Thresh­olds: How to Thrive through Life’s Tran­si­tions to Live a Fear­less­ly and Regret-Free Life

  • Review
By – May 19, 2015

In Thresh­olds, author Sherre Hirsch presents a cap­ti­vat­ing metaphor for under­stand­ing chal­lenges and the changes that they bring to our lives. In a relaxed and con­ver­sa­tion­al tone, Hirsch shares her ideas for how indi­vid­u­als can empow­er them­selves and devel­op faith and con­fi­dence in their abil­i­ties, to make the deci­sions that will lead them across the thresh­olds” they encounter.

Through­out the book, Hirsch, who is an ordained rab­bi, draws expert­ly from the teach­ings of the Jew­ish tra­di­tion, pre­sent­ing Jew­ish sto­ries and ideas as part of her tool­box of resources. Her ground­ing in these texts allows her to inte­grate them seam­less­ly into her writ­ing, mak­ing them acces­si­ble to read­ers to whom they are new, and allow­ing read­ers who are more famil­iar with them to con­sid­er them in new ways. Nev­er­the­less, Hirsch’s writ­ing has a strong uni­ver­sal­is­tic tone, and also incor­po­rates sig­nif­i­cant tools from cur­rent psy­cho­log­i­cal research. On the ques­tion of faith, Hirsch is adamant that it is not her inten­tion to tell peo­ple what to believe in. Rather she suc­cess­ful­ly mod­els the pow­er of authen­tic self-expression.

It is very much to her cred­it that Hirsch includes a huge­ly diverse set of sto­ries. Read­ers of all ages and back­grounds will find exam­ples that res­onate with their expe­ri­ences. Hirsch is not afraid to dis­cuss some extra­or­di­nar­i­ly dif­fi­cult events, includ­ing sex­u­al vio­lence, the loss of a child, and car­ing for med­ical­ly frag­ile fam­i­ly mem­bers. Hirsch’s sen­si­tiv­i­ty and com­pas­sion are clear­ly on dis­play as she relates these sto­ries, as is her respect for the dig­ni­ty of her readers.

Hirsch does not sug­ar-coat or min­i­mize the depth of feel­ing that accom­pa­nies life alter­ing events. She nev­er sug­gests that this process is an easy one. The first issue that her book address­es is the role of fear in times of tran­si­tion. Acknowl­edg­ing that fear is an essen­tial part of being human, Hirsch per­sists on this theme through­out the book. Most help­ful­ly, in her chap­ter Per­fec­tion is not a Des­ti­na­tion”, she explores the com­plex­i­ty of hav­ing to make deci­sions when none of the options look good. She replaces the idea of always hav­ing to make the right deci­sion (or the one that will look the most attrac­tive to our fam­i­ly and social cir­cles) with the hope of mak­ing the best deci­sion today” (p. 124). And when we focus too much on mak­ing sure to live hap­pi­ly ever after, we neglect to acknowl­edge, respect, and even cel­e­brate, the bumps in the jour­ney” (p.154).

Hirsch has writ­ten a mov­ing and empa­thet­ic book, rel­e­vant to any­one who has ever had to make a dif­fi­cult deci­sion. If pos­si­ble, read­ing it in tan­dem with a trust­ed con­fi­dant may pro­vide the read­er with the most pow­er­ful experience.

Deb­o­rah Miller received rab­bini­cal ordi­na­tion at the Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary. She lives in New Jer­sey with her hus­band and daugh­ter, where she serves as a hos­pice chap­lain and teacher.

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