more importantly, it was the sharing of how his faith was tested to the extreme and the conclusions he made in the end that
I did find parts of this book useful but, because I am a Christian, I had the constant feeling that the Rabbi was only looking at half of the picture. He bases his arguments entirely upon the God of the Old Testament because of course he does not recognise Jesus as the Son of God. Rabbi Kushner comes to the conclusion that God is not perfect, (a little presumptious I think for a mere mortal) and says that it is no use praying to God to take away our suffering as He cannot do so. In the New Testa ...more
Jul 28, 2016 Bridget rated it it was ok
So maybe I missed the point here but the logic of this book doesn't seem to make sense to me.
Kushner says in the last chapter (to sum up his answer to the question that the title poses), "God does not cause our misfortunes. Some are caused by bad luck, some are caused by bad people, and some are simply an inevitable consequence of our being human and being mortal, living in a world of inflexible and natural laws. The painful things that happen to us are not punishments for our misbehavior, nor
Mar 14, 2017 Kaethe rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
When Bad Things Happen to Good People - Harold S. Kushner I've no desire to deprive the grieving of anything that might help: get through this unimaginable horror, and then later on you can deal with whatever problems your coping mechanism has created. Kushner chooses to believe in an imperfect god, which allows him to maintain his belief while at the same time exonerating his god for all the pain, suffering, and death which befall the most innocent of bystanders. It doesn't work for me. Either ...more
Shari Johnson
Nov 26, 2012 Shari Johnson rated it it was amazing
Someone recommended this book to me after my younger sister (age 33) was killed by a car that no-one was driving. The 18 year old owner of the car had forgotten to put her car in park, left it in neutral and ran in to her house. My sister, who had never hurt a flea, mother of 2 young children never saw or heard the car coming. The day before this tragedy she had qualified for the Boston Marathon. Needless to say, I was completely devastated by these events. And I was ANGRY! Not at the girl who's ...more
Aug 17, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: own, faith-spirit
Rediscovered on my book shelves. This is not my first copy which had been a library book when it was first published in 1981. This copy was used as assigned reading to classes of high school juniors studying morality and the nature of good and evil. It was a springboard for some incredible discussions about the meaning of life, responsibility and other questions which fascinate soul searching teenagers.
But it wasn't till 10 years after my first reading when my life fell apart that I really valu
Mar 27, 2012 Elaine rated it really liked it
An old book that I never read until my friend Maureen Stemmelen lent it to me last weekend. She had just come from the Unitarian Meeting House and checked out some books, because Walter's dad, Irving, was dying. She said she had read it when she was a Speech Pathology student and found it enriching.

I had avoided reading it in the past, fearing it was "preachy". It is a bit, but in a good way. He speaks from sad personal experience. His 14 year old son died from progeria, a disease of premature a
Mar 13, 2016 David rated it it was amazing
Excellently written and compelling. Managed, in my opinion, for a much more convincing and believable explanation for why bad things happen to good people that C. S. Lewis's "The Problem of Pain," which I thought was good at the time, but after more reflection, found to be relatively disappointing. It also contains some brilliant insight into the Book of Job, and a fantastic exegesis of said book. I really enjoyed the Jewish perspective on things. I look forward to reading more books by Harold K ...more
Mary Ann C
Feb 06, 2008 Mary Ann C rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mary Ann by: Professor Tony Smith, University of Utah
Shelves: religious
First introduced to this book, by a professor of mine who taught a Child Life class. As part of the Child Life profession, we are forced to come to terms everyday about our beliefs on why children and families suffer so much pain that they don't seem to deserve.
This book has especially helped me these past 2 years as I've been in my own personal health crisis and struggling to understand how and why my life fell apart so hard and so fast. It provides wonderful insights about life's trials. Recom
Jan 27, 2017 Rachel marked it as to-read
Why do bad things happen to good people?

