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February 1, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 1, 2013 Relevant From page 1A appropriate. "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," published in 1981, was inspired by and dedicated to Kushner's son Aaron, who died in 1977 at the age of 14, of the degenerative disease progeria, or "rapidly aging syndrome." That book's galvanizing title addressed in plain lan- guage a more formal, age-old construct: If God is just, why do the righteous suffer? With its basic message of rational hope and faith in the face of tragedy and unprovoked adversity, the book which included a chapter on Job-- sold millions of copies in numerous languages. As a grieving father, he says he wrote the book, "to help other people who might one day find themselves in a similar predicament. I would write it for all those people whowanted to go on believing, but whose anger at God made it hard for them to hold onto their faith and be comforted by religion. And I would write it for all those people whose love for God and devotion to Him led them to blame themselves for their suffer- ing and persuade themselves they deserved it .... I am not a formally trained philoso- pher. I am fundamentally a religious man who has been hurt by life, and I wanted to write a book that could be given to the person who has been hurt by life--by death, by illness or injury, by rejec- tion or disappointment--and who knows in his heart that if there is justice in the world, he deserved better." Kushner's latest book, 'The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person," is also dedicated to his son Aaron ("Again and Always") is part of a popular new series, Jewish Encounters. Return- ing to Job, Kushner says, "closes the circle" begun by "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," touching on many of the same themes 30 years later. It is the 11th book by the retired Massachusetts rabbi. Job, Kushner said in an interview before his speech, contains "the only real the- ology of the nature of God or the will of God" in the Bible. And yet, for many, clergy and lay alike, Christian and Jewish, Job is also one of the most troubling and perplexing books of the Hebrew Bible. In his CRJ talk, Kushner cited disparate sources to make his point, from the Christian theologian C.S. Lewis to the Coen brothers' dark film, "A Serious Man." Faith and prayer and even divine intervention have their limits, Kushner said. The message of the Book of Job's author is essentially this: "Bad things do happen to good people in this world, but it is not God who wills it. God would like people to get what they deserve in life, but He cannot always arrange it .... "God wants the righteous to live peaceful, happy lives, but sometimes even He can't bring that about. It is too difficult even for God to keep cruelty and chaos from claim- ing their innocent victims." Since writing that in his first book, Kushner said his belief in a "limited God" has subtly evolved into a belief in a "self-limiting God" who chooses "not to control ev- erything." "God," Kushner said, "does not control the world. He helps you live in the world." God's role is not to shield people from misfortune, but to enable them to cope with it." "So often I think people worry about knowing the right thing to say, and he said, 'Don't worry about saying anything--give them a hug-- that act speaks volumes ,'" said Nancy Wolf, of Heathrow. "I was also impressed that there were 40 clergy in attendance, which spoke to the universal- ity of the issues of a 'good and just God.'" Rabbi Steven Engel of CRJ, said, "Those things that make us human, are the very same things that we all share. And I know no person in the world who speaks more eloquently, more insightfully, or more profoundly on what it means to be a human being than Rabbi Harold Kushner." Over the years, Kushner has become a kind of volunteer fireman in the wake of inex- plicable tragedy, frequently called on for comment by the media and for spiritual support from stunned com- munity groups. He is sched- uled to speak in February at the Newtown Public Library in Connecticut following the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. "He leaves his fingerprint on the soul of a community," said Beth Am's Rabbi Rick Sherwin. "The experience of bringing Rabbi Kushner to Orlando facilitated my meeting some very special religious community leaders representiffg diverse paths to the One God," Sherwin said later. "I am truly blessed with the friendships we have forged that will far transcend Rabbi Kushner's visit." In his books, sermons, lectures and articles, Kushner freely confesses that bad and tragic events are often the result of randomness in the universe. One of the chapters in his ground-breaking book is titled, "Sometimes There Is No Reason." Another chapter is titled, "What