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Yovel (Jubilee) Years

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

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I. What is a yovel?. 1

II. When does the yovel year begin?. 4

III. Ownership. 6

IV. Time Periods. 8

V. How do we count for the yovel year?. 11

VI. The Omer as a Pointer to the yovel 13

A Novel Approach. 13

VII. When is the next yovel year?. 17

VIII. Torah requirements for the yovel year 20

IX. Questions. 25

X.  Yovel in the Mishneh Torah. 26

XI.  Selected Essays. 27

Menachem Leibtag. 27

Rav Reuven Taragin. 32

The Agricultural and Historical Significance. 34

Of Sefirat Ha-Omer 34

Mashiach and yovel 37

Yovel and Geula 37

Rabbi M.M. Schneerson. 38

The Rambam on Counting Yovel 40

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Every fifty years, after seven Sabbatical cycles of seven years, HaShem‘s people observe the yovel, or jubilee, year. At such a time, both the forty-ninth and fiftieth year are to be considered holy, and we are to abstain from working the land, free our slaves, and let the purchased properties revert back to their original tribal owners.

 

Yovel carries three meanings – “Ram’s horn“, “Jubilee” and “to be carried”. The time will come when we will be “yoveled”, carried off, to our eternal resting place; to HaShem.

 

When is the next jubilee year?

 

For those who would like to know when the last jubilee (yovel) year was, or when the next Jubilee year will be; please review the following chart:  yovel1. This charts shows what our sages have taught regarding the year of the jubilee.

 

Just like Shavuot comes on the fiftieth day of the Omer, and represents a departure from the natural world into the supernatural realm, so too does the yovel year signal an opportunity to rise above nature. The Encyclopedia Americana says:

 

“The [Jubilee] law as a whole was distinctly Theocratic; it vindicated the absolutism of YHVH; it meant that Hebrews were the servants of Him, and could not therefore continue to be the slaves of their fellowmen; the land belonged to Him, and was only lent to the Hebrew tribes and families, who could not therefore be driven out by any human arrangement.”

 

The yovel year is dependent upon the shmita, or Sabbatical, year. As such, you will see these two mitzvot linked throughout Torah. Both of these mitzvot are related to time, just as the Sabbath and festivals are related to time. Time is important to HaShem.

 

Today, without the Temple, the mitzva of the Sabbatical year and yovel cannot be observed the same way. Many farmers do observe the Sabbatical year, and have reported miraculous bumper crops in the sixth year, as promised by the Torah. To supplement the incomes of such brave farmers, additional funds have been established to ease the financial stress of keeping the Sabbatical year even in these times.

 

Now, let’s look at what the Torah says about the yovel.

 

I. What is a yovel?

 

The first mention of yovel in the Torah, and hence its creation, is in:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 19:10-13 And HaShem said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes And be ready by the third day, because on that day HaShem will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on him. Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live.’ Only when the yovel sounds a long blast may they go up to the mountain.”

 

Only when the yovel is drawn out may they go up the mountain... but, I thought yovel meant jubilee, what gives? Let’s answer this question by looking at Strong’s definition of this word:

 

3104 yowbel, yo-bale’; or yobel, yo-bale’; appar. from 2986; the blast of a horn (from its continuous sound); spec. the signal of the silver trumpets; hence the instrument itself and the festival thus introduced:-Jubile, ram’s horn, trumpet.

 

Strong’s suggests that a yovel is a shofar. Thus we were allowed to climb the mountain after the shofar sounded. We learn from this, that the yovel year gets its name from the sounding of the shofar. A ram’s horn is called a yovel. Yovel, as a ram’s horn, was also used in Joshua chapter six.

 

In only two cases is the blast of the shofar referred to in Hebrew as a yovel, literally ‘a jubilee’. These are during Moses’ paramount achievement (above Shemot 19:13), bringing the Torah down to Israel from Mt. Sinai and during Joshua’s famous achievement, the capture of Jericho:

 

Yehoshua (Joshua) 6:5 ... when they blow with the horn a yovel…

 

These two cases, Sinai[1] and Jericho,[2] provided liberty and freedom on a national level, just as it did in Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:10, (where the yovel is again blown) as we shall soon see.

 

Why does the Torah use singular verbs when discussing the Sabbatical year, but plural ones for yovel? The laws of yovel only apply when all the tribes are in the land of Israel. According to the Gemara:

 

Arachin 32b But did they count the years of release and Jubilees [after the return from Babylon]? If even after the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh went into exile, the Jubilees were abolished, should Nehemiah in connection with whom it is said: The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and three score,[3] have counted them? For it was taught: When the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh went into exile, the Jubilees were abolished as it is said: And ye shall proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,[4] i.e., [only] at the time when all the inhabitants thereof dwell upon it, but not at the time when some of them are exiled. One might have assumed that if they were there, but intermingled, the tribe of Benjamin with that of Judah and the tribe of Judah with that of Benjamin, that even the [laws of the] Jubilee should apply, therefore it is said: ‘unto all the inhabitants thereof’, which means, only at the time when its inhabitants are there as [where] they ought to be, but not when they are intermingled! — Said R. Nahman b. Isaac: They counted the Jubilees to keep the years of release holy.[5] That will be right in the view of the Rabbis who hold that the fiftieth year is not included,[6] but according to R. Judah who holds that the fiftieth year counts both ways,[7] why was that necessary [to count the Jubilees]? It would have been enough if the years of release alone had been counted! Hence [we must say], this is not in accord with the view of R. Judah.

 

Once Sancheriv, the Assyrian, exiled Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh, the laws of yovel no longer applied. Since yovel applies only when all the Jews are in the land of Israel, the Torah uses the plural. However, the Sabbatical year is observed even if there is only one Jew in the land of Israel. Thus, the Sabbatical year is discussed in the singular form.

 

There is a distinction between the plural “lachem” and the singular “lecha”. Regarding Sefirat HaOmer, the counting of the omer, the pasuk states “You shall count for yourselves”.[8] With regards to shmita and yovel, the pasuk states “you shall count for yourself”.[9] Chazal explain that the plural used in Sefirat HaOmer indicates that each and every individual is commanded to count, whereas the singular used when describing the counting towards the Sabbatical and Jubilee years means the mitzva is incumbent only on the Beit Din Gadol, the Sanhedrin, in Jerusalem.

 

The freedom proclaimed in the yovel year was primarily for the slaves. Why does the Torah say, for all its inhabitants?

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.

 

Yovel here is linked with liberty and the freedom to start over and move forward. Just as Sinai and Jericho provided that opportunity on a national level.

 

Though being sold into slavery is demeaning the Torah demands that the master treat his slave with great sensitivity and dignity. Thus, the Gemara says:

 

Kiddushin 22a Our Rabbis taught: ‘Because he is well with thee’: he must be with [i.e., equal to] thee in food and drink, that thou shouldst not eat white bread and he black bread, thou drink old wine and he new wine, thou sleep on a feather bed and he on straw. Hence it was said: Whoever buys a Hebrew slave is like buying a master for himself.

 

Consequently, in the Jubilee year, “all inhabitants,” both the slaves and the masters, enjoy a period of freedom.

 

It is worth noting that the Hebrew word ‘leolam – לְעֹלָם’ is also applied to the yovel. Olam is normally translated as ‘forever’. However that is not always its meaning as we learn from the Ramban:

 

Ramban’s Commentary for:

Shemot (Exodus) 21:6:

 

AND HE SHALL SERVE HIM ‘L’OLAM’ (FOREVER). Our Rabbis interpreted[10] this to mean until the jubilee year. And Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra wrote that “the meaning of olam in the Sacred Language is ‘time.’ It has been already, ‘l’olamim’ which were before us means ‘the times’ [or ‘the ages’] which were before us.[11] And there he may abide ‘ad olam’[12] [cannot mean ‘forever,’ for Samuel did not stay all his life in Shiloh; it must therefore mean ‘until a certain time,’ i.e., until he comes of age]. This is why the Rabbis have said, and he will serve him l’olam means up to the time of the jubilee year, for of all appointed seasons In Israel the jubilee year is the most remote, and the going out to freedom is as if the world was made anew for him. The sense of the verse is then, that he should return to his status in his first time, when he was free.” The student learned [in the mystic lore of the Cabala] will understand that l’olam is to be taken in its usual sense [i.e., forever], for he who works until the jubilee year has worked all the days of old.[13] In the words of the Mechilta:[14] “Rabbi[15] says: Come and see that olam cannot mean more than fifty years, for it is said and he will serve him ‘I’olam,’ which means until the jubilee year.” Now Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra forgot that which he wrote with understanding in another place.[16]

 

II. When does the yovel year begin?

 

The Torah commands, “You shall consecrate the fiftieth year.” How is this done? At the beginning of the year the Beit Din Gadol (Sanhedrin) declares, “This year is kadosh (sanctified).” Holiness without a land is a mere spiritual conception, figurative and unreal. Kedusha, holiness, is expressed in the physical. The supreme expression of kedusha in Israel is expressed in the agricultural mitzvot: firstfruits, tithes, fruit from newly planted trees, Sabbatical and yovel years, and challah, the portion of bread separated for the priests.

