The Beauty of What Remains with Rabbi Steve Leder, Episode #80

Rabbi Steve Leder

Today’s guest on the Mitlin Money Mindset™ is Rabbi Steve Leder, the Senior Rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. As the Senior Rabbi, Steve Leder serves over 2,700 families that comprise this prestigious synagogue. In addition to his many duties at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Rabbi Leder is a regular guest on The Today Show, Time, The Los Angeles Times, and USA Today.

Rabbi Leder has written three successful books, “The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things,” “More Money Than God: Living a Rich Life without Losing Your Soul,” and “More Beautiful than Before: How Suffering Transforms.” We also have to recognize Steve Leder for being named by Newsweek Magazine not once—but twice—as one of the 10 Most Influential Rabbis in America. Listen in for some great takeaways about living a richer, deeper life, and how suffering can be transformative when approached with the right mindset.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in…

  • Rabbi Steve Leder shares his unique upbringing [3:08]
  • Becoming the Rabbi of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple [9:04]
  • The mindset necessary to lead a congregation of such magnitude [12:21]
  • How Rabbi Leder reacted when Newsweek named him an influential leader [15:44]
  • The backstory of Rabbi Leder’s book, “The Beauty of What Remains” [16:53]
  • How to ask for forgiveness for the mistakes that you’ve made [20:58]
  • Why it’s time to destigmatize and prioritize mental health [25:47]
  • Why suffering is a transformative experience [35:33]
  • What Rabbi Leder did today that put him in the right mindset for success [44:16]

Rabbi Leder’s unique upbringing in a suburb of Minneapolis

Rabbi Leder grew up desperately poor. Because of this, every creative pursuit was dismissed as frivolous. He was given the choice of going to law school and running Leder Brothers—the junkyard his dad and Uncle owned—or not going to law school and still running Leder Brothers. The only life pursuit where creativity was acceptable to his parents was the synagogue. It was a magical place where all of the things he loved mattered. It was where Rabbi Leder felt the magic in life—and why he fell in love with the profession.

So Rabbi Leder studied writing at Northwestern University because he had a talent for storytelling and wanted to hone it. He knew it would be useful as a Rabbi. When he told his dad he was going to rabbinical school, his response was “Rabbis are beggars—why would you do that?” He wasn’t thrilled with the choice. But Rabbi Leder knew it was what he was meant to do. Listen to hear how he became the Senior Rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles.

The mindset necessary to lead a congregation of such magnitude

Rabbi Leder believes you need to be willing to be the one to fail to succeed. Most Rabbis—and most people—want to be liked. They don’t want to be wrong and they certainly don’t want to fail.

Rabbi Leder states that “To lead, you have to be a really good storyteller. I don’t care what your business is. I don’t care if you’re in the junk business, if you’re an attorney, if you’re a politician, if you manufacture donut boxes—I don’t care what you do. You have to be able to tell your story in a compelling and accessible and powerful way.”

What else differentiates him from other Rabbis? Rabbi Leder has always looked outside of the synagogue and Jewish world for ideas. He doesn’t care what other synagogues do. Instead, he’s interested in what the presidents of universities are thinking about and doing. He’s interested in what patrons of the arts and symphonies are doing. He wants to know how sports franchises are handling their season ticket-holders.

Lastly, he emphasizes that you can’t be afraid of the power of “No.” If someone else is doing something and it’s off-mission, say no. Rabbi Leder has learned that behind every no is a yes. When you say no to something that’s off-mission, you’re saying yes to the time, energy, and resources necessary to do something aligned with your mission.

The backstory of Rabbi Leder’s book, “The Beauty of What Remains”

Rabbi Leder has been a rabbi for over 30 years and helped over a thousand families through the death of a loved one. He thought he was relatively good at it, too. On his 30th anniversary at the synagogue, he gave a sermon on the 10 things he’d learned about life by seeing people through loss and death. It was the culmination of three decades of experience. One year later—to the day—Steve lost his father to Alzheimer’s.

That’s when it hit him: he knew very little about loss. Rabbi Leder wrote, “The Beauty of What Remains” as an apology to the thousands of people he’d guided through grief. He felt like he had been telling half-truths for 30 years. Rabbi Leder notes that the book is ultimately about the dualities we all face, some of which are deep. If we can unearth them and make peace with them, it gives us a more beautiful and meaningful life.

Why suffering is a transformative experience

Rabbi Leder notes that suffering is never worth what we learn from it. But it’s not worthless. If you have to go through the worst life has to offer, you don’t have to come out empty-handed. You can take something from it. The question everyone must ponder is: Can you be worthy of the suffering you’ve endured?

Rabbi Leder believes that God places his words upon our hearts. It’s only when our hearts are broken that his words can enter our hearts. Suffering leads to empathy and gratitude for life itself. No matter how many times we hold the people we love or say “I love you,” it’s never enough. Recognizing that only comes from experiencing pain and loss. There’s no other way to grasp the depth of meaning and purpose in life. Pain is disruptive and enables us to make important changes. The only choice is to lead a life worthy of the suffering you’ve endured.

Rabbi Leder asks you to picture a marble statue that you can recall seeing in a museum. That statue began as a solid block of marble. The beauty was hiding within it. For that beauty to be revealed, a talented sculptor removed pieces chip by chip until that beautiful piece remained. That’s why Steve named his book, “The Beauty of What Remains.” It’s the stripping away of what isn’t important, isn’t beautiful, isn’t meaningful, and isn’t fulfilling. It leaves behind what is.

Listen to our whole conversation to hear Rabbi Leder share more about the power of forgiveness and why he chose to share his mental health struggles with his synagogue.

Connect with Rabbi Steve Leder


Steve Leder is the Senior Rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles and the author of such critically acclaimed books as “The Beauty of What Remains,” “The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things,” and “More Money Than God: Living a Rich Life without Losing Your Soul.” He is a graduate of Northwestern University; studied at Trinity College Oxford; and was ordained at Hebrew Union College. The winner of numerous awards for his interdenominational and cross-cultural dialogue, Leder has been a guest on CBS, ABC, NPR, PBS, and FOX and featured in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times among other places. He lives with his family in Los Angeles.

Guests on the Mitlin Money Mindset Show are not affiliated with CWM, LLC, and opinions expressed herein may not be representative of CWM, LLC. CWM, LLC is not responsible for the guest’s content linked on this site.

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