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Life, Death & The Space Between

Aug 11, 2022

Questions For When You Are Gone with Rabbi Steve Leder



“If you are afraid of dying it’s not your day. Anxiety is for the living. So if you are worried and anxious about dying, you’re not dying, which means you have time to let death teach you about living and loving your life.” – Rabbi Steve Leder


“Most people die exactly the way they live.” – Rabbi Steve Leder


“The meaning of life is that it stops.” German author Franz Kafka (1883-1924)




Episode Summary:


What can death teach you about how to live your life?


Today we talk with Rabbi Steve Leder, currently serving as the Senior Rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, a prestigious synagogue in Los Angeles with three campuses and 2,700 families.  


He has been a regular contributor and guest on the Today Show, writes regularly for TIME,, Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, contributed a chapter to “Charles Barkley’s book Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man?’, and has published essays in Town and Country, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today.  Newsweek Magazine twice named him one of the ten most influential rabbis in America.


Most important to Steve is being Betsy’s husband and Aaron and Hannah’s dad.  He is also a Jew who likes to fish.  Go figure.


After undergraduate study at Northwestern University and Trinity College, Oxford University, Rabbi Leder received a Master’s Degree in Hebrew Letters in 1986 and Rabbinical Ordination in 1987 from Hebrew Union College. 


  • His book “More Beautiful Than Before; How Suffering Transforms Us, published in 2017, reached #4 on Amazon’s overall best sellers list in its first week.  It remains a best seller in several categories and has been translated into Korean and Chinese. 


  • His book The Beauty of What Remains; How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift” was published by Penguin Random House in January, 2021.  Publisher’s weekly called it “…elegant and compassionate” and it quickly became a national best seller. 


  • Rabbi Leder’s newest book “For You When I Am Gone; Twelve Essential Questions to Tell a Life Story, also published by Penguin Random House, launches on June 7, 2022




Rabbi Leder has served literally thousands of people and their families around their deaths. Listen in to hear how death can be your most profound teacher.



Topics We Discuss:


  • [4:19] Steve Leder’s contrasting experiences of death through two lenses: first as Rabbi Steve Leder, and secondly as a son whose father died.


  • [7:30] The dichotomies or dualities that permeate life.


  • [12:05]  The tremendous internal conflict working around a woman with ALS at the end days of her life who was ready to die.


  • [20:57] Rabbi Leder observes the actively dying are not afraid, in a place of acceptance, and at peace.


  • [27:27] How answering Rabbi’s 12 questions in his book “For You When I Am Gone; Twelve Essential Questions to Tell a Life Story” will help you align with your truth. Instead of leaving your loved ones a dry document in legalese.


  • [34:31] Why Rabbi Leder says, “Most people die exactly the way they live”.


  • [41:50] Learning via the negative. Death as a teacher.


  • [46:32] The pursuit of happiness. Sacrifice as a means of drawing closer to god, and drawing loved ones closer. Finding moments that connect us to the divine. In giving we receive.


  • [5405] What Rabbi Leder believes what happens when we die.





Rabbi Leder’s books are available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.


Find him on Instagram.


Or at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles.





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