 

We may note here that, generally speaking, any manifestation of kedusha, holiness, brought about by a person, starts off with great force and then becomes gradually weaker. HaShem, who is able to direct reality towards a certain end, can create the opposite, a holiness which becomes increasingly stronger. (This is the difference between Shabbat and the pilgrimage festivals and between shmita and yovel [the Sabbatical and Jubilee years]. The physical parallel can be found in the area of speech. As man shouts his voice becomes weaker and weaker, whereas HaShem‘s voice grows steadily stronger, as we learn in the Torah’s description of the Sinai experience. In the same way, mourning which originates in man becomes less stringent as we move away from the day of tragedy whereas our mourning which reflects that of the Shechinah culminates at its peak, on the day of tragedy itself.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:8-22 “‘Count off seven Sabbaths of years--seven times seven years--so that the seven Sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. “‘In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property. “‘If you sell land to one of your countrymen or buy any from him, do not take advantage of each other. You are to buy from your countryman on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And he is to sell to you on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting crops. When the years are many, you are to increase the price, and when the years are few, you are to decrease the price, because what he is really selling you is the number of crops. Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am HaShem your God. “‘Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety. You may ask, “What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?” I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.

 

So, the Torah indicates that we start on the tenth day of the seventh month, Tishri 10. Now, this is a bit odd; how can we have a year starting in the middle of a month? The Talmud helps us to understand:

 

Rosh HaShana 2a MISHNAH. THERE ARE FOUR NEW YEARS.[17] ON THE FIRST OF NISAN[18] IS NEW YEAR FOR KINGS[19] AND FOR FESTIVALS.[20] ON THE FIRST OF ELUL[21] IS NEW YEAR FOR THE TITHE OF CATTLE.[22] R. ELEAZAR AND R. SIMEON, HOWEVER, PLACE THIS ON THE FIRST OF TISHRI.[23] ON THE FIRST OF TISHRI[24] IS NEW YEAR FOR YEARS[25], FOR RELEASE AND JUBILEE YEARS,[26] FOR PLANTATION[27] AND FOR [TITHE OF] VEGETABLES.[28] ON THE FIRST OF SHEBAT[29] IS NEW YEAR FOR TREES,[30] ACCORDING TO THE RULING OF BETH SHAMMAI; BETH HILLEL, HOWEVER, PLACE IT ON THE FIFTEENTH OF THAT MONTH.

 

Rosh HaShana 7b But what of Jubilees which do not commence with the evening,[31] and yet are reckoned in? — This follows the view of R. Johanan b. Ishmael the son of R. Johanan b. Beroka, who said that the Jubilee commences with the New Year. R. Shisha the son of R. Idi said: In fixing the number, [the Tanna] reckoned only New Years that are not inaugurated with some ceremony,[32] but he does not reckon those that are inaugurated with a ceremony.[33]

 

Rosh HaShana 8b AND FOR JUBILEE YEARS. [is the New Year for] Jubilees on the first of Tishri? Surely [the New Year for] Jubilees is on the tenth of Tishri, as it is written, on the day of atonement shall ye make proclamation with the horn?[34] — What authority is here followed? R. Ishmael the son of R. Johanan b. Beroka, as it has been taught: And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year.[35] What is the point of these words? [It is this]. Since it says, On the day of atonement [ye shall make proclamation],[36] I might think that the year is sanctified only from the Day of Atonement onwards. Therefore it says, And ye shall sanctify the fiftieth year. This teaches that it is sanctified from its inception. On this ground R. Ishmael the son of R. Johanan b. Beroka laid down that from New Year to the Day of Atonement slaves were neither dismissed to their homes nor subjected to their masters, but they ate and drank and made merry, wearing garlands on their heads.[37] When the Day of Atonement came, the Beth din sounded the horn; slaves were dismissed to their homes and fields returned to their original owners. And the Rabbis [ — what do they make of this verse]? — [They say it teaches that] you are to sanctify years but not months.[38]

 

Another [Baraitha] taught: ‘It is a Jubilee.[39] What is the point of these words? — Since it says, And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year,[40] I might think that, just as it is sanctified from its inception onwards, so it remains sanctified [for a time] after its termination. And there would be nothing to wonder at in this, seeing that we [regularly] add from the profane on to the holy.[41] Therefore it says, it is a Jubilee to you, the fiftieth year, [to show that] you are to sanctify the fiftieth year, but not the fifty-first year.[42]

 

So, now we see that the yovel year begins on the first day of the seventh month, Tishri 1, but the slaves do not return to their own land till the shofar is sounded on the tenth day of the seventh month, Tishri 10.

 

III. Ownership

 

One of the primary themes of the yovel year is the emphasis on ownership:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:23-55 “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land. “‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold. If, however, a man has no one to redeem it for him but he himself prospers and acquires sufficient means to redeem it, He is to determine the value for the years since he sold it and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it; he can then go back to his own property. But if he does not acquire the means to repay him, what he sold will remain in the possession of the buyer until the Year of Jubilee. It will be returned in the Jubilee, and he can then go back to his property. “‘If a man sells a house in a walled city, he retains the right of redemption a full year after its sale. During that time he may redeem it. If it is not redeemed before a full year has passed, the house in the walled city shall belong permanently to the buyer and his descendants. It is not to be returned in the Jubilee. But houses in villages without walls around them are to be considered as open country. They can be redeemed, and they are to be returned in the Jubilee. “‘The Levites always have the right to redeem their houses in the Levitical towns, which they possess. So the property of the Levites is redeemable--that is, a house sold in any town they hold--and is to be returned in the Jubilee, because the houses in the towns of the Levites are their property among the Israelites. But the pasture land belonging to their towns must not be sold; it is their permanent possession. “‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit. I am HaShem your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. “‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave. He is to be treated as a hired worker or a temporary resident among you; he is to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Then he and his children are to be released, and he will go back to his own clan and to the property of his forefathers. Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God. “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly. “‘If an alien or a temporary resident among you becomes rich and one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells himself to the alien living among you or to a member of the alien‘s clan, He retains the right of redemption after he has sold himself. One of his relatives may redeem him: An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in his clan may redeem him. Or if he prospers, he may redeem himself. He and his buyer are to count the time from the year he sold himself up to the Year of Jubilee. The price for his release is to be based on the rate paid to a hired man for that number of years. If many years remain, he must pay for his redemption a larger share of the price paid for him. If only a few years remain until the Year of Jubilee, he is to compute that and pay for his redemption accordingly. He is to be treated as a man hired from year to year; you must see to it that his owner does not rule over him ruthlessly. “‘Even if he is not redeemed in any of these ways, he and his children are to be released in the Year of Jubilee, For the Israelites belong to me as servants. They are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. I am HaShem your God.

 

The Torah emphasizes that the land and His people both belong to HaShem. His people do not belong to a slave master, they belong to him! The land does not belong to anyone, it belongs to HaShem, and He gives it to whomever He pleases!

 

As The Owner of the land, He sets the price for the use of His land:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 27:16-24 “‘If a man dedicates to HaShem part of his family land, its value is to be set according to the amount of seed required for it--fifty shekels of silver to a homer of barley seed. If he dedicates his field during the Year of Jubilee, the value that has been set remains. But if he dedicates his field after the Jubilee, the priest will determine the value according to the number of years that remain until the next Year of Jubilee, and its set value will be reduced. If the man who dedicates the field wishes to redeem it, he must add a fifth to its value, and the field will again become his. If, however, he does not redeem the field, or if he has sold it to someone else, it can never be redeemed. When the field is released in the Jubilee, it will become holy, like a field devoted to HaShem; it will become the property of the priests. “‘If a man dedicates to HaShem a field he has bought, which is not part of his family land, The priest will determine its value up to the Year of Jubilee, and the man must pay its value on that day as something holy to HaShem. In the Year of Jubilee the field will revert to the person from whom he bought it, the one whose land it was.

 

Since HaShem owns the land, He can also determine when it should change hands, and when it should not:

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 36:1-4 The family heads of the clan of Gilead son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, who were from the clans of the descendants of Joseph, came and spoke before Moses and the leaders, the heads of the Israelite families. They said, “When HaShem commanded my lord to give the land as an inheritance to the Israelites by lot, he ordered you to give the inheritance of our brother Zelophehad to his daughters. Now suppose they marry men from other Israelite tribes; then their inheritance will be taken from our ancestral inheritance and added to that of the tribe they marry into. And so part of the inheritance allotted to us will be taken away. When the Year of Jubilee for the Israelites comes, their inheritance will be added to that of the tribe into which they marry, and their property will be taken from the tribal inheritance of our forefathers.”

 

If a home in a walled city is sold, when can it be redeemed? Leviticus 25:29, only within the first year after the sale. Afterwards, even in yovel it does not return.

 

After selling an ancestral field, when can one redeem it? Leviticus 25:24 - Any time after two years following the sale until yovel. In the beginning of yovel it returns to the family automatically.

 

After selling a home in a city without walls, when can one redeem it? According to Leviticus 25:31, anytime until yovel, when it returns automatically.

 

IV. Time Periods

 

The time period associated with the yovel year, are found repeatedly in the Torah. To understand the yovel period, it would be useful to review those related time periods.

 

Torah speaks of several periods of time which are associated with seven:

 

Y The week - seven days long.

Y Pesach, the Passover - seven days long.

Y Shmita, or Sabbatical, year - every seventh year.

Y yovel, or jubilee, year - after seven shmita years

Y Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks - after seven weeks.

Y Sefirat HaOmer, the counting of the omer - lasts for seven weeks.

 

Torah also speaks of various purification processes which also illustrate seven units of time:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 12:2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 15:19 “‘When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 15:24 “‘If a man lies with her and her monthly flow touches him, he will be unclean for seven days; any bed he lies on will be unclean.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 19:11 “Whoever touches the dead body of anyone will be unclean for seven days.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 19:14 “This is the law that applies when a person dies in a tent: Anyone who enters the tent and anyone who is in it will be unclean for seven days,

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 19:16 “Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 13:2-6 “When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a bright spot on his skin that may become an infectious skin disease, he must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest. The priest is to examine the sore on his skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is an infectious skin disease. When the priest examines him, he shall pronounce him ceremonially unclean. If the spot on his skin is white but does not appear to be more than skin deep and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest is to put the infected person in isolation for seven days. On the seventh day the priest is to examine him, and if he sees that the sore is unchanged and has not spread in the skin, he is to keep him in isolation another seven days. On the seventh day the priest is to examine him again, and if the sore has faded and has not spread in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only a rash. The man must wash his clothes, and he will be clean.

