Sept. 22, 2006
Following Moses' lead
Kushner's latest book helps us deal with failure.
It may seem like little comfort when your business is foundering
or your marriage is falling apart that failure is "an inevitable
part of being human." Then again, this means that you are not
alone and, if you choose to, you can get through such setbacks,
reworking your dreams to form new ones.
This is part of the advice offered by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner in
his latest book, Overcoming Life's Disappointments. In it,
Kushner uses Moses as the archetype of how to live a full and happy
life. Moses faced many hurdles in his time, including, but not limited
to, a speech impediment, a belligerent opponent in Pharaoh and a
griping, ungrateful nation that he must lead to the Promised Land
a land God prohibits him from entering. Regardless of this
grave unfairness, at the end of Deuteronomy, Moses sings a hymn
of praise to God.
"His story is not a story of uninterrupted happiness (is anyone's?),"
writes Kushner, "but he chooses to give it a happy ending.
Though it is not in his power to dictate the end of the story, it
remains in hsi power to choose how he will respond to God's final
Other important lessons we can learn from Moses are to dare to dream
and to aim high, even if that makes failure more likely; to remember
that we are "working" for God, not any other person, including
ourselves; to keep our promises; to hold onto the fragments of broken
dreams as we pursue new ones; to seek a balance between remembering
and forgetting so that we can forge ahead not weighted down by our
pasts; and to understand that to experience life in all its fullness
means that there will be joy and despair, hope and rejection.
Some of Kushner's advice would sound trite if we didn't know that
he and his wife have suffered tragedy they lost a son
and that he has devoted himself nonetheless to making the world
a better place. In his literary efforts alone, he has written such
books as Why Bad Things Happen to Good People and Living
a Life that Matters, in an attempt to help others deal with
the "sad but inescapable truth ... that very few people make
it to the 'promised land.' Few people get everything they yearn
for, and most of us don't get everything we deserve."
It is mainly this matter-of-fact, honest style of writing that makes
Kushner's work appealing and, in the end, comforting. He doesn't
tell us much that we didn't already know, but he certainly tells
us what we need to hear.