While there are numerous book titles that can be classified within the self-help and spirituality genre, there are, of course, always a few authors that manage to distinguish themselves by producing unique and valuable instructions for living a better and more complete life. The works of these writers stand apart from the rest because of particular wisdom, but also because of the essential quality of accessibility.

Rabbi Harold Kushner undoubtedly holds a place at the highest echelon of spiritual writing. Kushner, who has served as the Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, Mass. since 1966, is a native of Brooklyn, N.Y. He attended Columbia University, and also studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Harvard Divinity School. Additionly, Rabbi Kushner has been awarded six honorary doctorates and many other significant accolades including the Christopher Medal and the Yitzhak Rabin Award.

While Rabbi Kushner’s latest book “Living a Life That Matters: Resolving the Conflict Between Conscience and Success” is of particular interest, it is one in a line of many books of guidance that Kushner has produced. His most renowned work, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. The book struck a tremendous chord with a wide range of readers because of its deeply personal content, as well as themes of strength and perseverance.

Other noteworthy titles include “How Good Do We Have to Be?: A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness,” “To Life! A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking” and “When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough.”

What makes Rabbi Kushner’s writings so engaging is the manner in which they have been wholly embraced by people of every, or no particular, religious denomination. While the celebratory theme of Jewish teachings and culture is evident in all of Kushner’s writings, he is able to write in a style that is accessible to non-Jews as well. This is largely due to thorough and moving discussions of pivotal, universal principles such as generosity, forgiveness, and strength in the face of adversity and personal loss.

In “Living a Life That Matters,” Kushner adeptly discusses the inherent difficulties attached to ambition and the ever-present drive to excel and distinguish oneself in everyday life. He stresses the vital importance of maintaining one’s value system while pursuing success, and he also provides a new framework through which to evaluate personal achievement. A particular focus is placed on a contemplative evaluation of one’s definition of success, especially with regard to family members and friends.

Rabbi Kushner cleverly refers to this as the “Best Actor in a Supporting Role.” In other words, thinking on a smaller scale enables one to see the significant benefits of small acts of generosity, mercy, and empathy. These sorts of actions are probably not what most would think of as the usual avenue of success. However, Rabbi Kushner places a far greater emphasis on the maintenance of individual relationships as a means to a rewarding end.

While this event may be of special interest to members of the Jewish community, all can benefit from Rabbi Kushner’s words of encouragement and wisdom. “Living a Life That Matters” provides a new and valuable interpretation of success that does not necessitate a single-focus on winning, but rather, seeks to illustrate how personal fulfillment is possible without compromising virtue and integrity.

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