 

Chazal understood that each of the times that the Torah speaks about a time period of seven, it is relating this event to all other events with a time period of seven. It is beyond the scope of this paper to explore all of these relationships, but I have grouped many of the periods of seven, together, for study in my paper titled: 7chart.

 

* * *

 

The Hizkuni believes that Sefira and Shavuot are somehow reminders for the “really” important mitzvot of Shmita and yovel. Every seventh year is considered a shmita year, meaning that land in Eretz Yisrael may not be worked and that all debts owed by Jews to other Jews are canceled. Every fiftieth (or 49th; this is a controversy – See yovel1 to understand the various opinions) year is considered yovel, meaning that all Jewish slaves are freed and that all land which has changed hands in the years since the last yovel now returns to the hands of its original owner. What clues the Hizkuni in to the connection between Sefira / Shavuot and shmita / yovel? There are several likely possibilities:

 

1. The pesukim which command shmita and yovel are remarkably similar in language to those which command Sefira and Shavuot. The language seems to beg comparison between these two sets of mitzvot.

 

2. Structurally, these two sets of mitzvot are uniquely parallel: each has seven sets of sevens, with a climax at the fiftieth day/year.

 

More fundamentally, however, where does the Hizkuni get the idea that shmita and yovel are so important that it is necessary to institute a parallel set of mitzvot to serve as annual reminders of the entirety of the cycle? In part, the Hizkuni answers this question, pointing out correctly that the sections of the Torah which curse those who neglect the mitzvot (the “tokhaha”) do reserve special wrath for the neglect of Shmita (see Vayikra 26:34, for example). Still, as a Pshat reading, it seems strained to suggest that Sefira and Shavuot are not significant in their own right and serve only to remind us of other mitzvot. As tempting as the linguistic and structural parallels may be, there is no indication that one set of mitzvot is merely a reminder for the other.

 

* * *

 

Chazal interprets the law of the slave who does not want to go free:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 21:5-6 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ Then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

 

This means that when an “eved ivri”, the Hebrew servant, agrees to work forever, that it applies only till the end of the seven cycles of shmita, i.e. the yovel year.[43]

* * *

 

Just as there are two types of holiness in the days and the months, Shabbat and festivals, so too there are two types of holiness in the years themselves. The seventh year is a Shabbat of the land. Its holiness is “fixed” like Shabbat. The holiness of yovel is like the holiness of the festivals. Its holiness represents a partnership of HaShem and Man. “For it is yovel; holy it will be to you.”

 

If the shofar is not blown at the beginning of the yovel year then the year is not yovel. If the slaves are not set free, the year is not yovel. If the fields do not return to their original owners, the year does not have the status of yovel and it is permitted to reap and sow like an ordinary year.[44]

 

* * *

 

Parshat Behar 5758

by Rav Lipman Podolsky and

American Friends of Yeshivat Hakotel

 

“Give Me Liberty...”

 

The similarity between the forty-nine days of the Sefirat HaOmer, and the forty-nine years of the shmita-yovel cycle is absolutely striking, forty-nine steps of development, followed by a fiftieth period of sanctity and celebration. Is this mere coincidence, or is the Torah conveying to us a hidden message?

 

The Midrash clearly connects the two: “...count forty-nine days, and sanctify the fiftieth, just like yovel (Sifra 167:8).” The Ramban emphasizes it further: “the number of days from the day of waving (the Omer offering) until Yom Tov (Shavuot) is as the number of years of the shmita until the yovel; the reasoning for both is identical.” Thus, it behooves us to clarify this connection, and then to try to assimilate this understanding into our observance of the mitzva of Sefirat HaOmer and preparation for Shavuot.

 

First let us elucidate the concept of yovel. The Torah says, “And you shall count for yourselves seven sabbaths of years... forty-nine years. And you shall cause the shofar to sound in the seventh month, on the tenth of the month... And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants; it shall be a jubilee for you, and you shall return every man to his possession, and every man to his family (Vayikra 25:8-10).” yovel intimates a year of freedom for all, for both slaves, and for portions of land.

 

What exactly does freedom mean? It cannot mean independence from authority, for if that were true then all fields should be rendered ownerless, not only those that had been purchased. Rather, the idea is that until this point, the slaves and sold lands were subjugated to an unnatural state, to foreign dominion. For nearly fifty years, they anticipated their return to their families and to their rightful owners.

 

Thus, the idea of yovel is the return to one‘s original condition, the optimum state. Reuven’s field of inheritance had been sold to another’s possession, and it had been held in escrow for all this time. Now the field returns to it’s natural, primordial predicament. So too, the Jewish slave, fifty years before, had been a regular, HaShem serving Jew. But due to certain circumstances, he had been sold as a slave, a state completely contrary to the “freedom of religion” every Jew deserves. “For the children of Yisrael are Mine as slaves, they are My slaves,[45] and not slaves to slaves[46].”

 

When yovel arrives the Jewish slave becomes once again a freeman, a man devoted only to the service of HaShem, and not to a human master. Thus, liberty takes on a new meaning. It does not mean ownerless, rather it means belonging to the rightful, natural Master. With regard to fields the legitimate owner is the heir of he to whom the parcel was originally allocated by HaShem in the wilderness. With people, the Master is HaShem Himself. When one returns to his natural state, to the state originally intended for him by HaShem, he is said to be free.

 

The Ramban gives us a deeper look at verse 2: He says that the yovel symbolizes the entire history of existence, from creation until the end of time (the phrase, “and he shall serve him forever[47],” refers to yovel). Originally, man was created in an existence of absolute spirituality, a reality in which the presence of HaShem was palpable. In Gan Eden, Adam possessed no internal Yetzer Hara, the lines between good and evil were clearly delineated, and Adam had no desire other than to bask in the ecstasy of his intimate relationship with his Creator.

 

After eating from the tree of knowledge, Adam internalized the Yetzer Hara, thereby enslaving himself and his descendants to physical existence. HaShem hid Himself behind the veneer of the visible universe, and man had to struggle intensely to perceive Him. Man thus became a slave to his Yetzer Hara. At the end of days, when Mashiach shall arrive, we will return to the Source, the natural condition of man, an existence unencumbered by a Yetzer Hara[48], an existence in which our sole desire will be to derive pleasure from HaShem‘s infinite perfection[49]. Only then will we be truly free. This is the idea of yovel according to Ramban.

 

How does this relate to the forty-nine days of the Omer? As we have already said, Adam was created a freeman. The Shechinah enveloped him constantly. As soon as he sinned, the Shechinah retreated, and Adam was left in the grip of the Yetzer Hara. No matter what strategy he employed, not matter how hard he struggled, Adam was incapable of returning to the garden. No Teshuva sufficed. Just as the Jewish slave whose ear has been pierced, Adam found no way to emancipate himself. Like one with a chronic disease for which there is no cure; all roads of return had been blocked.

 

This situation continued for twenty-six generations. Then came the receiving of the Torah at Har Sinai. “I created the Yetzer Hara, and I created the Torah as its antidote[50].” The Torah is the only treatment for the affliction of the Yetzer Hara. Man had finally been supplied the prescription with which to combat the bondage of his evil inclination, to overcome it, and to return to his original state, that of freedom. “There is no freeman except he who studies Torah”.[51] By engaging in Torah study, one breaks the shackles of his physical imprisonment, enabling him a spiritual existence even on this earth, “kimei shamayim al HaAretz, like heavenly days upon earth[52].”

 

This should be our attitude as we count the Sefirat HaOmer, preparing ourselves for receiving the Torah on Shavuot. For forty-nine days we look impatiently to that day when once again we will become imbued with that special quality that affords us the ability to protect ourselves from harm, and to purchase our freedom. Just as a Jewish slave pines for the day that he will merit to return home to his family, to his natural habitat, and to his True Master, so is it with us. On Shavuot that special light will shine once again, offering us an auspicious opportunity to achieve that which our ancestors achieved so many years ago, and a chance to reaffirm our link with the Jewish people throughout the millennia.

 

But there is one fundamental difference between yovel and Shavuot. On yovel the slave doesn’t have to do anything to acquire his freedom. It is automatic. On Shavuot, however, nothing dramatic takes place. We don’t even have any special mitzvot on that day (unless you count cheesecake as a mitzva). On Shavuot the Yetzer Hara does not evaporate into nothingness. Rather, on Shavuot we are presented with the capacity to defeat the Yetzer Hara. “There is no freeman except he who studies Torah”.[53] It is not sufficient to receive Torah; one must know how to use it. And by using it, we slowly but surely cure ourselves of our disease called the Yetzer Hara.

 

Perhaps, deep down, this is what Patrick Henry meant when he proclaimed, “Give me liberty...” Perhaps.

 

Ki Hem Chayeinu... For they (the words of Torah) are our life!

 

(C) 5758/1998 by Rav Lipman Podolsky and

American Friends of Yeshivat Hakotel

 

V. How do we count for the yovel year?

 

The counting of the yovel year seems to be a bit confusing. If you will study the yovel1 chart, you will see that there are various opinions as to when we start the count. However, there is also a controversy as to whether we count fifty and then start at year one, or whether the fiftieth year of one cycle is also the first year of the next cycle. To begin to understand how to count, let’s see what the Talmud says:

 

Rosh HaShana 9a And the Rabbis [ — what do they make of these words]?[54] — [They say]: You are to count the fiftieth year, but you are not to count the fifty-first,[55] to exclude the view of R. Judah, who said that the fiftieth year is reckoned both ways.[56] We are here told that this is not so.

