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Living a Life That Matters: Resolving the Conflict Between Conscience and Success

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  969 ratings  ·  103 reviews
From the bestselling author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People comes a profound and practical book about doing well by doing good. Rabbi Kushner suggests that the path to a truly successful life lives in friendship, family, acts of generosity and self-sacrifice, as well as God's forgiving nature.
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published September 4th 2001 by Alfred A. Knopf
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Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
During my weekly library browsing day last week, I found a book called Living a Life that Matters by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. I had been looking for another book to read that would give insight into living life for and with God. However, there have been few authors recently that write on this subject that I have been able to get into. This was a quick read, insightful, and I had a hard time putting it down.

In a world where we can feel ignored or lost in the crowd, overwhelmed by all the pressure
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
Apr 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing

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'
Ann Baxter
Oct 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
David Rickert
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A lot of good stuff in here. I really liked the chapter on revenge.
JR Simons
Nov 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Wasn't really what I was looking for.
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays, spirituality
Loved this book and it is one that I will return to often. For its lessons are timeless.
Linda Layne
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first work written by Harold Kushner. I had heard of "Living a Life That Matters" and was looking forward to reading it. I would have to say that I appreciated the way that Rabbi Kushner used examples from the Bible, the Torah, and his conversations with people to emphasize points throughout the book.

I found him to be honest, to the point, yet not condemning, preachy, or self-righteous. I also greatly appreciated his sense of humor. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone wh
David Geschke
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First book I’ve ever read by Harold Kushner. Fantastic. The first couple chapters sucked me in, and even though I was reading ten other books at the time this book took over as my main read right away. Bogged down a little in the middle, but so good beginning and at the end that I’m giving it five stars and highly recommending it to anyone interested in living a life of significance. And, that’s pretty much all of us, right?
A wonderful book

I’ve rarely read such books but this one certainly arrived at the right time in my life. The messages Rabbi Kutchner focuses on in this book are fundamental ones. How can we matter and how can we lead a good life. Well worth reading.
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book! Rabbi Kushner has a way of talking to everyone. Thought provoking. . . insightful. . . inspiring. Would recommend this to anyone.
Anju Mai
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a lovely, moving and warm-hearted book! I will read more of Harold S. Kushner's books in the future.
Billie Pritchett
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: self-help
Will review later.
May 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
One of the wisest, insightful books I have ever read was When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I, truly, learned some valuable lessons from Rabbi Kushner's wise, thoughtful advice about life, and about how to respond to tragedy. To use a word from The Simpsons, his insights into the human condition embiggened me.

This slim volume is more of the same. People struggle, the Rabbi rights, with two conflicting parts of their soul: the desire to be well-known, successful, a 'somebody' and the desire
Oct 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
I had an "aha" moment as I read Chapter 4. Several other books came to mind, to bring into focus the concept of Purgatory. It's my belief that the pain of Purgatory is caused by us coming to full realization of our sins and the pain that we caused other people, and our contribution to the evil of society. In Heaven, we will be with lots of other forgiven souls, some of them who have hurt us in the past, and some who we have hurt. Yet we will be living in full harmony, with no ill feelings. Chapt ...more
May 02, 2013 rated it liked it
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
andrew y
May 02, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
It was ok.
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-100
This book came to me at just the right time in my life... I just turned 42 and I am trying to make sense of what to do with my time now that the responsibilities of parenting are not quite so demanding. This book is a well-written reminder that our lives must intersect with other lives to have meaning. As a Rabbi, Kushner uses the story of Jacob as a running metaphor through the book. Jacob starts as a devious trickster, but then wrestles with God one night and becomes whole. He leaves the world ...more
Jun 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 12, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Ken Braley
May 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
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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.
“Forgiveness is a favor we do for ourselves, not a favor we do to the other party.” 55 likes
“Good people will do good things, lots of them, because they are good people. They will do bad things because they are human.” 44 likes
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