Living a Life That Matters
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Living a Life That Matters

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  561 ratings  ·  76 reviews
A person's longing for significance--which can lead to excessive ambition, moral compromise, and preoccupation with status--often stands in conflict with a longing to be good. In Living a Life That Matters, Harold S. Kushner (the Massachusetts rabbi whose bestselling books include When Bad Things Happen to Good People) suggests that the most successful lives are the ones t...more
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Published December 16th 2003 by Anchor (first published September 4th 2001)
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Years ago I enjoyed reading Rabbi Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People. "Living a Life that Matters" follows in a similar approach; short and concise, but coherent and realistic. A recurring theme throughout the book is the life of the biblical patriarch Jacob, who lived a most interesting life. Early in life he was disengenuous, "stealing" his brother's birthright and then deceiving his father, Isaac. But, what goes around comes around, when he wanted to marry Rachel, and instead his...more
This is a thought-provoking (and thought-consolidating) book, just what I would expect from Rabbi Kushner. The good Rabbi reminds us that what is truly important in life rarely has anything to do with the size of our bank accounts, the number of rooms in our houses, or the number of toys we own. Rather, it has more to do with the quality of our relationships, the strength of our character, and the steadiness of our personal growth.

Rabbi Kushner takes us on a thoughtful journey of the mind and h...more
This is an important book - it deals thoughtfully with many aspects of our existence, beginning with helping us to conceptualize our dual needs/goals of success and significance. On the whole, it is written in a straightforward, common sense style, refreshingly free of dogma and cant. As such, then, it delivers piercing insights into our human nature and our (need for/ inclination toward) spirituality that are as convincing as they are clear. After having been disappointed by his earlier, far be...more

I loved this book so much, I bought copies as gifts to share with others. Kushner gathers together material from many great souls and shares their combined wisdom in a lovely narrative interwoven with biblical exegesis.
Some of my favorite quotes from this book:

p.145 As Mother Teresa said, "Few of us can do great things, but all of us can do small things with great love."

p.158 " A good person, even in death, is still alive."

p. 154 "If a person has known love, has felt and given love, that person'...more
when I read my first kushner book, "when bad things happen to good people", I was in a place where I needed that book. I was lost and confused and needing to find direction again in a world that no longer made sense when compared against the idealistic worldview I'd always subscribed to. I needed to read a book that was not the Bible but contained the sort of timeless wisdom that book, I believe, contains.
I am no longer in that place. Yet I still wanted to give Kushner another try, wanted to lea...more
Paul Wilson
I love the words of Harold Kushner. Though, I am not Jewish what he writes is timeless and for anyone who truly wants to become a better person. I finished this book last month but I already have started to reread the book. The book definitely should be read many times.
Ann Baxter
Loved it! Kushner has a way of making all of us feel better about ourselves yet want to strive to be better. His use of the biblical Jacob to explain the internal conflicts within us all was fascinating. Kushner is an intelligent yet thoughtful writer.
One of my favorite authors. He is most famous for writing "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." This book weaves philsophy and religion in a common sense practical approach that is applicable to everyday life.
Loved this book and it is one that I will return to often. For its lessons are timeless.
Ken Braley
I wasn't thrilled with this book, but others may enjoy it. Some good reminders of what's important in life (love, doing good, integrity, friendship, etc), but the supporting arguments were mostly uninspiring to me.

Most often cited where stories from Christian and Jewish texts, novels, plays, and movies. I found those mostly uninspiring. There were a couple personal stories from the author's life or people he had met, that although being anecdotal, were somewhat inspiring to me.

My overall opinion...more
Living a Life that Matters uses the story of Jacob in The Book of Genesis as the background for discussion regarding why and how a person should live a life that matters.

Harold Kushner is a Rabbi so his logic carries a spiritual component. However, his writing is devoid of self righteousness. Using stories and references to popular culture he argues that integrity defines character. He tempers his words with sensitivity and understanding to explain that personal development is an ongoing process...more
Kushner again exercises his gift of finding practical wisdom in religious stories of the Old Testament. Here he finds much to extract from the life of Jacob (who eventually changes his name to Israel, which means “One Who Struggles with God”). Jacob struggled with many—his father, his brother, his father-in-law—but mostly with himself. And should not we all struggle with ourselves? Kushner counsels that it is only good people who feel guilty. Evil people rarely feel guilt—they deny, they justify...more
May 11, 2013 Shiri rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shiri by: Miri Haisraeli-Shalish
Shelves: own-it, nonfiction
I was debating whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars.
On the negative side, this book overuses God in crafting a vision for life. Of course this is natural coming from a Rabbi, but a more secular message could have resonated with a larger audience. Also, there was one downright sexist comment that made me mad.
On the bright side, Kushner writes with a compassionate voice and has a deep understanding of the human psyche, including our wish to transcend death, the capacity to forgive though wantin...more
Grant Trevarthen
Being in my early 50's, I'm at the time of my life that a lot of thoughts are circling around my grey matter. A lot is about the years that have passed, and the time left, and what have you done with the time. Initially it was a cause for concern. But after reading Harold Kushner's book, 'Living A Life That Matters', I have reason to be encouraged.
In this book, Kushner gives great advice on living a life, that you are happy that basically you have given as much as you've received. Now this does...more
I was disappointed. I agree with the premise that it matters how you live your life and love is what is primary. But Biblical story after Biblical story left me cold - Kushner writes about them as if they were actual events rather than mythology (and to be fair, he probably does believe that to be the case) and most of those stories depict people who behaved in astoundingly unethical ways. Making a case for living a life that values kindness, compassion and connections to others can be done with...more
While this was still a very good book by Rabbi Kushner, there were times it came off as oddly a bit sour. I'm not quite sure what the tone issue was for me, but it just missed the mark by a tad bit.