 

And how do we know [from the Scripture] that we add from the profane on to the holy?[57] — As it has been taught: In plowing time and in harvest time thou shalt rest.[58] R. Akiba, [commenting on this,] said: There was no need [for Scripture] to specify the ploughing and harvest of the Sabbatical year, since this has already been mentioned [in] thy field thou shalt not sow etc.[59] What must be meant therefore is the ploughing of the year before the seventh which is passing into the seventh,[60] and the harvest of the seventh year which is continuing into the period after the seventh year.[61] R. Ishmael said: Just as ploughing is optional,[62] so the harvest [here referred to] is an optional one, excluding the harvesting of the ‘Omer, which is a religious duty.[63] Whence then does R. Ishmael derive the rule that an addition is to be made from the profane on to the holy? — From what has been taught: And ye shall afflict your souls on the ninth day:[64] I might think [literally] on the ninth day. It therefore says, In the evening.[65] if in the evening, I might think, after dark? It therefore says, ‘or, the ninth day’.[66] What then am I to understand? That we begin fasting while it is yet day; which shows that we add from the profane on to the holy. I know this [so far] only in regard to the inception [of the holy day]; how do I know it in regard to its termination? Because it says, from evening to evening. So far I have brought only the Day of Atonement under the rule; how do I know that it applies to Sabbaths also? Because it says, ye shall rest.[67] How do I know that it applies to festivals? Because it says, your Sabbath. How am I to understand this? That wherever there is an obligation to rest, we add from the profane on to the holy.

 

Rashi indicates that we count seven shmita years and then we consecrate the fiftieth year. This fiftieth year is not the first year of the next cycle.

 

Tosafot says: ‘You are to count the fiftieth year (as fiftieth to the Jubilee), but you are not to count the fiftieth year as one (to the following septennate)’.

 

Nedarim 61a The scholars propounded: What if one vows, ‘Konam, if I taste wine a Jubilee’:[68] Is the fiftieth year [counted] as before the fiftieth or as after?[69] Come and hear: For a conflict of R. Judah and the Rabbis has been taught: And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year:[70] you must count it as the fiftieth year, but not as the fiftieth and as the first year [of the following jubilee].[71] Hence they [the Sages] said: The Jubilee is not part of the [following] septennate. R. Judah maintained: The Jubilee is counted as part of the septennate. Said they to R. Judah, But Scripture saith, six years shalt thou sow thy field,[72] whereas here there are only five![73] He replied: But on your view, Surely it is said, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years.’ whereas here there are four![74] But it can be referred to other Sabbatical years; hence mine too[75] must be thus explained.

 

VI. The Omer as a Pointer to the yovel[76]

 

By the commandment of Counting the Omer, we see two seemingly contradicting commands:

 

We are commanded to count seven complete weeks.[77]

 

We are commanded to count 50 days.[78]

 

For halachah, we count 49 days, and Shabuot is celebrated on the fiftiethday, without any counting. There is an idea of 49 days of our efforts from below, and then HaShem completes the 50 days for us from above.

 

If we consider from the time of Ezra that there are to be 49 yovel cycles of our own efforts, we stand today 3 years ahead (in 5773 – 2016) of the beginning of the 49th cycle, which begins in 5776 (2016). The 49th cycle is destined to be the completion of the efforts of the nation of Israel.

 

If we look at the original count as being 50 year cycles, and that our goal, even then, was to arrive at a yovel of yovel years, then we see an act of kindness from HaShem: Switching to 49 year cycles shortens the time of Galut by decades. In our case, we are set to arrive at the 48th yovel a total of 39 years earlier than we would in a 50 year cycle count. That is because the first 9 yovel years are identical in the two sets, so 48 - 9 = 39 years. HaShem has mercy on us, and the end comes towards us.[79]

 

Looking at the yovel cycles as parallel to the omer period, we also find parallels. To name a few:

 

3416-3765 is the period corresponding to the yovel “week” of Chesed, in which the Beit HaMikdash stood. The Chesed she’be’Chesed (the 1st “day”), 3416-3455, included the founding of the Great Assembly (HaKnesset HaGedolah), the last remnants of prophecy until the days of Mashiach.

 

3816-3865 is the period corresponding to Gevurah she’bi’Gevurah (the 8th yovel cycle), in which the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was destroyed. The 8th day of the Omer is the day after Isru Chag, full mourning customs begin at this point.

 

4992-5041 is the period corresponding to Hod she’be’Hod, which is Lag BaOmer, in which we celebrate the revelation of the Zohar. This yovel cycle brought the publication of the Zohar.

 

5139-5482 is the period corresponding to the yovel “week” of Yesod. Revelations of the secrets of Torah are rooted in Yesod. The Arizal lived during this period.

 

5482-present is the period corresponding to the yovel “week” of Malchut. The geulah is rooted in the sefirah of Yesod, per Kabbalah. The 48th yovel cycle is Yesod she’be’Malchut. Malchut she’be’Malchut will see the return of the Malchut to Am Israel with the eternal end of exile.

 

A Novel Approach[80]

 

The Torah commands us to count seven times seven years and then celebrate the fiftieth year as a yovel (Jubilee). Proposed dates for the yovel, from various sources, are detailed in our study titled: yovel1. The student interested in the details should consult those studies.

 

One of the most interesting yovel calculations comes from those who combine the opinion of the Rabbanan and Hakham Yehoshua. This novel idea[81] suggests that we count fifty years for the yovel up until the destruction of the Temple. After the destruction of the Temple we revert to counting forty-nine years with the first year of the next cycle being the yovel year.

 

Remember that the major purpose of the Jubilee was the freeing of slaves to serve HaShem rather than a terrestrial master, on their own land. This suggests that the events of the yovel should be related to freedom and to a return to Eretz Israel.

 

This novel calculation shows the following Jubilees and their significance:

 

Yovel Year 46 - 5678

 

Shortly after the beginning of the 46th yovel, the Balfour Declaration was ratified. Dated November 2, 1917 (17th Marcheshvan 5678), the Balfour Declaration is one of the biggest steps towards gaining international recognition for the return to Eretz Israel.

 

Yovel Year 47 - 5727

 

The next yovel year, according to this calculation, was in 5727. In Iyar 5727 (June of 1967), Yerushalayim, Yehuda, Shomron, the Golan, and Gaza came under Jewish control for the first time in centuries, and the move back to these areas, of Eretz Israel, began.

 

Yovel Year 48 - 5776

 

This coming yovel, and its events, are yet to be seen. Never the less, we can learn what kinds of events to expect.

 

By combining Rabannan’s count and R. Yehuda’s count, we find that the last yovel year was 5727 (1967 CE), the year of the Six Day War. This was the 48th yovel year starting from the time of Ezra in 3416. The yovel year which is 49 years later is 5776. Perhaps the year following would be a fitting time for the Sanhedrin to assume, or rather to resume, its role in counting of Shmita and yovel years and to assume its role of leadership of Am Israel. This next yovel would start the 49th yovel period. Rather fitting that the Sanhedrin would count the last yovel before the fiftieth yovel, a yovel of yovels. Remember that only the Sanhedrin can count and sanctify the yovel year.

 

Mashiach in 5775?

 

Another interesting aspect of the year 5775 is that Mashiach ben David will arrive at the end of a seven year Shmita cycle, according to Chazal in the Talmud:

 

Sanhedrin 97a ‘Thus hath R. Johanan said: in the generation when the son of David [i.e., Mashiach] will come, scholars will be few in number, and as for the rest, their eyes will fail through sorrow and grief. Multitudes of trouble and evil decrees will be promulgated anew, each new evil coming with haste before the other has ended.’

 

Our Rabbis taught: in the seven year cycle at the end of which the son of David will come-in the first year, this verse will be fulfilled: And I will cause it to rain upon one city and cause it not to rain upon another city;[82] in the second, the arrows of hunger will be sent forth;[83] in the third, a great famine, in the course of which men, women, and children, pious men and saints[84] will die, and the Torah will be forgotten by its students; in the fourth, partial plenty;[85] in the fifth, great plenty, when men will eat, drink and rejoice, and the Torah will return to its disciples; in the sixth, [Heavenly] sounds;[86] in the seventh, wars; and at the conclusion of the septennate the son of David will come (the first year of the next Shmita cycle). R. Joseph demurred: But so many septennates have passed, yet has he not come! — Abaye retorted: Were there then [Heavenly] sounds in the sixth and wars in the seventh! Moreover, have they [sc. the troubles] been in this order![87]

 

Thus we might expect Mashiach ben David in a yovel year. Please bear in mind that we do not know for certain when the next yovel year will be. Further, Chazal have commanded us to expect Mashiach every day. Maimonides codifies this in Principle number twelve of his thirteen principles:

 

Principle XII. The era of the Mashiach

 

And this is to believe that in truth that he will come and that you should be waiting for him even though he delays in coming. And you should not calculate times for him to come, or to look in the verses of Tanakh to see when he should come. The sages say: The wisdom of those who calculate times [of his coming] is small and that you should believe that he will be greater and more honored than all of the kings of Israel since the beginning of time as it is prophesied by all the prophets from Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, until Malachi, peace be upon him. And he who doubts or diminishes the greatness of the Mashiach is a denier in all the Torah for it testifies to the Mashiach explicitly in the portion of Bilaam and the portion of “You are gathered (towards the end of Deut)”. And part of this principle that there is no king of Israel except from the house of David and from the seed of Solomon alone. And anyone who disputes this regarding this family is a denier of the name of God and in all the words of the prophets.

