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Book More Beautiful Than Before

Posted at February 23rd, 2023 | Categorised in Make Him Love

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Steve Leder, Senior Rabbi of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, one of the largest (if not the largest) Jewish congregation in the United States, has written a new book, “The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift” ( Avery Books) ), which is about death and how acknowledging and facing our own mortality can make for a richer life.

Book More Beautiful Than Before

With this book, Leder continues his journey of writing about the beauty and spiritual dimension of the most mundane human experiences. From his first book, The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things, to books about money (More Money Than God), suffering (More Beautiful than Before) and now death, Leder’s mission is, commendably, to it lights up our lives with “more”—more dimensions, more appreciation, more gratitude, more reverence for every part of our lives that happens outside of a house of worship. And to do this for people of all faiths or no faith.

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Leder has officiated at more than 1,000 funerals, and “The Beauty of What Remains” has plenty of practical advice for offering comfort to those with family members facing illness and death (“Don’t waste the rest of the person’s life beloved worrying about him. or her death”) or about coping with loss. Leder offers tips on funerals, eulogies, advice for the bereaved and how to comfort the bereaved, all the material possessions accumulated during life that no one wants when we’re gone, and even some thoughts on the afterlife. Leder’s anecdotes are real (even when the names have been changed), pragmatic and practical.

Leder quotes from the Sages – by which I mean Warren Zevon, to “enjoy every sandwich” and from more traditional sources as well as from the congregations themselves.

However, this book differs from Leder’s previous works in substantial ways. It’s much more personal: it’s about his own father’s death after more than ten years of Alzheimer’s, and more than any of his other books, it’s about Leder himself.

In a way, this book could be called “The Humbling” because, along with Leder sharing what he’s learned from counseling congregants and family members in his office, their homes, and their hospital rooms, the book is also an apology. As Leder states from the beginning, until his father’s death, he comforted people in ways he saw fit, but that once he cried, he realized, saying, “I was full of shit.”

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Leder breaks down death to its essential truth: “Death is, after all, one of the two common denominators of all human beings. Birth and death. None of us make history when we die, and in many ways all our deaths are the same. I understand that now too,” writes Leder

Perhaps it is just a coincidence that Leder’s father died shortly before Yom Kippur, and that as a result Leder had to miss office services to attend his father’s funeral. However, it is no coincidence that this book emerged from a Yom Kippur sermon.

Yom Kippur, the day of Judgment, is the Holy Day in the Jewish calendar where Jews are called to review the actions of our year and ask for forgiveness so that they may be written in the Book of Life for another year. It is a day of serious confessions and apologies. In the ancient tradition, there was even a time when the High Priest prostrated himself so far before God that he needed to be lifted up to rise again.

“The beauty of what remains” is Leder’s confession, his own act of exposure and self-humiliation. In the anecdotes he tells, he admits that when it comes to death and grief, he sometimes tells congregants what they want to hear, or that what they’re feeling is normal. Sometimes he tells congregants to do an “Academy Winner” before they die to let them know you’ll be fine after they’re gone (even if you know you won’t be) and the importance of just “being gone.” ” He constantly reminds us that almost every near-death person he’s met has told him they’re not afraid (which isn’t the same as saying they don’t prefer to live on). And he even admits there are limits. , or a boundary, between Steve Leder, the rabbi, and Steve Leder the person, who sometimes see things differently.

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In a particularly poignant chapter, Leder talks about a congregant dying of a particularly debilitating disease, ALS, who complied with all of California’s elaborate regulations to be allowed to end his life. At the point where death is hours or weeks away, she signals to her husband that she is ready. However, she asks Leder to come and tell her that it is okay for her to take the drugs that will end her life. Leder knows that as a rabbi and under Jewish Law this is forbidden. So she tells us what she did: she went to her bedside not as Rabbi Steve Leder, but as Steve Leder, her friend of many years. He told her as a friend, not her rabbi, that it was right to do what was human. This is a confession for a rabbi.

At this time, I want to share with you that Steve Leder is my rabbi and that, like many, many, others who know him, I feel that he is as much my friend as he is part of my extended family. And I know that even though Steve Leder would never say it, he has a lot to be proud of as a rabbi.

Rabbi Leder oversaw the growth of his congregation, the Temple’s summer camps, preschool and Hebrew day school, the renovation of its main sanctuary in 1929, and its unique Warner Murals, the establishment on that campus of the Karsh social center that distributes. meals, medical care, dental care and legal advice in what is the most diverse community in Los Angeles, the construction on the same campus of an event center designed by Rem Koolhaus, as well as the recent merger with the University Synagogue – giving the Temple a third. campus.

To accomplish all this, Steve Leder raised more money than any rabbi in America (perhaps in history). This is his fourth book and he appears regularly on the Today Show and is a frequent guest on the Madeleine Brand Press Show on our local NPR station KCRW. For this book, early praise comes from bold names like Maria Shriver, Aaron Sorkin, Hoda Kotb, Jenna Bush Hager, the Reverend Michael B. Curry of the Episcopal Church, and Mallika Chopra.

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I point this out because, like a Yom Kippur rabbi in “The Beauty of What Remains,” when his father died, Leder was humbled. It was no longer Rabbi Leder, but Steve Leder, the son. Leder remembers his father’s stubbornness, savings and hard work, and how Leder himself was put to work from a young age to clean toilets and floors. In all of this, Leder strips away any power, privilege, or success we imagine he enjoys. As the rabbi of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, he may have accomplished much, but death is the highest level, and as a filly, Leder admits he had much to learn.

And yet, like the resurrected rabbi on Yom Kippur, it is Leder’s gift to see the Dickensian aspects of his upbringing as paying off, a fierce work ethic that has served him well in all that he has accomplished as a rabbi. Leder. He recalls his father’s favorite Yiddish saying that “A little is a lot” (

In “The Beauty of What Remains” Leder refers to the anecdote usually attributed to Rodin, who takes a block of marble and cuts away what is useless to reveal the beauty that was always there. And that’s exactly what Leder does with this book, check it out – about how he thought about comforting congregants before he was in mourning himself, in family members’ expectations of reconciliation before death, in the body itself prepared for a funeral, for the service itself and the unveiling, a year later, of the tombstone; while revealing the veins running through the block of marble that forms his own life: his father’s life and illness, Leder’s love for his wife and children, and his own ethical will.

He wouldn’t think to call a book about death “sweet”. But it’s true of “The Beauty of What Remains.” There is a sweetness to Leder’s account of his father’s love of food and Yiddishisms; and in Leder’s love of a good joke. The message of Leder’s book is simple: After death, what remains is Life. Knowing our own inevitable mortality can lead us to a fuller life. Death reminds us to take

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