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At the temple down the street, a rabbi who changes lives

Posted by Martin Finucane May 3, 2007 05:44 PM

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Rabbi Kushner at Temple Israel in Natick

NATICK

When Rabbi Harold S. Kushner steps out in public, almost inevitably someone comes up to him and says, "Your book changed my life."

It's been that way since 1981, when he published "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," a memorial to his only son, Aaron, who died in 1977 at age 14.

In it, he reassured victims of tragedy with the then-revolutionary idea that God was not punishing them. Rather, God gave people spiritual tools to cope with disaster and to comfort others in suffering.

The book stayed on The New York Times best-seller list for more than a year, turning Kushner into one of the most beloved and best-known rabbis in the country.

Now 72, Kushner could be called the grandfather of the religious self-help genre -- a niche that today sells millions of titles every year, including blockbusters such as "The Purpose Driven Life," by Christian pastor Rick Warren.

In his most recent book, "Overcoming Life's Disappointments," Kushner uses the biblical story of Moses to inspire people to find lessons from their experiences even when things do not turn out as they had hoped.

Read more of this story in today's Globe West.

-- Erica Noonan

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