 

Let us look today for Mashiach, and let His Majesty explain how the words of Chazal are reconciled at His coming, Amen V’Amen!

 

Judah Ben Samuel[88]

 

Judah Ben Samuel apparently followed the above novel approach in calculating the yovel. The following are his findings vis-à-vis this approach.

 

Following the Christian crusades to the Holy Land, between 1096 - 1270, a regular correspondence developed between the Jews in the Holy Land and the Christian West. Thus, for example, the Rabbis in Worms and Regensburg in Germany knew that Saladin’s Ayyubids had been ruling in the Holy Land since 1187.

 

At this time, Judah Ben Samuel published the results of his biblical calculations (Gematria) and astrological observations and summarized as follows: “When the Ottomans (Turks) – who were already a power to be reckoned with on the Bosporus in the time of Judah Ben Samuel – conquer Jerusalem they will rule over Jerusalem for eight jubilees. Afterwards Jerusalem will become no-man’s land for one jubilee, and then in the tenth jubilee it will once again come back into the possession of the Jewish nation – which would signify the beginning of the Messianic end time“.

 

One jubilee (yovel) is 50 years.[89] It is the fiftiethyear after seven times seven years, the year in which each person should regain ownership of his or her land. Ben Samuel’s calculations were purely theoretical; there was absolutely no sign at that time of their being fulfilled. He himself was not able to experience their fulfillment, for it was only three hundred years after his death that the first of his predictions were to come true.

 

The Mamluks,[90] who had been reigning in Jerusalem since 1250, were conquered in 5277 (1517) by the Ottoman Turks. They remained for eight jubilees (8 x 50 = 400 years), that is to say they were in Jerusalem for 400 years. Exactly 400 years later, in 5677 (1917), the Ottoman Turks were conquered by the British. The League of Nations conferred the Mandate for the Holy Land and Jerusalem to the British. Thus, from 5677 (1917), under international law, Jerusalem was no-man’s land.

 

Then, when Israel captured Jerusalem in the Six Day War of 5727 (1967), exactly one jubilee (50 years) after 5677 (1917), Jerusalem reverted to Jewish-Israeli ownership once again. Thereby, according to the prophecies of Judah Ben Samuel, the Messianic End Times began.

 

Many scholars have studied and made reference to Judah Ben Samuel’s writings in an effort to understand how he reached his conclusions. Among those referencing Ben Samuel were Rabbi Isaac Ben Solomon Luria, a mystic dealing with the messianic world;[91] Joseph Solomon Delmegido,[92] a mathematician and astronomer,[93] Azulai I,[94] a famed bibliographer; Samuel David Luzzatto,[95] a Bible scholar; historian Heinrich Graetz;[96] and Torah scholar Jacob Epstein.[97]

 

The secret of how Judah the Pious arrived at such accurate predictions has less to do with the actual calculations than it does with the fact that he had consecrated his life to G-d. His pupils Rabbi Isaac ben Moses,[98] Rabbi Baruch ben Samuel[99] and Rabbi Simcha[100] testify that Ben Samuel was a model of abstinence and selflessness and was awaiting with a burning desire the coming of the Messiah.

 

Ben Samuel was often called “Light of Israel.” Even bishops came to him for advice. If anyone asked him where his wisdom came from he would answer, “The prophet Elijah, who will precede the Messiah, appeared to me and revealed many things to me and emphasized that the precondition for answered prayer is that it is fueled by enthusiasm and joy for the greatness and holiness of G-d.”

 

But to recap the astonishing predictions: In AD 4977 (1217) this scholarly and pious rabbi prophesied that the Ottoman Turks would rule over the holy city of Jerusalem for eight Jubilees. Now, keep in mind, he made this prediction 300 years before the Ottoman Turks seized control of Jerusalem in 5277 (1517). If indeed 4977 (1217) and 5277 (1517) were jubilee years as Judah Ben Samuel believed, then his prophecy was exactly right, because exactly 400 years after the Turks took control of Jerusalem they were driven out of the city and the holy land in 5677 (1917) by the Allied forces under the command of General George Allenby – on Chanukah, by the way.

 

But it gets more interesting still.

 

The Rabbi also prophesied that during the ninth Jubilee Jerusalem would be a “no-man’s land.” This is exactly what happened from 5677 (1917) to 5727 (1967), due to the fact that the Holy Land was placed under British Mandate in 5677 (1917) by the League of Nations and literally “belonged” to no nation.

 

Even after Israel’s war of independence in 1948-49, Jerusalem was still divided by a strip of land running right through the heart of the city, with Jordan controlling the eastern part of the city and Israel controlling the western part of the city. That strip of land was considered and even called “no-man’s land” by both the Israelis and the Jordanians.

 

It was not until the Six Day War in 5727 (1967) when the entire West Bank of the Holy Land was conquered by the Israeli army that the whole city of Jerusalem passed back into the possession of Israel. So once again the prophecy made by the rabbi 750 years previously was fulfilled to the letter.

 

It certainly would be significant if both 5677 (1917) and 5727 (1967) were Jubilee years (see YOVEL1), considering the significance of what happened in Jerusalem on those years. But it gets even more interesting, because Judah Ben Samuel also prophesied that during the 10th Jubilee Jerusalem would be under the control of the Jews and the Messianic “end times” would begin. If he’s right, the 10th Jubilee began in 5727 (1967) and will be concluded in 5777 (2017).

 

Let’s consider the data:

 

Jubilees 1-8 - 5277 (1517) to 5677 (1917) Turks will rule.

 

Jubilee 9 - 5677 (1917) to 5727 (1967) Jerusalem No man’s land.

 

Jubilee 10 - 5727 (1967)[101] to 5777 (2017) “during the 10th Jubilee Jerusalem would be under the control of the Jews and the Messianic “end times” would begin”.

 

Jubilee 11 - begins at Yom Kippur 5777 (2017).

 

VII. When is the next yovel year?

 

To answer this question, we need to understand that there is some discussion among the Sages, on this issue (see yovel1). Do we start counting when Joshua entered the land? Or, do we start to count when the Israelites returned to the land after the Babylonian captivity? Or, do we start when Israel became a nation in 1948? The Sages seem to lean towards the time when Joshua entered the land.

 

Why didn’t they celebrate the festival of Succoth?

 

Ezra-Nechemiah (Nehemiah) 8:17 The entire community returning from captivity built succoth, tabernacles, and dwelled in those succoth, for since the days of Joshua son of Nun the Children of Israel had not done so until that day, and there was exceedingly great joy.

 

This enigmatic passage describing the first Succoth celebrated by Jews returning to Eretz Yisrael from Babylonian captivity under the leadership of Ezra prompts the unavoidable Talmudic challenge: “Is it possible that in the days of David the Jews did not build and dwell in Succoth, only in the days of Ezra?”

 

Two differing approaches are offered by the Sages. Both agree that Jews certainly built Succoth during the period of time between Joshua and Ezra (close to a millennium), but they disagree as to what subtle message is communicated in this passage.

                       

One approach is that the message is a comparison between the arrival of Jews in Eretz Yisrael in the days of Joshua and their arrival in the days of Ezra. Just as in Joshua’s time they began calculating shmita and yovel and practicing tithing, so did they begin again to do so in the days of Ezra. This is cited as a source for the position that the initial sanctification of the land by Yehoshua came to an end with the exile to Babylon, and required a new sanctification when they returned.[102]

 

To help you count the yovel years, consider the following:

 

Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 40:1 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city--on that very day the hand of HaShem was upon me and he took me there.

 

Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 40:1, According to the Talmud[103], this was a jubilee year, while the release years (shmitot) and jubilee years did not commence until the land had been divided. The calculation is then as follows: The Temple was built four hundred and eighty years after the Exodus, which was four hundred and forty years after their entry into Eretz Israel. The Temple stood four hundred and ten years, making a total of eight hundred and fifty years from their entry until its destruction, which is thirty-seven Jubilees. Deducting fourteen years for conquest and division, as these did not count for Jubilee, we find that it was destroyed fourteen years before a Jubilee year, and therefore the fourteenth year after its destruction was a Jubilee year. (The Talmud deduces that this was a Jubilee year independently of this calculation.)[104]

 

The Israelites crossed the Jordan just after Passover in 2489 a.m. They celebrated the first yovel year in 2553 a.m.

 

The Israelites returned from captivity in 3408 a.m.

 

The last Sabbatical year will be in 5999 a.m.

 

The Kabbalistic yovel year will commence in 6000 a.m.

 

The Rambam calculated that the next yovel year would be in 5765[105]. There is a difficulty with this opinion: Halachicaly, we accept that we can determine shmita years by dividing the current year by seven. All those years which are evenly divisible by seven are shmita years. So, the last shmita year was in 5754, and the next will be in 5761. Since, in Tishri of 1998 (September 21, 1998), we will begin counting 5759, then we know that we have a disconnect between the Rambam’s yovel year calculation and the shmita year calculations. If the next shmita year is in 5761, we would expect that the next yovel year to be in 5762. Why then does Rambam say 5765?

 

In addition, the laws pertaining to a Jewish slave only apply when yovel, is in effect. Added to the fourteen years mentioned above of capturing and apportioning the land, this means that these laws will only begin to be applicable sixty four years after they enter the land. The Jewish people, obviously do not realize that so much time will elapse until these laws are applicable, but HaShem certainly knows. Why then must this mitzva be the first one HaShem gives to Moshe, is it really so urgent?

