SECOND CHANCES: Transforming Bitterness to Hope and the Story of Ruth

SECOND CHANCES: Transforming Bitterness to Hope and the Story of Ruth
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    SECOND CHANCES: Transforming Bitterness to Hope and the Story of Ruth
    NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD 2005 WINNER (runner up)
    in the category of
    CONTEMPORARY JEWISH LIFE AND PRACTICE



    by Rabbi Levi Meier

    Deep feelings of depression and giving up hope are often part of the human experience. Second Chances explores strategies that serve as models for a more positive and optimistic life, transforming tragic circumstances into a force for healing. Drawing upon years as a clinical therapist and spiritual chaplain, Rabbi Levi Meier (author of the best-selling book, Ancient Secrets) paints a fresh approach to the Bible and draws relevancy and sage advice from an ancient text.


    Rabbi Levi Meier, Ph.D., is Jewish Chaplain of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He is a licensed clinical psychologist and a marriage, family and child therapist. He has authored numerous books on psychology and spirituality. His award-winning book, Ancient Secrets, was nominated as a finalist in the National Books for a Better Life Awards in the Spiritual category.


    Hardcover, 159 pages
    ISBN 965-7108-67-5
    publication: 2005


    Praise for Second Chances:

    "The beautiful story of Ruth comes alive in this newest book by Rabbi Levi Meier. Gounded in his Biblical scholarship as well as in the writings of Viktor Frankl and Carl Jung, Rabbi Meier presents a model for what real second chances can be. Using anecdotes from clients he has encountered in his role as chaplain and clinical psychologist, he insightfully reveals how the past need not necessarily predict the future. With hope, commitment and a living relationship with God, a second chance can be used to achieve anything -- even something that is seemingly fixed, closed and impossible."
    -Kathleen M. Wulf, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at USC


    "A wonderful mix of deep spiritual insight and practical wisdom. Rabbi Meier's profound observations are at once illuminating and inspirational. Ruth like you never before experienced."
    -Rabbi Dr. Reuven P. Bulka, founder of the Journal of Psychology and Judaism


    "Dr. Meier's wise and compassionate rendering of this ancient biblical tale provides us with a profound lesson in optimism."
    -Estelle Frankel, author of Sacred Therapy


    Rabbi Levi Meier is fond of saying that we are all on a journey, whether or not we know it. Of course, he is referring to life itself, and in his latest book, Meier illuminates that journey by looking at the compelling and sometimes tragic life of the biblical figure of Ruth. His book, "Second Chances: Transforming the Bitterness of Hope and the Story of Ruth," is at once a rich source of biblical scholarship and a guide designed to help readers deal with their own personal difficulties.

    The Book of Ruth, which will be read during the coming holiday of Shavuot, tells of Ruth, a Moabite princess, who marries the son of a wealthy Jew who had taken his family to Moab to avoid a devastating famine in Israel -- and, more importantly also to avoid sharing his wealth and food with fellow Jews in their time of need.

    Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, suffer a catastrophe when Ruth's husband, her husband's only brother and her father-in-law die precipitously. Naomi is left with two young childless daughters-in-law, neither of whom is Jewish.

    Naomi urges Ruth and Orpah, Ruth's sister-in-law, to remain in Moab, with Naomi returning to Israel to put the pieces of her life together. Orpah decides to leave Naomi, but in a stunning gesture, Ruth declares that she has decided to stay with Naomi. In an act of pure loving-kindness, she states, "Do not urge me to desert you, to turn away from you. For wherever you go, I shall go; wherever you rest, I will rest; your people are my people, and your God is my God."

    This is Ruth's classic statement of conversion, which is used to this very day when non-Jews convert to Judaism.

    As Meier points out, Ruth is not just taking on the form of Naomi's faith, she is becoming one with it. There is nothing tentative in her action. She is taking on the very journey of Abraham, the founder of Judaism, when God instructed him in Genesis 12:1, "lech lecha -- go forth from your land, your father's house, your birthplace to the land I will show you."

    The parallels between the two are stunning.

