Rabbi Steve Leder on Overcoming Loss: “Death Is the Great Teacher”
By LA Stories Staff Los Angeles
PUBLISHED 10:02 AM ET Jan. 25, 2021
As the Senior Rabbi at the historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Koreatown, Rabbi Steve Leder has had a front row seat to hundreds of deaths.
He has spent years offering comfort to those who are dying and to families who have lost loved ones. Even with all the intimate involvement he’s had with death, and as comfortable as he is around it — nothing prepared him for the loss of his own father. The experience taught him to look inward and reconcile with the painful loss.
“I used to say to people when they were grieving, ‘It won’t always hurt this much,'” said Leder. “After burying my father, I don’t say that to people anymore because it’s not true. What I now say to people is: ‘It won’t always hurt so often.'”
On this episode of LA Stories with Giselle Fernandez, Leder discusses his latest book The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fears Can Be Life’s Greatest Gifts.
In it, he shares what he has learned both as a rabbi, administering to the dying, and as a son, grieving the loss of his dad. He offers powerful, unique insights on dealing with death and loss from both perspectives. Through raw and personal stories, Leder delivers a message of hope and healing.
“We tend, as human beings, to focus on the missing piece and we miss the greater whole,” he said. “We tend to think so much about what we didn’t get done and not enough about what we did get done. It’s hard to be grateful if you’re always looking at what’s missing.”
Leder explained to Fernandez that death taught him about life and love as well, and the importance of living your best life while you can. He emphasized the need to express love while you still have the time — and to live life to its fullest because we do not get a repeat.
“I don’t think there’s anything more important than really holding each other and really loving each other,” he said. “I think it is the most sacred thing human beings are capable of. To live and to express love is ultimately what death comes to teach us and, wow, what else is there really?”