When times get really tough, the internal fortitude you need in the face of hardship sometimes becomes little more than stubbornness — a flat-out refusal to surrender. — Charles Sherman

The Broken and the Whole

Discovering Joy After Heartbreak

Lessons from a Life of Faith

by Charles Sherman


Now in Paperback

A wise, uplifting memoir, about a rabbi’s search for joy and understanding after his young son suffered a brainstem stroke that left him quadriplegic and dependent on a ventilator for each breath.

As a young, ambitious rabbi at one of New York’s largest synagogues, Charles Sherman had high hopes for what his future would hold—a happy and healthy family and, professional success.  Then, early one morning in 1986, everything changed. His son Eyal spiked a fever and was soon in serious respiratory distress. Doctors discovered a lesion on the four-year-old’s brain stem. Following high-risk surgery, Eyal suffered a catastrophic stroke.  Sherman and his wife learned that their son would never walk, talk, feed himself, or breathe on his own again—yet his mind was entirely intact. He was still the curious, intelligent boy they had always loved.

Now, almost thirty years after his son took sick, Sherman reflects on his journey to find joy after heartbreak. In his first book, The Broken and the Whole, he uses his personal experience to ponder questions many of us face. What does the refusal to abandon faith truly look like?  To what lengths should parents go to protect their children? What does it mean to laugh after periods of long sadness? Is it possible to experience joy after heartbreak?

With deep insight, refreshing honesty, humor and intelligence, Rabbi Charles Sherman looks back on his life and describes his struggle to address and ultimately answer these questions.  In the vein of inspirational bestsellers like Tuesdays With Morrie, The Last Lecture and When Bad Things Happen to Good People, The Broken and the Whole is an affecting meditation on rebuilding your life when everything you’ve known has been shattered to pieces.

KIRKUS STAR“Deeply moving, extraordinarily thought-provoking, and entirely humane.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review


pw star“This straightforward story of triumph and tragedy will tug at the hearts of its readers…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.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review


Rabbi Sherman’s book benefits tremendously from its long-term perspective. His reflections are all the richer for the contemplation that has clearly happened over time…this book is an example of sometimes hard won humility and faith that speaks to the human experience of struggling to accept life circumstances that are not necessarily of our choosing.”
Jewish Book Council

This is truly an unforgettable and amazing story–heart wrenching, inspiring, and ultimately reassuring. There’s no denying the searing pain of heartbreak, but also no denying the strength of the human spirit to carry on. I can’t imagine a person that this wonderful book won’t touch. I loved reading every page.”
Wolf Blitzer , CNN anchor

The reader will come away with admiration for the courage of a young boy and for the boundless dedication of his devoted family. A deeply moving book.”
Harold S. Kushner , author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

For anyone who has ever asked ‘How can I possibly survive this?’ Rabbi Charles Sherman has written The Broken and the Whole, a compelling and compassionate response. This heartfelt and honest memoir of life with his severely disabled son, Eyal, is a soaring poem of hope that gently leads the reader to a place of renewed joy – no matter how impossible or painful the circumstances.”
Kay Warren , Saddleback Church

It is impossible to understand the pain a parent feels when tragedy strikes their child. Rabbi Sherman has lived through that. By writing “The Broken and the Whole,” he has shared with others a game plan for not only overcoming misfortune but learning from it. We all can benefit from his story.”
Jim Boeheim , Syracuse University Basketball Coach, Member, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2005)

A work redolent with the wisdom and the joy wrung from pain. Eyal and his family deepen our understanding of what it means to love.”
Rabbi David Wolpe , Sinai Temple, Los Angeles, and author of Why Faith Matters

Charles Sherman’s book on loss touches the heart. It validates the deep emotional price we all pay when faced with serious challenges. In the process, Rabbi Sherman softly helps the reader to turn loss into something positive; gently, ever so gently, one is able to learn from the hurt of the past while moving forward to a new day. He does all this with a sense of gentility, sensitivity and an awareness of God’s role in making all this possible. It is beautiful reading.”
Rabbi Avi Weiss , Senior Rabbi of Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat, Co-Founder of the International Rabbinic Fellowship

Charles Sherman’s odyssey with his son, Eyal, who suffered a catastrophic brain stem stroke, is a masterful portrayal of a family with courage, fortitude and eternal hope against all odds. The way Rabbi Sherman weaves his tale with personal stories, undefended honesty about his own personal growth, and much more is a truly enriching read. Have a tissue (or a box of tissues) with you – because you will laugh, cry and jump for joy at different parts of this remarkable book. It will open your heart and stretch your soul.”
Dov Peretz Elkins , co-editor, Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul

With enormous poignancy and insight, Rabbi Sherman helps us all to confront life’s most challenging questions by letting us into his personal journey and demonstrating the strength of the human spirit.”
Marc Platt , Producer of the Broadway musical “Wicked” and the films “Rachel Getting Married” and “Empire Falls”

This is a true story in every sense of the word. The Broken and the Whole is a story of devotion, of courage, of love, and of faith. Ultimately, it is the story of a father and mother who look tragedy square in the face, and triumph. My mother always told me, ‘If all of our troubles were hung on a line, you would take yours and I would take mine.’ Rabbi Charles and Leah Sherman have taken their troubles and transformed them in a way that speaks to all people of all faiths. They faced the ultimate challenge of a parent: saving their child but sacrificing much of their own lives. Through it all, they grew in love and in God’s light. You will come away from this book inspired to be a better person.”
Beth A. Broadway , Executive Director, Interfaith Works of Central New York

With self-awareness and profundity, Rabbi Sherman teaches us invaluable lessons about the fragile and beautiful nature of our lives. Through his eyes we see gain and loss, tragedy and triumph, frustration and hope not only in the abstract, but with the deep appreciation of one who understands the messiness of reality. This story of courage and faith shows that we must embrace the whole human in order to fully unlock our own sense of compassion, and serves as a reminder of the importance of holding on to faith and lovingkindness throughout all ups and downs.”
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld , Executive Vice President, The Rabbinical Assembly