23 minutes | Jan 14th 2021

S1E118 - Dr. Elana Stein Hain on Jeremiah 28 – “Leadership with a Message of Agency”

Mark is delighted to welcome Dr. Elana Stein Hain to the podcast today. In addition to her role as the Director of Faculty at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, Elana also co-leads the Created Equal research team, and is a widely well-regarded teacher and scholar. She has served for eight years as a clergy member on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, at both Lincoln Square Synagogue and the Jewish Center, and has taught at the Wagner School at NYU. The passage she has chosen to discuss with Mark today is Jeremiah 28.

Elana begins by reviewing her doctoral dissertation on legal loopholes in rabbinic law, exploring examples of both the letter and spirit of the law, and then summarizing today’s passage and its significance for her. She and Mark discuss the differing models of leadership demonstrated within the passage and how these models are evident in America today, the complexities and demands of religion, the tendency among some to gravitate toward ‘cheap grace’, and the difference between the prophetic and the rabbinic. As with all episodes, our guest draws it to a close by sharing the lessons she has learned about humankind. From start to finish, the conversation here today is filled with fascinating ideas with very real implications in modern society, a function of the eternal guidance of this remarkable text.

Episode Highlights:

· Elana’s dissertation on legal loopholes in rabbinic law · Selling chametz before Passover · Elena’s summary of the passage and its significance for her · Leadership and the message of agency · Morality and politics in America today · The complexities and demands of religion · Gravitating toward ‘cheap grace’ · The difference between prophetic and rabbinic · The lessons about humankind that Elana has learned


“Some of my religious life was constructed around loopholes.”

“You can actually sometimes use the letter of the law in order to fulfill the spirit of the law.”

“You actually have to work on your relationship with God, you have to work on your relationship with people.”

“Everybody is going to want to listen to the guy who gives the easy version.”

“He actually wants the people to get it right.”

“There’s going to be nothing easy about this.” “They turn it into politics when it’s really about morality, and that, I think, happens all the time.” “I always wonder, as an educator, whether we sell religion short by not talking about its complexities, by not talking about its demands.”

“Are we created in God’s image or is God created in our image?”

“We can justify anything.”

“It’s really seeing something much bigger than oneself. We’re not the center of the story.”

“So many people think that they’re the only one.”

“You get to be there for a person and they know they’re not going to be judged.”

“Your problem becomes your security blanket.”

Jeremiah 28 That year, early in the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, who was from Gibeon, spoke to me in the House of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and all the people. He said: “Thus said the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel: I hereby break the yoke of the king of Babylon. In two years, I will restore to this place all the vessels of the House of the LORD which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took from this place and brought to Babylon. And I will bring back to this place King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, and all the Judean exiles who went to Babylon—declares the LORD. Yes, I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.” Then the prophet Jeremiah answered the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and of all the people who were standing in the House of the LORD. The prophet Jeremiah said: “Amen! May the LORD do so! May the LORD fulfill what you have prophesied and bring back from Babylon to this place the vessels of the House of the LORD and all the exiles! But just listen to this word which I address to you and to all the people: The prophets who lived before you and me from ancient times prophesied war, disaster, and pestilence against many lands and great kingdoms. So if a prophet prophesies good fortune, then only when the word of the prophet comes true can it be known that the LORD really sent him.” But the prophet Hananiah removed the bar from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, and broke it; and Hananiah said in the presence of all the people, “Thus said the LORD: So will I break the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from off the necks of all the nations, in two years.” And the prophet Jeremiah went on his way. After the prophet Hananiah had broken the bar from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Go say to Hananiah: Thus said the LORD: You broke bars of wood, but you shall make bars of iron instead. For thus said the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel: I have put an iron yoke upon the necks of all those nations, that they may serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon—and serve him they shall! I have even given the wild beasts to him.” And the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah! The LORD did not send you, and you have given this people lying assurances. Assuredly, thus said the LORD: I am going to banish you from off the earth. This year you shall die, for you have urged disloyalty to the LORD.” And the prophet Hananiah died that year, in the seventh month. https://www.sefaria.org/Jeremiah.28.1-17?lang=bi


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