Rabbi Steve Leder - CBS This Morning

A thought-provoking new book explores the idea that the painful aspects of life also bring healing and wisdom. Rabbi Steve Leder, author of "More Beautiful Than Before: How Suffering Transforms Us," serves as senior rabbi at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the oldest synagogue in Southern California.

Leder joined "CBS This Morning" to discuss his book, the power of suffering and the healing nature of apologies.

"In a way, I think we're all only truly whole after we've been broken somehow, because there's a depth of empathy and wisdom and kindness that only comes from having suffered some form of physical or emotional pain," he said. "It's only pain that forces us to change."

Leder, who underwent his own transformation after suffering a painful accident, focuses much of his book not on the suffering itself, but on how to come through it and grow. 

"We all walk through hell," he said. "You don't have to come out of hell empty-handed."

Leder also discussed how difficult many people find it to say "I'm sorry." He contends that what's even more difficult — and more effective — is to admit they were wrong.  

"'I was wrong.' That is a much higher degree of ownership, of culpability, responsibility for our mistakes," he said. "It takes the sting out. Makes healing and reconciliation possible. But to say 'I was wrong' requires a degree of humility that few people achieve without having suffered some kind of debilitating emotional or physical pain."

While suffering may be the key to meaningful growth, Leder cautioned against going it alone.  

"None of us can free ourselves," he said. "If you reach out to people, you will be pleasantly surprised. They will help. People want to help."

As for the people who don't want to help?

"The people who mind, don't really matter," he said. "Suffering does strip away a lot of nonsense from our lives."

The rabbi believes that acknowledging the suffering of others is important, too.

"Yes, I think if we're too comfortable it means we're doing something wrong. It also means if we're comfortable, to a certain degree, it means we're also turning a blind eye to the suffering of others," he said.

"We have to be open to the suffering of others." 

Founded in 1862 as Congregation B’nai B’rith, Wilshire Boulevard Temple is one of the most highly respected Reform congregations in the U.S. and the oldest congregation in Los Angeles. The temple building, built in 1929 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, features a majestic domed, Byzantine-style sanctuary encircled by a 320-foot mural depicting scenes of Biblical and Jewish history. The recent restoration of the temple building is the subject of the award winning documentary, "Restoring Tomorrow", and features Senior Rabbi Steven Leder as he shares the history and present temple, and its many outreaches to the communities in LA that they serve.  Rabbi Steven Z. Leder is the Senior Rabbi and Pritzker Chair of Senior Rabbinics. With a cum laude degree in writing from Northwestern University, study at Trinity College, Oxford, and his Masters in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College, RabbiLeder was ordained in 1987. He is the author of 3 books, numerous essays, and Torah commentaries. He is a fellow in the British-American Project, a think tank that brings together leaders from America and Great Britain, and earned the American Jewish Press Association’s Louis Rapoport Award for Excellence in Commentary.