Margarita Korol on Harold Kushner
Yesterday on Tablet, taking another look
Yesterday on Tablet, we ran a story by our former office muse and art guru Margarita Korol. Unfortunately, the site went down for a little bit in the afternoon and so we didn’t get a good chance to really draw proper focus on what is a really stunning piece of writing. In her essay, Korol writes about how meeting author Harold Kushner in the wake of the unexpected death of her brother:
A few weeks ago, I met Kushner while producing the trailer for his new book, The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person. Kushner dedicated the book to his son Aaron, who died when he was 14 years old—just like Eli—of the rare degenerative disease Progeria. Since Aaron’s death in 1977, Kushner has been driven to do good in the world on his son’s behalf and to help others understand the nature of suffering. I broached this analogue in our losses in a brief conversation with Kushner, expressing my frustration of not knowing how to go on and how to relate to my father’s family after what happened. He recommended that I read his earlier book, the 1981 best-seller When Bad Things Happen to Good People, not because I would find closure within it, but because it would put me on a track of questioning the universe productively.
In both books, Kushner explores the circumstances of the biblical character Job, whose faith was tested by God during a series of tragedies that befell him. I saw an important parallel to my own situation: The rabbi who played the “everything happens for a reason” card during Eli’s eulogy was making the same mistake that Job’s friends made when they came to comfort him after God killed his sons; Job’s friends, like this rabbi, might have looked like they were attempting to console Job, but they were actually more interested in defending God. Kushner argues that when the mourning father cries out, “Why did God do this to me?” he is not actually trying to find out God’s rationale, but rather affirm that he, the mourner, is indeed a good person despite being struck by such a tragedy. At that moment, the mourner does not need God per se; he needs a supportive community to rally around him.
The rest is available for consumption here.