Don’t Wait to Live (Rabbi Steve Leder)


Manage episode 331763453 series 3337184
By Elise Loehnen and Cadence13 and Elise Loehnen. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

“There are 12 questions that enable every person who's willing to, to answer them, to reevaluate their life and their legacy. Because what I have found, um, with my father's death is I miss not a single material thing about my father. I mean, I have his hat on the shelf behind me and I have a couple of his old tools, but that's it, what I really cherish the inheritance, I really cherish are the values, the laughter, the music, the food, my love of nature. That's his legacy, his powerful bullshit meter, his powerful, moral compass, his love of peoplehood. And that's what we wanna be sure we bequeath to our loved ones when we're gone. But it's more than just a bequest because when you ask yourself questions, like what is love? What makes me happy? What has been my greatest failure? What do I regret? What do I want my epitaph to be? What would I say at my own funeral as a final blessing to my loved ones? These are the kinds of questions that enable us to ask whether or not we are living the life we say, we believe in and the life we say matters,” so says Steve Leder, senior rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles and best-selling author of five books. In our conversation today, we talk about death and the creation of ethical wills, the subject of Rabbi Leder’s most recent book, For You When I Am Gone: Twelve Essential Questions to Tell a Life Story. The book, born of his experience helping thousands of people navigate loss, is a guide to writing a meaningful letter about your life - a so-called ethical will. Things are not our legacy, the rabbi tells us; and our estate plan will not nourish our loved ones, but our words and our stories have the power to provide something lasting and meaningful for generations to come. Rabbi Leder pushes us to examine our lives - our joys, our regrets, our successes and our failures - and to present those stories, brokenness and all, to those we love. Doing so, he says, will not only hold our loved ones when we are gone, but can serve to redirect us now as it forces us to examine the alignment between our professed values and the way in which we are actually living. His major takeaway? Don’t wait. Our bodies may disintegrate, but our lives are defined by our stories and we have the ability to create, and leave behind, worlds of meaning with our words.


  • Death, the most natural thing in the world…
  • More than corporeal beings…
  • Creating an ethical will…
  • Through brokenness, wholeness…


For You When I Am Gone: Twelve Essential Questions to Tell a Life Story

Additional Books by Rabbi Leder

Follow Steve on Instagram and Twitter

To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit:

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

57 episodes