 

Sanhedrin 97b Elijah said to Rab Judah, the brother of R. Salia the pious: ‘The world shall exist not less than eighty five jubilees,[106] and in the last jubilee the son of David will come.’[107] He asked him, ‘At the beginning or at the end?’[108] — He replied, ‘I do not know.’ ‘Shall [this period] be completed or not?’[109] - ‘I do not know,’ he answered. R. Ashi said: He spoke thus to him, ‘Before that, do not expect him; afterwards thou mayest await him.’[110]

 

The year 5776 is a Yovel year, marking the end of Yovel period 48 of history’s second Yovel count, which commenced in the beginning of Bayit Sheni, in year 3416. Year 5776 is also the first year of Yovel period 49, after Ezra. Before Ezra, the initial count of Yovel periods commenced in year 1383, 54 years after Yetziat Mitzrayim. Thus, 36 Yovel periods of 50 years were counted until the destruction of Yerushalayim in year 3175. Summing up, the year 5776 is the beginning of Yovel period 85.

 

According to the Talmud the yovel year did not come into effect automatically, with the advent of the fiftieth year, but the Bet Din had to see to it’s implementation and officially proclaimed it by sounding the shofar[111].

 

It was the duty of the Bet Din to count the years of the Sabbatical year as one counts the omer. The duty of counting the omer fell on every Israelite, whereas the counting of Sabbatical years fell only on the Bet Din[112].

 

Although, the Torah records that the yovel release of slaves and the return of the land took place on Yom HaKippurim, the yovel was regarded as starting on Yom Teruah (Sifra). At the beginning of the yovel year, in addition to sounding the shofar, a special prayer was recited which included Malkhuyyot, Zikhronot, and Shofarot, as on Yom Teruah[113].[114]

 

Rosh HaShana 8b AND FOR JUBILEE YEARS. [is the New Year for] Jubilees on the first of Tishri? Surely [the New Year for] Jubilees is on the tenth of Tishri, as it is written, on the day of atonement shall ye make proclamation with the horn?[115] — What authority is here followed? R. Ishmael the son of R. Johanan b. Beroka, as it has been taught: And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year.[116] What is the point of these words? [It is this]. Since it says, On the day of atonement [ye shall make proclamation], I might think that the year is sanctified only from the Day of Atonement onwards. Therefore it says, And ye shall sanctify the fiftieth year. This teaches that it is sanctified from its inception. On this ground R. Ishmael the son of R. Johanan b. Beroka laid down that from New Year to the Day of Atonement slaves were neither dismissed to their homes nor subjected to their masters, but they ate and drank and made merry, wearing garlands on their heads.[117] When the Day of Atonement came, the Beth din sounded the horn; slaves were dismissed to their homes and fields returned to their original owners. And the Rabbis [ — what do they make of this verse]? — [They say it teaches that] you are to sanctify years but not months.[118]

 

Sanhedrin 97b The world will endure not less than 85 yovel years, and on the last yovel the Son of David will come.

 

There is a tradition that the Jews spent seventy years in Babylonian captivity because they failed to observe seventy yovels.[119]

 

Yovel years were not observed after the Babylonian captivity.[120]

 

Avodah Zarah 9b Said R. Huna the son of R. Yahoshua (Joshua): If one does not know what the year is in the Sabbatical cycle of seven years, let him add one year [to that in the era of the Destruction] and let him put aside the hundreds as Jubilee Cycles and convert the remainder into Sabbatical Cycles [of seven years each] after adding thereto two years for every complete century; what is left over will give him the number of the given year in the current Sabbatical Cycle. As a mnemonical sign [for adding two years for every century, think of the verse]. For these two years hath the famine been in the land.

 

* * *

 

The Torah commands:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:10 You shall sanctify the fiftieth year.

 

How is this done? At the beginning of the year the Beit Din declares, “This year is Kadosh.(holy)”

 

* * *

 

Rosh HaShana 9a And the Rabbis [ — what do they make of these words]?[121] — [They say]: You are to count the fiftieth year, but you are not to count the fifty-first,[122] to exclude the view of R. Judah, who said that the fiftieth year is reckoned both ways.[123] We are here told that this is not so.

 

And how do we know [from the Scripture] that we add from the profane on to the holy?[124] — As it has been taught: In plowing time and in harvest time thou shalt rest.[125] R. Akiba, [commenting on this,] said: There was no need [for Scripture] to specify the ploughing and harvest of the Sabbatical year, since this has already been mentioned [in] thy field thou shalt not sow etc.[126] What must be meant therefore is the ploughing of the year before the seventh which is passing into the seventh,[127] and the harvest of the seventh year which is continuing into the period after the seventh year.[128] R. Ishmael said: Just as ploughing is optional,[129] so the harvest [here referred to] is an optional one, excluding the harvesting of the ‘Omer, which is a religious duty.[130] Whence then does R. Ishmael derive the rule that an addition is to be made from the profane on to the holy? — From what has been taught: And ye shall afflict your souls on the ninth day:[131] I might think [literally] on the ninth day. It therefore says, In the evening.[132] if in the evening, I might think, after dark? It therefore says, ‘or, the ninth day’.[133] What then am I to understand? That we begin fasting while it is yet day; which shows that we add from the profane on to the holy. I know this [so far] only in regard to the inception [of the holy day]; how do I know it in regard to its termination? Because it says, from evening to evening. So far I have brought only the Day of Atonement under the rule; how do I know that it applies to Sabbaths also? Because it says, ye shall rest.[134] How do I know that it applies to festivals? Because it says, your Sabbath. How am I to understand this? That wherever there is an obligation to rest, we add from the profane on to the holy.

 

* * *

 

Arachin 13a R. Ashi said: He does not count the six years until Ezra had come up and dedicated [the Sanctuary].[135] For it is written: Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem.[136] And it is also written: And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.[137] And a Tanna taught: About the same time in the following year Ezra with his exiled community went up [to the Land], as it is said: And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.[138] [To revert to] the main text: ‘Seventeen jubilee cycles did Israel count from the time they entered the Land until they left it’. But you cannot say that they counted from the moment they entered. For if you were to say so, then it would be found that the Temple was destroyed at the beginning of a seven years cycle and you could not account for: ‘In the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, etc.’ Whence do we know that it took seven years to conquer [the Land]? — Caleb said: Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-Barnea to spy out the land[139] . . . and now, lo, I am this day four-score and five years old.[140] And a Master said: ‘The first year Moses built the tabernacle, in the second the tabernacle was put up, then he sent out the spies. When Caleb passed over the Jordan how old therefore was he? He was two years less than eighty years old.[141] When he distributed the inheritances, he said: ‘Now, lo, I am this day four-score and five years old’. Whence it follows that it took seven years for them to conquer the land. And whence do we know that it took them seven years to distribute it? — If you like, say: Since the conquest took seven years, so did the distribution. Or, if you like, say: Because otherwise one could not account for ‘In the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten’.

 

* * *

 

Sources:

 Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shmita Veyovel, 10:4,8

 

VIII. Torah requirements for the yovel year

 

1) We perform no agricultural work in Eretz Yisrael in the last year of every seven years, that we consider all produce which grows (by itself) that year ownerless and allow the poor and the animals to take it;

 

2) We cancel all loans between Jews in this seventh year;

 

3) We treat the last year of every fifty years just like we treat a seventh year, abstaining from agricultural work etc.;

 

4) We free all Jewish slaves in this fiftieth year;

 

5) We return to the original owners all land which has been sold in the past forty-nine years.

 

Let’s look at the effect of these mitzvot on us: they shatter the illusion we might otherwise begin to believe that the ‘reality’ of earning our bread is the real reality and that worshipping HaShem is a nice addendum but is not part of the hard-nosed real world. There is perhaps nothing more hard-nosed and real than shmita and yovel. Imagine if this were to happen next week, the government announces that all work is to stop for the next year, all food which grows is deemed ownerless, all debts are canceled, all land returns to the people who owned it half a century ago. Sound like a recipe for economic chaos and disaster? Exactly! By mandating this behavior, the Torah punctures our illusion of reality and shoves it aside before a more real reality: we are forced to recognize that we own what we do only by the generosity of HaShem and that the economy is completely instrumental; it is not at all important in any axiological sense, it is there only to facilitate our service of HaShem.

 

This lesson is so important that it is followed by a series of warnings about what will happen if we do not keep the mitzvot of shmita and yovel: the blessings and curses[142]. The fact that the blessings and curses is aimed primarily at reinforcing our observance of shmita and yovel is supported by several features of the text. Most basically, the Torah’s placing the blessings and curses immediately after the mitzvot of shmita and yovel intimates that the warnings apply most directly to these mitzvot.

 

The connection between shmita / yovel and the blessings and curses is strengthened further by the ‘bookends’ with which the Torah surrounds the section on shmita and yovel and the blessings and curses. We note that the Torah begins the parasha with the news that what we are about to learn was delivered by HaShem to Moshe at Sinai. Then come the mitzvot of shmita and yovel. Then comes the, and just after the blessings and curses, the Torah places another bookend, reporting that what we have just read was what HaShem communicated to Moshe at Sinai. (Another such bookend appears at the end of Parashat BeHukotai, sealing Sefer Vayikra.) What the Torah may be hinting again by placing bookends before shmita / yovel and after the blessings and curses is that these warnings are aimed at neglect of these mitzvot in particular.

