We all grapple with unfulfilled expectations and failed dreams. What lessons can we learn when life takes a disappointing turn? How can we reconcile reality with our desires and dreams? The prolific and wise Harold Kushner attempts to answer such questions in his beautifully written new book, Overcoming Life’s Disappointments.
Kushner raises and answers these questions with stunning clarity by focusing on the life of Moses, one of the greatest figures in biblical history. When most of us think about Moses, the dramatic vision of God delivering the Ten Commandments to him at Mount Sinai comes to mind. After the revelation at Sinai, God summoned Moses to spend forty days and night atop Mount Sinai. The story is familiar. In his absence, the Israelites fashioned a golden calf and considered it a visible embodiment of God’s being. God became furious, and sent Moses back down the mountain to see for himself how the people had betrayed Him. Moses was distraught at the site of the Israelites dancing and celebrating around the statute of the calf, and consequently hurled the tablets to the ground and shattered them. When Moses gathered up the fragments of the tablets and lovingly placed them in the Ark alongside the intact replacement tablets, a profound statement was made about holding onto the broken pieces of a dream. This very metaphor is central to the theme of Kushner’s book, which is filled with practical principles that can help us recast our own frustrations and disappointments into positive experiences.
Blessed with the ability to combine elegant words of wisdom with his deep faith, Kushner reminds us that we should not allow our faith to diminish or our dreams to die when personal difficulties arise, in the form of a loss, an illness , or a divorce, for instance. When we realize that like Moses, we are working for God, we become able to draw strength and courage from within ourselves, and respond appropriately to problems, even when others hurt us. Kushner gently reminds us to recognize the limitations of others and accept them as they are, and to remember that the world does not revolve around us.
Overcoming Life’s Disappointments is filled with wisdom about accepting life as it is, and making the most of our dreams, even if they do not turn out exactly as we desire. Like Moses, one should not let go of those broken pieces of stone, which are reminders of his own beautiful dream, which shaped and defined him and continued to influence his life even after he realized that it would not turn out exactly the way he dreamed that it would.
Both fluid writer and biblical scholar, Rabbi Kushner has written yet another book that is at the same time profound and easy to understand, with practical lessons on how to live the best and most meaningful life we can, and continue to count our blessings without losing our faith.