“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.” So begins one of the most vexing portions of the Hebrew Bible. Rabbi Kushner (Conquering Fear, 2009, etc.), who first considered the enigmatic text in the bestselling When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981), revisits the powerful story.
Chapter by chapter, with homilies, asides, jokes and bits of his personal history, the author considers the familiar story of the good man, bereft of all that he values because of Satan’s challenge to God. In reviewing the three cycles of the poem in which friends fail to console or comfort Job, great theological debates proliferate. How should an innocent victim conduct himself? Is there really divine punishment and reward? Is there justice in Godly governance? As the dispute with the Almighty escalates, meaning becomes less certain, more inscrutable. Even the identity of a speaker becomes uncertain. Some difficulties with the Book of Job stem simply from its distance from our time, the subject matter or the language. Many words are unique. (Feminists will note that Kushner consistently refers to the Creator with masculine pronouns). The author marshals brief commentary from such authorities as Maimonides, Spinoza, Heschel and MacLeish. Perhaps Kushner, a generation after his most famous book, follows mainstream rabbinic theosophy more than he once did. He offers the belief that, fixed by the Creator, there is free will for humanity; nature, too, follows its own laws fixed by God. Thus, there exists the possibility of change and goodness—and maybe that’s why bad things happen.
A current, accessible examination of a difficult and wondrous jewel of world literature.