Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things
The first book by the author of the bestselling More Beautiful Than Before and The Beauty of What Remains.
With a new foreword by the publisher and a reflection by the now bestselling author looking back twenty years at his first book, The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things is back to make us laugh and cry and notice the small things in our lives that are actually remarkable insights.
“Revisiting these essays is . . . a reminder of who I was, still am, and always will be, and also how I have grown. For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in the ways the most particular and smallest experiences reveal the most universal truths. Much like how identifying the tiniest of particles that make up all of matter can paradoxically allow us to see what is most common to all that exists. The daily then and now of our lives are precious gifts, and the future, the most precious of all. ...So much will change. So little will change. Such is the world. Such is life. And it is all extraordinary.” - Steve Leder
From the publisher:
In the fall of 1998, my phone rang. It was Steve Leder calling from the car on his way to the airport after addressing a Hadassah chapter in Washington State. An audience of four hundred, he reported, “They were in tears.”
We were in the midst of preparing his first book for the printer. It was one of the early signs that even outside of the familiar walls of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, where Steve was then associate rabbi and is now the senior rabbi, he could move people, bringing them to laughter, to tears, and to moments of profound introspection, all with the power of a simple story.
Today his gift is not surprise to anyone. Steve has appeared regularly on the Today Show, on cable news, podcasts, radio, and in newspapers throughout the country. He has now written five books. In the meantime, his congregation continues to grow—its spiritual and physical footprint expanding into new Los Angeles neighborhoods. No wonder Newsweek magazine twice named him one of the ten most influential rabbis in America.
But that outcome—his reach and influence—wasn’t predestined, which is why it’s illuminating to revisit these reflections of the young Rabbi Leder. He tells stories of the unfinished business lurking in the background of our lives—the emotional weight we bear from conversations each of us yearns to have with family and friends but too often avoid. We read of lives and opportunities for love taken away too soon—relationships cut short without a chance for healing and deeper love. There is Steve at the birth of a baby and at the bedside of the dying. There are poignant insight gleaned from his nephew’s pet frog, his father’s steel-toed work boots, a fishing expedition, and elderly couple in a Texas kitchen, and laughter about that same small town where he was introduced during his student pulpit days as “Rabbi Leder, the pastor of the Hebrew church.” There are moments of deep reflection, sometimes joyous and sometimes sad. All these things become memorable vignettes that lead us forward on the path to a more beautiful and meaningful life.
We see ourselves in these stories. They make us laugh, and yes, they make us cry. They help us see our own lives from a new perspective; sometimes we observe our best selves and sometimes less than our best, and in that way, they make us just a little bit wiser. And if, as Steve likes to say, “nothing much is more than enough,” then this collection of his early wisdom about the extraordinary nature of ordinary things is immeasurably so.
Through vignettes at times funny and poignant, Rabbi Leder points out those easily overlooked connections between everyday experiences and the teachings of Judaism. God and spirituality can be found in every aspect of our daily routines. Ordinary things--a pet frog, a weekend fishing trip, a roller coaster ride--become extraordinary when re-examined through Jewish eyes.
Woven throughout Rabbi Leder's essays are midrashic texts, talmudic excerpts, and passages from the Torah, reflecting thousands of years of Jewish wisdom. Whether recalling a memorable walk along the beach with Dad, teaching a child the commandment of tzedakah, or stepping into the shoes of an anxious father-to-be as he paces the halls of the maternity ward, these stories reveal Judaism's power to illuminate our lives.