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To Life: A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  800 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Filled with wisdom and gentle humor, here is the essential book on Judaism's traditions and practices from the bestselling author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Both practical and spiritual, Kushner makes Jewish tradition relevant to a new generation as he explores its many facets.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 1st 1994 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1993)
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Aug 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: judaism, nonfiction
it was sooooo good until some of those last few chapters..
Dec 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Rabbi Kushner has succeeded in explaining with simple and clear words, what judaism means today, why udaism stil matters and what judaism means today, for jews and non jews.
I liked particularlly the last chapter, "Why you need to be a jew", when he writes;"judaism has the power to save your life. it can't keep you from dying, no religion can keep a person living forever...Bu judaism can save your life from being wasted, from being spent on the trivial."
Elsa Troy-Slovik
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
My now-husband gave it to me when we were dating. He is Jewish and I am without religion. It was a great read, very easy, that made me understand Judaism. We still refer to it on every major holiday, including Shabbat every week.
Melvin Marsh, M.S.
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: judaism

This chapter is actually a great chapter. I had a huge writeup about it but I guess my program decided it was going to eat it. Basically, this book is for everyone. It also stresses the concept of "Who is a Jew" into a more broader term. It has always been more than just a religion. It's a family.


Summary of many of the bible stories. I don't think this adds a lot to the book.


The calender. I like this calendar as it is much more like the calendar that I've been working with as a W
Patricia Joynton
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book that makes me appreciate our heritage. Kushner, a conservative rabbi, againn writes a book that is readily accepted by me, a question mark. A few things I liked:
1) One of the most important differences in Judaism and Christianity is that we were a people before we had a religion. To Christians the faith statement is most important; to Jews the community is what defines them.
2) The laws make the actions of every day life something special. For instance the act of eating
Mar 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Thus far, this is a very easy to understand book.


Finished the book today, and I'm impressed with Rabbi Kushner's ability to make the discussion of a very complex issue such as Judaism accessible and clear. It's also a treat to read something by someone who doesn't think that people who believe in God are suffering from some form of mental illness.

I learned a great deal about Judaism in this, especially how world view and community are so heavily influenced by the experience of being Jewi
Jun 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who want to understand being Jewish
Recommended to Ju by: Rabbi Rosen
Shelves: jewish-reading
I'll start with I'm not much for reading books that aren't novels, but this was a quick and easy read.

Many great insights it's hard to name them all. Deeper explanation of forgiveness - freeing the person from having to be the type of person that disappoints, etc. Sin is not against god, but is a missed opportunity to act human. Thoughts are not sins, we are judged by our deeds or else thinking about helping people (versus doing something) would be a great act. Freedom is the ability to control
Karyn Wynne
Sep 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What a fabulous book. I think reading it while I was in Jerusalem had much to do with how much I enjoyed it, however, that being said I was looking for the answers this book had regardless of my location. It is a very "jewish" way of explaining Judaism. My recollection of services at temple were always the the sermon was full of questions and examples. There never seemed to be a RIGHT way to do things. It was the way. Your way, my way, their way....always just the way. Even as a child at Passove ...more
Apr 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, religion
This was a largely enjoyable read with an approachable and conversational style. In the sections of the book where my understanding of the topic was more or less in line with Kushner's, I found the passages to be quite touching. When Kushner fell into the standard ad hoc rabbinical rationalization around more complex issues is when he lost me. I agree with other reviewers who felt his sentimentality prevented any wrestling with the more concerning aspects of Israel, religious conflict, sexism, a ...more
Tracy Layney
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book - great insights into Judaism for Jews and non-Jews alike!
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Probably more like 3.5, but I'm rounding up even though I am not really the target audience for this book. Nothing particularly deep or challenging here, and there are places where it's overly sentimental or outright questionable, but it was a fast and easy into read with a lot of good foundational info, if that's what you're looking for.
Marissa Greenberg
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book provides a very good overview. However, I would like to know what Tanakh he used because some of the verses that he sites are inconsistent with the verses in the Bible that I have access to.
Alan Londy
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are many introductions to Judaism in print. I find this one to be the most personal and effective. Kushner's way of writing allows a great deal to be absorbed in a deceptively easy manner. I highly recommend this book
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i love this book! this book makes me understand my catholicism.
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What a wonderful book. It gave me a lot to think about.
JSC Shootaboot
Apr 06, 2013 rated it liked it
"God created many things He himself may never enjoy."
"We should add more holiness to every step of our life."
"Thank those that add comfort to our lives more (than noting complaints.)"
***"How does a person allow becoming a victim?"***and (I have been a victim all my life--weakness?)
***"How do people "make" us cry?"*** (I told my then husband, "Nothing makes us cry, unless we believe what they tell us")

