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June 29, 1986|John Loudon

WHEN ALL YOU'VE EVER WANTED ISN'T ENOUGH: THE SEARCH FOR A LIFE THAT MATTERS by Harold S. Kushner (Summit: $16.95). Last time out, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner asked why, if God is all-good and all-powerful, life can be so unfair? In the surprise best seller, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," his fresh reading of Job and heartfelt accounts of his experience shocked the Orthodox by arguing that God isn't responsible for everything that happens, but gifts us with protean life in which benefits far outweigh risks and provides the strength to bear tragedies and become better people.

Now he addresses our mid-life crises. When parents or friends die, the chase for success sours, the challenge is: "So, rabbi, if religion is of any use, tell me how to live a meaningful life, to face death without regret." "When All You Wanted Isn't Enough" affectingly teaches what Ecclesiastes learned: Happiness derives not from wealth, power, learning, indulgence, even religiosity, but from living fully in the moment, becoming a good human being, risking the pain of giving yourself to what matters (people, a legacy)--being a mensch.

Again, I came away impressed and consoled (I'd commend Kushner over most psychiatrists), but not convinced that everything can be explained so reassuringly. How's he so sure that the traditional God so arranges things that the conventional moral life is also the most satisfying and that everything works out for the best?

Still, for attacks of Angst and ennui, I'd gladly prescribe two Kushners and a call next time his publicity tour rolls through town.

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