    Meier notes further, "Any person who would undertake such a difficult, dangerous and frightening journey requires special divine protection. That is what was promised to Abraham when he became the first convert."

    The relationship of Ruth and Naomi is full of compassion and kindness.

    "Even when Naomi is confronting her inner bitterness, she extends kindness to Ruth, and Ruth reciprocates in the same manner," Meier writes. "Kindness as a response to pain, suffering and tragedy is one of the overriding themes of the Book of Ruth." It is also one of the main themes of "Second Chances."

    Meier states that individual acts of kindness have repercussions well beyond themselves, as when Ruth accepts the generous offer of Boaz (whom she will later marry) to follow his harvesters and glean the grain that they leave behind.

    "She leaves some food uneaten, intending to take it home to share with Naomi," Meier writes. "In this way, Ruth takes advantage of an opportunity to repair the past -- she demonstrates how different she is from her selfish Moabite forebears, who wanted to sell bread and water to Israelites wandering through the desert."

    Ruth is ultimately rewarded for her great kindness by becoming the progenitor of King David, from whom the Bible states the Messiah will come.

    As a contemporary analyst of the Bible, Meier contributes the insightful perspective of his own experience as chief chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and as a clinical Jungian psychologist.

    His book is both an informative retelling of the story of Ruth and an ongoing extrapolation from it: Throughout his account, Meier will tell about an incident in Ruth's life and then relate it to common life problems.

    The way to transform bitterness and pain to hope, Meier writes, is through personal acts of generosity and kindness. The most important, and the hardest, are acts of kindness within one's own family.

    Some ideas in this profound book came to Meier while he was teaching a monthly Torah class to Hollywood writers. I was privileged to be among them; Rabbi Meier is a gifted teacher.

    "Second Chances," like his teaching, is full of readily applicable observations. Using anecdotes from his clinical and life experiences -- and relating them to the story of Ruth -- Rabbi Meier personalizes his insights, giving encouragement and strength to those readers who would make the most of their own second chances.
    -David Brandes
    The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles


    Deep feelings of depression and giving up hope are often part of the human experience. Second Chances explores strategies that serve as models for a more positive and optimistic life, transforming tragic circumstances into a force for healing. Drawing upon years as a clinical therapist and spiritual chaplain, Rabbi Levi Meier (author of the best-selling book, Ancient Secrets) paints a fresh approach to the Bible and draws relevancy and sage advice from an ancient text.

    Rabbi Levi Meier, Ph.D., is Jewish Chaplain of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He is a licensed clinical psychologist and a marriage, family and child therapist. He has authored numerous books on psychology and spirituality. His award-winning book, Ancient Secrets, was nominated as a finalist in the National Books for a Better Life Awards in the Spiritual category.
    -myjewishbooks.com


    We are fortunate to have in our midst a religious leader who can inspire by his writing and his advice, such a man is Rabbi Levi Meier, who is not only the Jewish Chaplain for Cedars Sinai Medical Center, a Jungian clinical psychologist and also an excellent writer. He has written two books that incorporate those talents.

    The first book, we talked about is " Second Chances: Transforming Bitterness to Hope and the Story of Ruth"(Urim $19.95). It is ironic that the most repeated words from the Old Testament which are spoken at weddings, was said to a mother-in-law by her daughter-in-law.

    Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, have left the famine in Bethlehem with their two sons for the land of Moab. The two sons marry gentile Moabit women. Elimelech and the two sons die. Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to return to their families.

    One does and the other, Ruth, says to Naomi, "Do not urge me to desert you, to turn away from you. For wherever you go,I shall go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge, your people are my people, and our God is my God". Thus the Book of Ruth is the story of conversion and a renewal of life.

    Naomi has lost her husband and sons, and yet she never loses her belief in Judaism and her living God. Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem where Ruth goes work with the poor gleaning in the fields of Boaz, a widower. Boaz advises Ruth to only work in his fields and he protects her. Meanwhile Naomi is advising Ruth what to do, wear and behave around him. Interspersed with his telling of the Bibical story, Rabbi Meier relates modern day cases to the elements in the story.

