(JTA) — Rabbi Harold Kushner, one of the most influential congregational rabbis of the 20th century whose works of popular theology reached millions of people outside the synagogue, has died.Kushner, who turned 88 on April 3, died Friday in Canton, Massachusetts, just miles from the synagogue where he had been rabbi laureate for more than three decades.
Kushner’s fairly conventional trajectory as a Conservative rabbi was altered shortly after arriving at Temple Israel of Natick when, on the day his daughter Ariel was born, his 3-year-old son Aaron was diagnosed with a fatal premature aging condition, progeria.
“When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” published in 1981, represented Kushner’s attempt to make sense of Aaron’s suffering and eventual death, just days after his 14th birthday. It was turned down by two publishers before being released by Schocken Books, a Jewish publisher.
In the book, Kushner labors to reconcile the twin Jewish beliefs in God’s omnipotence and his benevolence with the reality of human suffering. ”Can I, in good faith, continue to teach people that the world is good, and that a kind and loving God is responsible for what happens in it?” he writes.
Ultimately, he concludes that God’s ability is limited when it comes to contro …
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