Rabbi’s book helps people who’ve suffered great tragedy to live with ‘broken pieces’

Rabbi Charles S. Sherman, author of ‘The Broken and The Whole, Discovering Joy After Heartbreak: Lessons from a Life of Faith.’
Rabbi Charles S. Sherman, author of ‘The Broken and The Whole, Discovering Joy After Heartbreak: Lessons from a Life of Faith.’

A common misconception people face is that it’s impossible to live a peaceful and healthy life after suffering great tragedy.

“What you have to learn is how to live with the broken pieces,” said Rabbi Charles S. Sherman of Syracuse, New York, who has written of his own struggle with tragedy, when 28 years ago his son, Eyal, 4, suffered a near-fatal brainstem stroke.

“He was in a coma for many months at New York University Hospital,” Sherman said. “Although he emerged from the coma, his body was terribly broken and compromised, quadriplegic, and vent dependent. His vocal chords were frozen, having no movement. Nevertheless, Eyal still maintained the most powerful gift any human can have: a healthy mind. He was still the curious, intelligent boy his parents had always loved.”

On Tuesday, Sherman will be at Books & Books in Coral Gables to discuss his new book about coping with tragedy, The Broken and the Whole, Discovering Joy after Heartbreak: Lessons from a Life of Faith. The event, part of a Florida tour that includes Boca Raton, Margate, Boynton Beach, and Palm Beach, will be live-streamed online.

For Sherman, Eyal’s stroke made him realize there is still underlying hope and joy to be felt despite tragedy. The blessing that came from his son’s illness helped Sherman find a new philosophy on life: You don’t overcome pain, you live with it.

Sherman, longtime spiritual advisor at Temple Adath Yeshurun, Central New York’s largest synagogue, has won praise for The Broken and the Whole.

“This straightforward story of triumph and tragedy will tug at the hearts of its readers,” writes Publisher’s Weekly. “Eyal’s astonishing story and its impact on his family is heart-warming. Connecting incidents from life to sources in Jewish theology, Sherman inspirationally sets forth how to survive in the face of calamity, making this a memorable statement.”

Sherman, who grew up in Philadelphia, wrote the book for self-reflection. He found himself inspired not just by his own life experiences, but by others around him.

The rabbi says he wanted to channel the emotions of people who have experienced tragedy, and who then questioned their faith and happiness.

In South Florida, grief-stricken family members and friends can seek help at places such as Miami Counseling and Resource Center.

Since 1977, the center has offered full-service, multi-disciplinary counseling for anyone who needs help coping with major illness or personal loss.

The center includes a staff of 15 clinicians, licensed professional counselors and social workers, psychiatrists, nutritionists and marriage and family therapists.

“Everyone wants to get better,” said program director Dr. David Sandrow. “And sometimes it takes time, but we do what we can.”

If you go

What: Rabbi Charles S. Sherman talks about his new book, ‘The Broken and the Whole.’

Where: Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Cost: Free