    In discussing the role of kindness, he comments about psychiatrists whom he knows who listens hourly to depressed patients with kindness but in their own homes have neither the interest nor time for their own families. Rabbi Meier addresses the lack of modesty in women's dress and behavior. Ruth has followed Naomi's advise and Boaz tells her "that he has ordered the lads not to disturb you" and that he recognizes in her a "true daughter of Abraham" which is how a convert is called. Boaz and Ruth marry, Naomi is the beloved grandmother of their children.

    It is interesting that Meier entitles his chapter 12 with the question, "Is Sexual Restraint Ever Possible Between A Man And a Woman?" and the next chapter questions what will happen in the morning. Ruth and Boaz have a son, Oved, who will become the father of Jesse, the father of King David. As Meier writes in this book, it is as modern as today's news. Relationships remain with the same elements as then, there are second chances and new rebirths which are life and soul restorers. As Rabbi Meier discusses the Book of Ruth, he uses it as a parable for our country's role in the world today.
    -Connie Martinson
    Talks Books Cable TV


    Rabbi Meier has written an inspirational book filled with anecdotes and stories that turn seemingly hopeless situations into opportunities for growth and fulfillment. He provides examples of loss and bitterness from the compelling story of Ruth and Naomi, and helps us understand, deal with, adjust to, and react to loss, loneliness, and sexuality.

    Rabbi Meir summarizes each chapter of the Book of Ruth clearly and succinctly. He offers insights about human behavior from the narrative of Ruth and from the modem world. He draws material from the headlines, his therapeutic practice, and his experience as a chaplain at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. It is clear that his experience informs the healthy perspective offered in the book. This book follows on the heels of his endearing collection of inspirational work in Seven Heavens: Inspirational Stories to Elevate Your Soul (Devorah, 2002). Both are good selections for adult collections that offer inspirational literature, self-help titles, and modern commentary on biblical literature.
    -Abigail Yasgur
    AJL Newsletter


    This slender, enchanting book by Rabbi Levi Meier retells the story from the Book of Ruth, and shows how its lessons can be applied to living a joyful and compassionate life today. Although the Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot, the festival commermorating the acceptance of the Torha at Mount Sinai, many of the lessons found inside this passionate story speak to chessed (lovingkindness).

    Rabbi Meier examines the story of Ruth and applies its principles using anecdotes from clients he has encountered in his role as a rabbi and a clinical psychologist. By looking at who we are within the context of this most inspiring biblical story, our own attitudes can change, and new patterns of thought and behavior can emerge, enabling us to lead richer and more meaningful lives. By changing to achieve these ends, we are given what Rabbi Meier describes as second chances.

    Well-crafted and accessible, Second Chances offers deep spiritual insight combined with practical wisdom. This is a book that will be appreciated by anyone interested in individual change as it relates to the principles of the Torah.
    -Barbara S. Cohen
    Jewish Book World


    Rabbi Levi Meier, the Jewish Chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and a clinical psychologist, uses his extraordinary insights to explore the Book of Ruth in an attempt to understand the enigmatic world in which we live. Ruth and Boaz met and ultimately changed the course of history since it is from their progeny that King David was born, and it is from King David's line that the Messiah is destined to come.

    From the Book of Ruth we learn how to cope with human suffering, to understand the basic nature of man and woman and their relationship to each other, and why the Messiah will be the product of a ancestry that involved incest and sexual deception. Through this book Rabbi Meier shows us how to overcome our past traumas to tap into a reservoir of hope and reassurance in our future. As with his other works, this is an important contribution to Jew and Gentile alike
    -Alex Grobman, Lifestyles Magazine


    Deep feelings of depression and giving up hope are often part of the human experience. Drawing upon his years as a clinical therapist and spiritual chaplain, Rabbi Meier explores strategies that serve as models for a more positive and optimistic life, transforming tragic circumstances into a force for healing.
    -Rabbi Yitzchak Rosenbaum and Janice N. Klein
    The NY Jewish Week