There's not really an answer to that question as far as I know. Well, at least not one that is accepted by everyone. There are many ways to explain the bad things that happen to good people but, is there really any reason that is going to offer someone comfort when they lose someone they love? I don't think so. These many theories are addressed and explored by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner in When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

Now, I would be lying if I said
Jim Cullison
Feb 26, 2017 Jim Cullison rated it it was amazing
One of the greatest, most valuable books ever written. A concise, eloquent, plain-spoken, and supremely persuasive response to the enduring challenge of theodicy. I wish I had read it when I was going through cancer four years ago. The ultimate in necessary reading, it brings a great deal of peace, perspective, and emotional liberation.
Sep 06, 2011 JoAnn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religious, 2011
I agree with the basic premise of the book, that bad things happen because of the imperfect world we live in and the freedom of each of us to choose. I disagree with his belief that God is imperfect and this imperfection limits his ability to spare us suffering.
What a blessing to have a knowledge of the plan of salvation. To know our perfect Father in Heaven is in charge, but is limited by eternal laws, laws that make us free to choose liberty and eternal life through Christ, or spiritual death.
Oct 25, 2014 Zachary rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book... I have a lot of sympathy for the general message: "God is not the author of evil and suffering!! Accidents, diseases, the untimely deaths of children and loved ones, earthquakes, floods etc. are not somehow part of God's plan and he does not will them to happen." But while I was deeply touched by Rabbi Kushner's personal encounters with suffering, for someone who is perhaps more philosophically minded, his conclusions, I think, are lacking. We are left with a God wh ...more
Jun 03, 2013 Vidya rated it liked it
For quite sometime I had wanted to read this book, as I believed that the book may answer it's title. It gave a different perspective contrary to what most of us have been ingrained with. That world is not fair place and life is full of random circumstances; so there is nothing that "GOD" decides in terms of who goes through what. He cites a plane accident to be taken as a combined random fate of all those in; rather than giving it any religious meaning "those in that ungrateful event deserved i ...more
Jan 19, 2009 Leslie rated it liked it
In reading this book, I was reminded vividly how different faith-righteousness is from work-righteousness. It is full of pragmatic wisdom for people dealing with tragedy in a world they expect to conform to their own views of justice.

I do think that bad things happen to everybody, and that who we are is defined in how we respond to those tragedies. I think our lives are a dialogue with God about our salvation, and part of that is worked out in our turning towards or away from him. The major pro
James Hecker
May 05, 2013 James Hecker rated it liked it
Recognized by many as a popular classic on the question of evil. It is not posed in that way but it describes the author's feelings that some times things just happen. It proposes the logic that God is omnipotent and the author of everything, therefore responsible for evil as well as good...or that bad things happen as part of a grandeur scheme that we cannot possibly understand being mere mortals, (in which case what a moral monster He must be), ...or that God has given us free will and having ...more
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Harold S. Kushner is rabbi laureate of Temple Israel in the Boston suburb of Natick, Massachusetts. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he is the author of more than a dozen books on coping with life’s challenges, including, most recently, the best-selling Conquering Fear and Overcoming Life’s Disappointments.
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“Pain is the price we pay for being alive. Dead cells—our hair, our fingernails—can’t feel pain; they cannot feel anything. When we understand that, our question will change from, “Why do we have to feel pain?” to “What do we do with our pain so that it becomes meaningful and not just pointless empty suffering?” 16 likes
“I don’t know why one person gets sick, and another does not, but I can only assume that some natural laws which we don’t understand are at work. I cannot believe that God “sends” illness to a specific person for a specific reason. I don’t believe in a God who has a weekly quota of malignant tumors to distribute, and consults His computer to find out who deserves one most or who could handle it best. “What did I do to deserve this?” is an understandable outcry from a sick and suffering person, but it is really the wrong question. Being sick or being healthy is not a matter of what God decides that we deserve. The better question is “If this has happened to me, what do I do now, and who is there to help me do it?” As we saw in the previous chapter, it becomes much easier to take God seriously as the source of moral values if we don’t hold Him responsible for all the unfair things that happen in the world.” 12 likes
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