 

Further and more explicit evidence of the connection between the blessings and curses and shmita / yovel can be found in the text of the blessings and curses itself. As the blessings and curses begins, it sounds like a general warning about neglecting any of the mitzvot: (26:14-15) “If you do not listen to Me, and do not do all of these mitzvot; if you despise My laws, and if your souls revile My statutes, by not doing all of My mitzvot, thereby abrogating My covenant . . . .” However, as we move toward the end of the blessings and curses, it seems clearer that the phrase “all of these mitzvot“ refers not to the mitzvot as a whole, but to “these mitzvot“ which have just been discussed: shmita and yovel. After the Torah describes how the rebellious nation would be driven out of its land:

 

Then the land will enjoy its Sabbaths [=shmita years], all the days of its abandonment, with your being in the land of your enemies; then the land will rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths! All the days of its abandonment, it shall rest the rests it did not rest during your Sabbaths [i.e., during the years that were supposed to have been shmita years], when you lived upon it!” (26:34-35).

 

“The land shall be abandoned of them, and it shall enjoy its Sabbaths in its abandonment from them, and they [the nation] shall expiate for their sin, since they despised My statutes and their souls reviled My laws“ (26:43).

 

We commit sins, unnamed at the beginning of the blessings and curses, but by the end it seems apparent that the abandonment of the land and the consequent cessation of its cultivation through agriculture atones for the sins. The best conclusion: the sins referred to by the blessings and curses are the neglect of shmita and yovel. Our not ceasing working the land during shmita requires our exile from the land so that it can rest on the Sabbaths we have denied it; our not canceling loans during shmita requires that we become impoverished and powerless; our not returning land to its owners during yovel requires that we be denied ownership over even our own land; our not freeing Jewish slaves during yovel requires that we ourselves be taken captive and sold as slaves by those whom HaShem sends to conquer us; midah keneged midah, measure for measure.

 

MEETING THE CHALLENGE:

 

The Torah knows how difficult it is to keep shmita and yovel. It is certainly a tall order to take a forced sabbatical, to resist the urge to try to make the maximum profit by planting during this year, and to trust that HaShem will provide enough food to compensate for this year’s lack of harvest. It is a tremendous challenge to forgive all loans to Jews every seven years. It is certainly no simple matter to release one‘s hold on one‘s real estate empire and return the parcels of land to their owners, and in a society which accepts slavery, it is almost ‘unrealistic’ to expect that slave owners will release their Jewish slaves in response to a Divine command. But this is what shmita and yovel demand.

 

The Torah prepares us for the challenge of shmita and yovel in various ways. One way is the blessings and curses, a warning of the dire consequences of neglect: disease, destruction, disaster, death. Other indications that the Torah expects these mitzvot to run into resistance, and other ways in which the Torah tries to strengthen us, are amply provided by the text itself. First, the Torah anticipates our fear that if we do not plant in the seventh year, we will starve:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:20-21 If you shall say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year? After all, we shall not be planting or gathering our produce!” I shall command My blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will provide produce for three years.

 

Next, the Torah anticipates that canceling all loans to Jews will prove a very unpopular mitzva, and duly warns and encourages us:

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 15:7-10 If there shall be among you a pauper, from among your brothers, in one of your gates, in your land, which HaShem your God is giving to you--do not harden your heart and do not close your hand to your poor brother; instead, completely open your hand to him and lend him enough to provide whatever he lacks. Beware lest there be an evil thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of shmita [literally, ‘cancellation’] is approaching,” and your shall look ungenerously upon your poor brother, and you shall not give to him, and he shall call out against you to HaShem, and there will be sin in you. You shall surely give to him, and let your heart not be bitter when you when you give him, for because of this thing HaShem, your God, shall bless you in all of your works and in all of your efforts.

 

HINTS FROM THE RAMBAM:

 

The Rambam’s Hilkhot shmita ve-yovel (Laws of shmita and yovel) provides subtle but crucial confirmation that shmita and yovel are mitzvot that we accepted as a nation somewhat reluctantly. Instead of warnings and exhortations, these indications are assumptions which are built into the halakhic system:

 

Chapter 1, Law 12 -- One who plants during the seventh year, whether purposely or accidentally [i.e., with or without the awareness that it is the seventh year and that planting is forbidden], must uproot what he has planted, for the Jews are suspected by [halacha] of violating the laws of the seventh year, [!!!] and if we were to permit leaving the plant in the ground if it had been planted accidentally, those who had planted purposely would just claim to have planted accidentally.

 

Chapter 4, Law two -- All plants which grow wild during this year are rabbinically prohibited to be eaten. Why did they [the rabbis] decree that they be forbidden? Because of the sinners: so that one should not go and secretly plant grain and beans and garden vegetables in his field, and then when they sprout he would eat them and claim that they grew wild; therefore they forbade all wild plants which sprout during the seventh year.[143]

 

Chapter 9, Law 16 -- When Hillel the Elder saw that the people were refusing to lend money to each other and were transgressing the verse written in the Torah, “Beware lest there be an evil thought in your heart . . .”, he established for them the “pruzbul”, [a special contract] which would prevent the cancellation of their debts to each other . . . .

 

Clearly, shmita and yovel are difficult mitzvot, and they require the Torah’s encouragement.

 

TWO SIDES OF A COIN:

 

We have seen that the blessings and curses appears closely connected to the mitzvot of shmita and yovel (or, more precisely, the neglect of these mitzvot) and that the Torah and halacha take pains to encourage observance of these mitzvot and prevent abuses of the halacha. But now that we have zeroed in these mitzvot as the focus of the blessings and curses, we return to the question with which we began: what is the purpose of the blessings and curses? Does the Torah expect us to be frightened by these threats into properly keeping shmita and yovel? Perhaps threats work in some cultures (or in all cultures in some centuries), but from our perspective in the 20th century, and considering that most of us are products of Western culture to a significant degree, threats don’t usually have much effect. (If this is not obvious to you, take a look around and try to estimate what percentage of the Jewish people remain faithful to the mitzvot of the Torah, despite the many warnings and exhortations the Torah offers.) Since the Torah is an eternal and Divinely authored document, we must be able to find significance in it in all generations and in all cultures. So what does message does the blessings and curses communicate to us?

 

Surprisingly, the blessings and curses may teach us the same lesson as shmita and yovel themselves attempt to teach us.

 

In the ‘normal’ course of life, we go about our business, doing our best to achieve some level of material comfort. The world either rewards our efforts or doesn’t, but either way, we are eternally and tragically prone to two enormous errors: 1) we begin to believe that making money and achieving domination over material and people are ultimate goals in their own right, and 2) we begin to believe that credit for our success or failure (but particularly our success) goes entirely to us. Shmita and yovel come to prevent or correct these errors: completely interrupting the economy with a mitzva which arrives every few years has a nasty way of sucking all of the wind out of the pursuit of wealth and reminding us that in any event we are not in control of the system.

 

But there is another option. Shmita and yovel are only one way of helping us maintain our awareness of these truths and therefore forcing us to look outside wealth and power to find the goals of our lives. Although shmita and yovel are obligatory, in some sense, they are a ‘voluntary’ way of reminding ourselves of where our ultimate attention should be directed. If we choose to reject shmita and yovel and insist that the economy (and our pursuit of wealth and power) will march on no matter what, HaShem has other options for reminding us of these truths. We can either choose to puncture the economic facade every seven years of our own volition, shattering our own mounting illusions and taming our growing greed, or HaShem will do the puncturing for us. Either way, we will remain inescapably aware of what HaShem wants us to know, but we get to choose whether to take the ‘bitter pill’ ourselves, or have our figurative national limbs amputated by plague, invasion, destruction, exile, and oppression.

 

That this is one of the deeper meanings of the blessings and curses is hinted by the Torah and by the Rambam’s interpretation of it. The blessings and curses uses the word “keri” several times to describe the unacceptable behavior of the Jews in rejecting shmita and yovel; HaShem promises powerful retribution. But, amazingly, we still have the potential to miss the point. Apparently, nothing can guarantee that someone who refuses to see HaShem‘s control of the world will suddenly open his eyes. Shmita and yovel are good options, but we can choose to ignore them. Destruction and punishment are more highly aggressive options, but they too can fail at their task if we do not see our misfortune as HaShem‘s “plan B” for getting us to look away from the material world and ourselves and toward Him and His goals for us:

 

Rambam, Laws of Fast Days, Chapter 1:

Law 1 -- It is a positive biblical command to cry out and to blow with trumpets over every crisis which comes upon the community .

 

Law two -- This practice is among the paths of repentance, for when a crisis comes and they cry out over it and blow the trumpets, all will know that it is because of their evil deeds that evil has befallen them . . . and this will cause them to [try to] remove the crisis from upon them.

 

Law 3 -- But if they do not cry out and blow, and instead say, “This disaster which has occurred to us is just the way of the world,” “This crisis simply happened by coincidence,” this is the way of callousness, and causes them to maintain their evil ways, and then the crisis will grow into further crises, as it says in the Torah [in the blessings and curses in our parasha], “You have behaved with Me as if all is ‘keri’ [happenstance], so I shall behave with you with wrathful keri [happenstance],” meaning, “If I bring upon you a crisis to make you repent, if you then say that it is a meaningless coincidence, I will add fury to that occurrence [and punish you further].”

