When Bad Things Happen to Good People
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When Bad Things Happen to Good People

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  7,468 ratings  ·  437 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 rabb...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 24th 2004 by Anchor (first published 1981)
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K.D. Absolutely
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
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
Skylar Burris
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,...more
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...more
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
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 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...more
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...more
Karen Field
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...more
Aug 17, 2012 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: faith-spirit, own
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...more
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
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...more
Mary Ann C
Feb 06, 2008 Mary Ann C rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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
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....more
Anna Lundberg
Although I don’t struggle with the same questions of faith that the Rabbi Kushner tries to deal with as he faces his own personal tragedy, his key message is one that I believe in 100%: although we don’t always choose the things that happen to us, and we certainly can’t change them, we can choose how we react, and what we do with our lives from then on.

Kushner’s humility and generosity of spirit is impressive:
“Are you capable of forgiving and accepting in love a world which has disappointed you...more
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...more
Shari Johnson
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
As part of my study of theodicy (reconciling God's goodness with the presence of evil and suffering) I knew I had to read this classic. Probably the most helpful part of this book was the recognition that when "bad things" happen, there is a lot of unhelpful crap that people will say. I should know. I've said the very phrases that Rabbi Kushner condemns. Ouch.

However, my basic theology disagrees with Rabbi Kushner in that I do not see God as being incapable of "controlling Creation" but rather t...more
James Hecker
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
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...more
I am disappointed to say that I was disappointed by this book. I have known it for decades as a classic, yet had not read it. Upon discovering the 20th anniversary edition, I took the plunge. It was like diving into an unheated pool ... not in a refreshing way, more like a bracing one. Although several parts of the book were quite moving, I found it to be quite uneven and its author prone to what I call relativism (by which I mean that he so often prescribes the scope of the divine as to bleed o...more
I read this book against my better judgement as it is the selection of the library book club and I found it lacking in so many ways that it would be impossible to enumerate them all.

Kushner has experienced suffering, without a doubt, but his approach to suffering in this book is not authentic and rational in terms of theology. He humanizes God to the point that he is more like a concerned neighbor than an almighty creator. He effectively incapacitates God by stating that God has no control over...more
This book was one of the things that has helped me deal with the loss of a very important person in my life, by giving me a different perspective on the role of God in people's suffering. While existential and faith-related questions still linger in my head, this book was able to provide a new perspective (if not a definitive answer) for me to tackle these questions. The thing I liked the most in this book is perhaps that it acknowledges your loss and the pain you're going through in a very real...more
I've heard of this book for years and finally got around to reading it, prompted by a random sighting in the local library. The key word is "when", not "why" as you might expect. He is not justifying the way of God to man (they are unjustifiable) but rather rephrasing the question so that it asks how are good people going to act when the inevitable "bad things" occur in their lives. Nothing abstract about the book, just the author's personal reflections on the problems that Job, and everyone, fa...more
Although I have never experienced a loss as traumatic as the loss of the author (Kushner), I still thought about the unbelievable number of children that pass away from terrible diseases while reading this book. I could not imagine being in a situation like the author’s. Throughout the book there were several different theories that were put into perspective. They all had to do with God in one way or another. Therefore, relating to religion. The first example of a theory that I noticed in this n...more
After suffering his own loss Rabbi Kushner examines the various theories of suffering. Kushner finds an answer to his question of why bad things happen to good people in the Book of Job, which he spends quite a bit of time breaking down in an easy way to solidify his interpretation.

Rabbi Kushner writes in such a casual and concise manner its as if your having coffee together discussing theories on suffering. He does a great job citing examples the reader understands easily. Despite the fact he i...more
I singled out this book as I felt I'd come to a fork in the road of my life. I could choose to be bitter after the premature birth and death of my son or I could try to seek out better ways to live my now very different life. I started this book dubious of its content. I expected to be lectured. Instead I found myself reading with an open mouth; shocked at how accurately my loss was explained. It was as if this wonderfully gifted rabbi had invisibly witnessed the events of my life, the times whe...more
Peter Aline

Kushner’s direct answer to his question (That God’s power is limited and even God cannot prevent “bad” events from occurring in our lives.) is not fully satisfactory. However, his answer about how to handle bad events in our lives provides much solace and direction. He believes that we can create meaning out of what appears to be a random “bad” event through our response to it.

“Let me suggest that the bad things that happen to us in our lives do not have a meaning when they happen to us. They d...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.
More about Harold S. Kushner...
How Good Do We Have to Be?: A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness To Life: A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking Living a Life That Matters: Resolving the Conflict Between Conscience and Success The Lord Is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-third Psalm When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough: The Search for a Life That Matters

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