who we are vs who we might become (how to deal with bullies??
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I nice beginner manual. I like it very much.
Timothy McNeil
May 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
For the most part, this is an easy, fun read. Kushner writes in a very conversational tone and is quick to point out (and repeatedly remind) that he cannot give definite answers on the nature of God or present Judaism as a monolithic faith in regards to ideology or practice. Unfortunately, he drifts out of his comfort zone several times to offer up ill considered philosophical and psychological posits (I write this because my schooling was in those two fields and find Kushner to be somewhat imma ...more
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: judaism
Rabbi Kushner writes like he's sitting down with you for a cozy conversation. While incredibly learned, he relates his learning from his studies and his personal career in an easy, sharing manner. Kushner touches on some major "technical" questions about major holidays and the role of synagogue and religious ceremonies. But he also delves wholeheartedly into why he feels Judaism is so powerful and can be so relevant for modern Jews, even the secular ones. And also tries to explain some things th ...more
Chelsea Wegrzyniak
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Kushner's introduction to Judaism was helpful to me as an individual beginning the conversion process because it helped me see the big picture of Judaism. Learning about Judaism as a beginner can be overwhelming, as there is so much to learn. Kushner captured the essentials of Jewish thought and life, while encouraging the reader to do or read more. My one qualm with the book was the author's tendency to preach monotheism in bits and pieces. It feels a little bit like Kushner thinks Christianity ...more
Jeannette Katzir
Oct 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Books on religion have an inherent problem for me. I want to learn about the faith BUT I don't want to be preached to. A disclaimer - I am Jewish so I have some familiarity with this religion. I would say that very good majority of this book did an excellent job explaining the different reasons for and backgrounds of the many facets to Judaism. Whether one is of that faith or not, the information provided was interesting and the author wrote in an easy, very personal method that I enjoyed. When ...more
Nancy Ellis
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, educational, totally enjoyable! Those are a few words to describe this book. I have enjoyed all Rabbi Kushner's books, but I learned more from this one than all the others. He explains the differences as well as similarities between Judaism and other religions, particularly Christianity, with one whole chapter devoted to Jews and Christians in today's world. I highlighted so many quotes, I can't possibly mention them all here, but my favorite is one I can't get out of my head, possi ...more
Dec 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book. It's conversational style makes it an easy read, but don't be fooled -- it's chock full of information! I have read this book several times and it always inspires me to live a better life. I love the idea of making the everyday sacred through my actions; Rabbi Kushner talks about that over and over in this book.

Like another reviewer (Guy?),I love the last chapter on why you need to be Jewish. The rabbi writes that "the essence of Judaism is creating holiness in the way we r
Pam Meserve
Jun 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone interested in Faith

One of my favorite quotes.

Rabbi Harold Kushner says: "To be human is to choose to be good. To take something unholy and make it holy, something ordinary into extraordinary. To sanctify the world and live Godly life".

It's a 'good read' and a beginning educational book about Conservative Judaism. I did find though that it was a little biased against non-Jewish faiths in a few areas which kind of surprised me even if it did make me think about a few things. Another thing I did like was that it was
Jan 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-nonfiction
I ended up liking it more than I expected. It was sort of evangelizing---an explanation of why you should be a Jew. It certainly was a highly personal view of what all things Judaic mean. How resting on the Sabbath isn’t restrictive, it's freeing because you don't have to worry about your everyday worries. How kosher rules allow you to enjoy food, but still be reminded that killing an animal for your own food is a serious thing. How Jews are different because the religion is based more on commun ...more
Jan 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Harold Kushner was almost hired by a family member to become the head rabbi at his conservative synagogue but was deemed "too touchy-feely" for his congregation. However, he recommended this book as helpful to nascent Jews like myself for an introduction to modern Jewish beliefs. The book was sometimes torn between elitism towards Christianity and respect towards the spiritual practices of others. Some of the history of the religion was helpful, but lacked a reflexive and constructionist perspec ...more
Mar 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: spite-finish
I wanted to like this book more than I did, but it was a slog to finish it. The first 75% of the book didn’t have new information for me; and I’ve read warmer and better introductions to Judaism previously. (I much preferred the writings of Dennis Prager and Anita Diamant.) The ideas that did resonate with me were the idea of taking the ordinary and making it holy, giving authentic meaning to life through ritual, and the difference between “being Jewish” and “doing Jewish.” The last four chapter ...more
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a well written and easily accessible work for anyone interested in fundamentals of Judaism. Not particularly theologically deep or challenging, but Kushner really gets at the core of what it means to live Jewishly. For that reason, I'd recommend this book for Christians who want to know more about (American Conservative) Judaism, for anyone interested in conversion, and truthfully for anyone who wants a basic overview.
Sep 10, 2008 rated it liked it
A book for every one. Simple, clear and humorous book.

Harold Kushner says: "To be human is to choose to be good. To take something unholy and make it holy, something ordinary into extraordinary. To sanctify the world and live Godly life".

This book has enriched my soul. Hope it enriches your soul.
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everything I could have wanted from an "overview of Judaism for beginners" book. No moralizing about "the ONLY way to be Jewish," but simple, concise explanations of why we do what we do and how to strive to do it.
Bonus points for ending with the famous "the rest is commentary; go study" story - because what better way to end a book on Judaism? Go study!
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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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“But it is a historical fact that the Jews, and no one else, gave the world the Bible. It is a historical fact that the Jews introduced to the pagan world the idea of a God who demanded righteousness......Even most of the books of the New Testament were written by Jews.” 0 likes
“My position would be to see Jesus and Paul as people used by God to bring the monotheism and the moral message of Judaism to the world, and to teach the world that the God discovered and worshiped by the Jews was the only true God.” 0 likes
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