Good, Then, Is Religion"? Kushner's caring, clear-eyed but no-nonsense message is not sugar-coated, and he has little time for unquestioned faith. A chap- ter in the new book is titled "Does Everything Happen for a Reason"? Kushner, who debated the late Christopher Hitchens, a writer and articulate athe- ist, has long grappled with his own thoughts about the supernatural power of prayer, and divine intervention in earthly lives. Yet prayer, he writes, "when it is offered in the right way, redeems people from isolation. Itassures them that they need not feel alone and abandoned. It lets them know that they are part of a greater reality, with more depth more hope, more cour- age, and more of a future than any individual could have by himself." The mistake many reli- gious people make, he said, is to"conflate God with Santa Claus," someone to beg for rewards in exchange for good behavior. Even before his first Tweak From page 2A its people. "The staff at the cathedral were sensitive about theo- logical language and wanting people to speak in language that was comfortable and authentic," said Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Jacobs was assigned the recital of the priestly blessing alongside Laila Muhammad, the founder of a Muslim family service organization in Chicago. Muhammad told Jacobs beforehand that she would change "The Lord" in the blessing to"Allah." Jacobs replied that he, too, would not use "the Lord," substituting "the Holy One" to reflect the Reform movement's tendency to abjure gender-specific ref- erences to God. Schonfeld, the executive director of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical As- sembly, had no objection to the translation of a psalm she was assigned. But reciting it without context raised dif- ficult theological questions about human responsibility, especially in the wake of the massacre of schoolchildren last month in Newtown, Conn. The translation, as assigned by the cathedral, reads in part, "The Lord watches over the innocent." Schonfeld changed that to"The Lordwatches over the innocent and calls upon us to watch over the innocent." "God can only watch over the innocent insofar as hu- man beings watch over the innocent," Schonfeld wrote in notes on her emendations that she shared with JTA. The services also featured Donovan Marks/Washington National Cathedral Rabbi Sharon Brous, center, of the IKAR congregation in Los Angeles, reading Prayers for the People at the presidential inaugural service at the National Cathedral in Washing- ton, Jan. 22. Beautiful background Piano music i - -' ' ,, . JVlake an event extraordinary. Reasonable fee. (239) 821-2177 Ron Kampeas/JTA Rabbi Julie Schonfeld reads a psalm at the presidential inaugural service at the National Cathedral in Washington, Jan. 22. Cantor Mikhail Manevich of Washington Hebrew Congre- gation, who sang the Shema prayer in Hebrew. Christian clergy also made adjustments in keep- ing with their particular religious orientations. The Rev. Nancy Wilson, mod- erator of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination emphasiz- ing outreach to the LGBT community, replaced five masculine pronouns in her assigned prayer, which opened the service. PAGE 19A Sarah M. Brown Rabbi Harold Kushner signs a copy of his latest book, 'The Book of Job--When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person,' for Francine Gelfand. book was published, Kushner said, some in the Orthodox community considered him a heretic, and nothing he has written since has dissuaded them. Sincere prayer has concrete value. Miracles do happen, and while prayer alone may not bring God's healing, he writes, "I firmly believe that knowing that people care can affect the course of a person's health." This theology, he insists, "doesn't offend reason." "How does God make a difference in our lives if He neither kills nor cures?" he asks. "God inspires people to help other people who have been hurt by life, and by help- ing them, they protect them from the danger of feeling alone, abandoned or judged." Kushner says he never tires of talking about his son and the larger lessons his son Aaron's life taught him: "This is what I was put on earth to do." Sudoku solution from page 7 375291648 826543971 419867523 158679432 763124895 294385167 542716389 637958214 981432756 C Develop/ment Corporation for Israel State of Israel Bonds ; 12600 South Belcher Road, Suite 101A SRAF.LIBONDSMm,,... Largo, Florida 33773 Rdva Pearlstein Monica DiGiovanni A!sstant Director Registered Representative , 727-539-6445 800-622-8017 rhi,seo.oen,,c#omyb.mabyosmc, e.mdapn,ausf.tlyeinstgttyealel*,niadwir inintSmoflsrts tJssmytoamitali The National Cathedral is both an Episcopal seat and a place of worship chartered by the Congress in the 19th century as the natural set- ting for national events. The church's website em- phasizes that it "welcomes all faiths."