That stated, I liked how he looked at the concept that a life that matters is specifically measured via love, both given and received. It's a good concept.
Sep 16, 2010 Lisa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who is seeking, but not looking for quick fixes!
This is the first Kushner book I have ever read and I must say, I am very impressed with him as an author. This man truly has a gift for writing and the wisdom he shares really transcends any particular religion and speaks to anyone who sincerely searches for meaning in their lives. Don't think you have to be Jewish to appreciate the writings of Rabbi Kushner. However, it will probably disappoint the reader who is looking for a quick fix, how-to type of book, i.e., a mouse's cheese being moved,...more
This is the third (I think) of Kushner's books I've read now in the past year. He has a knack for taking literature and Biblical references and applying them to contemporary daily lives in a way that is both thought-provoking and inspiring. I found much of what he wrote to be affirming; it's easy to see why he's been so successful as both a rabbi and a sort of "self-help" author. This particular book helps one understand why knowing oneself is critical to being able to move forward in life, and...more
M Tremmel
I read his seminal Why Bad Things Happen To Good People years ago in college for a Philosophy class. It was a formative study. He's just as powerful here. I especially enjoyed his theories on forgiveness vs. revenge. He presents excellent, well thought arguments on the benefit or better yet the necessity of forgiveness even for the most atrocious crimes.
I also enjoyed thinking about and reading his take on aging and specifically on purpose in life.
Overall, it was a thoughtful and thought-provoki...more
I had not read a book by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner in years. However, I found this one on my daughter's bookcase and the topic intrigued me. As I get older, I do hope that my life has made a difference for someone else. I would like to be remembered as a good person. Kushner believes that it is the little things we do that have a positive impact.

I would say that nothing Kushner says is new, but very little that is written about the meaning of life is. However, if you need a little inspiration to b...more
I was put off by the many references to the Bible. The title and description of this book does not indicate that it has such an extreme Judeo-Christian foundation. For those who seek that type of a book, I'd probably give this book a higher rating. However, I did not feel this book adequately addressed what the title proclaims: to resolve a conflict between conscience and success, or how to live a life that matters outside of religious proclamations, in fact. I'd recommend it only for those who...more
I like this author - he makes sense to me. In a nutshell, living a life that matters involves being a nice, helpful person who sends positive vibes into society. You may not even know who/when/how you are affecting. This could be related to recent research that shows that happy people affect others' happiness even a few people removed. Kusshner uses the story of Jacob throughout his book as an example.
I loved this little gem. It's something I feel I will read again and again in an effort to keep working towards being the person I want to be. It's filled with anecdotes from the authors life, and also uses the story of Jacob to illustrate how we can all grow into people of moral character. It's well written, touching at times, and thought-provoking always.
Aug 16, 2008 Michael rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone in a time of crisis!
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
This is written by a Rabbi and has lots of religious stories from the Bible, etc. He teaches here that every life matters and the size of your wallet isn't the most important thing but the size of your character. Friendship, family, service and generosity is what makes a differnce in the world. We make a difference if we only effected one person in a positive way.
This is a quick read. There are some meaningful life lessons you can derive from it, but I don't recall finishing it and thinking to myself, "Yeah! That makes perfect sense." Draws heavily on figures and parables from the Old Testament (Jacob, Abraham, etc.). If you like Mitch Albom "feel good" books, then you'll probably like Kushner.
Definitely closer to four stars that two. I found the first few chapters less compelling or insightful than I'd hoped, but chapters five, six and seven (on integrity, loving others, and finding fulfillment in supporting others) were very well done. I also appreciated Kushner's insights into the Old Testament prophet Jacob.
I love this book. This is a very uplifting and though provoking book about conscience and why we want to do good things. I especially like it because it is quick to read, upbeat and very straight-forward. It's not complex or hard to understand but it is very interesting and is great to read. You'll love it.
A lot of the book is sort of what you'd expect - lovely, comforting, confronts the major issues in life. But I particularly enjoyed his interpretation of the attack that Jacob experiences on his way home to Canaan. It was thoughtful and gave a great deal of depth to his discussion of morals.
Not a profound work, but a common sense approach. He uses the biblical story of Jacob as his framing device for the conflict between the desire for success and for being a good person. It struck me as noticeably (though unconsciously) masculine in its assumptions.
Betsie Bush
This book was exactly what I needed at this moment. I find this author to be so genuine and realistic in this and other books I have read by him. Life is not about trying to make our lives significant but about recognizing how we already are significant.
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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...
When Bad Things Happen to Good People How Good Do We Have to Be?: A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness To Life: A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking 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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“Forgiveness is a favor we do for ourselves, not a favor we do to the other party.” 35 likes
“Good people will do good things, lots of them, because they are good people. They will do bad things because they are human.” 29 likes
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