 

As the blessings and curses begins, HaShem warns that He will punish us for ignoring shmita and yovel; according to the interpretation we have been developing, the point is not so much to punish us as to provide a less friendly way of achieving what shmita and yovel were supposed to achieve (26:14-17). Our planting will yield nothing (as our voluntary non-planting during shmita should have done) and our security will be destroyed by diseases which blind and confuse us. Our sense of control and mastery will be shattered by defeat at the hands of our enemies. If we still do not respond, we are punished further (18-20): HaShem will “smash the pride of your power”; He will turn the sky and ground into unyielding metal, and our attempts to violate shmita will amount to nothing. At this point the Torah introduces the word ‘keri’: “If you behave with Me with keri” (21), if you ascribe these disasters to global warming or acid rain or ozone depletion or any other cause other natural process unconnected with the theological lesson of shmita and yovel, “I will add to your suffering seven times for your sin.” Because we refused to make our food available to the animal as commanded during shmita, the animals will help make us suffer and topple the sense of domination and order we have imposed on the world. HaShem sarcastically asserts that He will respond to our claim of ‘keri’ with more of that ‘keri’; if we believe it is all just part of the natural process, then we will just keep getting more of that ‘natural process’ until it dawns on us to wonder whether something is amiss. Eventually, we are to be exiled, and then “the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths.” Again, HaShem speaks with bitter sarcasm: if we refuse to accept shmita and yovel, and if we reject our suffering’s meaning, then finally at least the unthinking land will understand and will celebrate shmita when there is no one left to pick up a shovel and violate the Sabbath of the land.

 

In this light, the blessings we find just before the blessings and curses, which are promised to us if we keep shmita and yovel, also take on new meaning. These blessings are not simply rewards for good behavior and obedience, they are in fact only possible if we keep shmita and yovel. We can be allowed to enjoy material success, military victory, personal fertility, and other blessings only if we keep shmita and yovel because otherwise these blessings begin to compete with HaShem for our attention. Only if we ‘voluntarily’ impose shmita and yovel on ourselves and remind ourselves of the ultimate goals to which we are to dedicate ourselves can we be trusted to properly interpret the meaning of our success.

 

The end of the blessings and curses promises that no matter how bad things get, HaShem will never abandon us completely. But this is comforting only now that we have seen the blessings and curses in empirical historical Technicolor. In our century, now that HaShem has shown us a smile of gracious generosity, may we think creatively and seriously to find personal ways to remind ourselves of our ultimate goals and to prevent ourselves from being blinded by greed and egotism.

 

IX. Questions[144]

 

Question: The Torah commands, “You shall sanctify the fiftieth year (Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:10).” How is this done?

Answer: Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:10 - At the beginning of the year the Beit Din Gadol declares, “This year is Kadosh.”

 

Question: Where does the yovel year get its name?

Answer: Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:10 - From the sounding of the shofar. A ram’s horn is called a yovel.

 

Question: Which two “returns” are announced by the shofar during yovel?

Answer: Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:10 - The return of the land to its original owner, and the “return” (freedom) of the slave from slavery

 

Question: In verse Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:14, to what does “al tonu” (don’t harm) refer?

Answer: Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:14 - “Ona’as mamon”, harming someone financially.

 

Question: In verse Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:17, to what does “don’t harm” refer?

Answer: Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:17 harming someone with words.

 

Question: After selling an ancestral field, when can one redeem it?

Answer: Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:24 - Any time after two years following the sale until yovel. In the beginning of yovel it returns to the family automatically.

 

Question: If a home in a walled city is sold, when can it be redeemed?

Answer: Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:29 - Only within the first year after the sale. Afterwards, even in yovel it does not return.

 

Question: After selling a home in a city without walls, when can one redeem it?

Answer: Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:31 - Anytime until yovel, when it returns automatically.

 

Question: On the third day of creation, the plants only grew up to the surface of the ground. On the sixth day, after Adam was created, he prayed for rain and plants began to appear on the earth’s surface. Why on the third day did they only grow up to the surface and not further?

Answer: The first day of creation was the 25th of Elul, with man being created on Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishri[145]. According to the Midrash[146], “the Torah preceded the world by 2000 years.” In accordance with the Torah command designating every fiftieth year to be yovel (the jubilee year, in which farmers in Israel are forbidden to work the land), the 2000th year was the fortieth yovel year. Thus, the first five days of creation were therefore the last five days of the fortieth yovel year.

 

“He tells His words to Yaakov, His laws and His judgments to Israel” (Tehillim (Psalms) 147:19). Our sages explain this to mean that whatever HaShem commands us to do in the Torah it is because He Himself “fulfills” the deed as well (Shemot Rabbah 30:9). To show how He, too, observes the mitzva of yovel, HaShem created the plants on the third day, but didn’t allow them to penetrate the ground as it was still the yovel year. On the sixth day of creation, the first day of the new year following the yovel, when farmers would once again be allowed to work their fields, HaShem answered Adam‘s prayers for rain and made the plants emerge and flower on earth.

 

If one makes a condition that a sale would not be revoked on the yovel, is the sale revoked at the time of the yovel?[147] According to the Gemara, this condition is invalid.

 

X.  Yovel in the Mishneh Torah

 

Translation: Mishneh Torah Hilchot Shmita v’yovel Chapter 10.

 

It is a positive commandment to count years, seven by seven, and to sanctify the fiftieth year, as it is written “And you shall count for yourself seven sabbaths of years... and you shall sanctify the fiftiethyear” (Leviticus 25:8).  And these two commandments are the responsibility of the Great Court (the Sanhedrin) alone.  And from when did they start to count?  They started fourteen years after entering the land, as it is written “For six years you shall plant your fields, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard” (Leviticus 25:3), when every person should know their land.  And they spent seven years conquering the land, and seven years in dividing it.

 

We see from this that in the year 2503 from the Rosh HaShana after the birth of Adam HaRishon, which is the 2nd year of creation, they began to count. And they did the year 2510 from creation, which is the 21st year from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael, Shmita. And they counted seven Shmita years and sanctified the fiftiethyear, which was the 64th year from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael.

 

Am Yisrael counted seventeen yovels, from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael to the time they left, and the year they left, in which the 1st Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, was the year after Shmita, and year thirty-six of the yovel, for the 1st Beit HaMikdash stood 410 years.

 

And due to the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, this count ceased, for the land was nullified. And the land remained destroyed, 70 years; and the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was built, and stood 420 years. And in the 7th year from its construction, Ezra came up to Eretz Yisrael, and that is the Bi’ah Shniyah, and from this year a new count began. And they made the 13th year of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash Shmita, and they counted seven Shmita years and sanctified the fiftiethyear, even though there was no yovel during the time of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash, they would count it in order to sanctify the Shmita years.

 

We see from this that the year that the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, whose start is from Tishri after the destruction by two months, for it is from Tishri that we count Shmita and yovel, that year was the year after Shmita, and year fifteen of the 9th yovel.

 

And according to this calculation, this year, which is 1107 of the Destruction, which is 1487 to the count of Shtarot, which is 4936 to Creation, is a Shmita year, and it is year 21 from the yovel.

 

However, all of the Geonim said that it is a tradition in their hands, from one generation to the next, that they only counted Shmita during the seventy years between the Destruction of the 1st Beit HaMikdash and the Building of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash, without yovel, and thus it is since it was destroyed this last time, we don’t count the fiftiethyear, but rather just every seven years alone, from the beginning of the year of the Destruction. And thus is the conclusion from the Talmud Avodah Zarah, according to this calculation, which is a tradition.

 

And the year of Shmita is well known by the Geonim and the people of Eretz Yisrael, and all of them counted only from the years of the Destruction, and removing the remainders of seven. And according to this calculation, this year which is 1107 to the Destruction, is the year after Shmita. And this is what we rely on, and according to this calculation we teach for the matter of Maaser, and Shmita, and Shmitat Kesafim, for the tradition and the deed are great pillars for instruction, and upon them it is proper to depend.

 

The yovel year is not included in the count of the years, but rather the 49th year is Shmita, the fiftiethyear is yovel, and the 51st year is the beginning of the seven year cycle of Shmita.  And thus it is in every yovel cycle.

 

Since the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and the half tribe of Menashe were exiled, the yovels have been cancelled, as it is said “And you shall proclaim freedom in the land, to all its inhabitants” (Vayikra 25:10), in a time that all of its inhabitants are upon it.  And this is also when they are not mixed tribe amongst tribe, but rather that they are all settled properly.

 

At the time that the yovel is observed in the Land (of Israel), it is observed outside of the Land (of Israel), as it says “it is yovel” (Vayikra 25:10, 11, 12), in every place, regardless of whether or not the Beit HaMikdash is standing.  And at the time that the yovel is observed, so too are the laws of the Hebrew slave, the laws of the houses of walled cities, the laws of sanctified fields, the laws of the field of inheritance, and it is possible to receive a Ger Toshav, and Shmita is observed in the Land (of Israel), and the cancellation of debts in every place, from the Torah.

 

And at the time that the yovel is not observed, the (laws of the) Hebrew slave, and not the houses of walled cities, and not the field of inheritance, and not the sanctified field, and it is not possible to accept a Ger Toshav, and Shmita is observed from their words (i.e. from rabbinical ordinance), and thus the cancellation of debts is observed everywhere from their words as we have explained.

 

It is a positive mitzvah to blow the shofar on the 10th of Tishri in the yovel year.  And this mitzvah is given over to the Beit Din first, and every individual is required to blow (as well), as it is said “Pass a shofar“ (Vayikra 25:9), and (we) blow the shofar nine times, like it is blown on Rosh HaShana, and it is passed through the entire area of Israel.

 

The shofar of yovel and of Rosh HaShana are the same in every way, and they are the same regarding the manner of blowing, but in yovel, it is blown in a Beit Din that sanctified the month or in a Beit Din that did not sanctify the month.  And every individual is required to blow as long as the Beit Din is still sitting, and not (necessarily) in front of the Beit Din.  And on Rosh HaShana which falls on Shabbat, they would not blow except at a Beit Din that sanctified the month, and not every individual blows, except in front of the Beit Din.

 

Three things delay in the yovel: Blowing (of the shofar), sending (freeing) the servants, and the return of fields to their owners, which is what is called the release of lands.  From Rosh HaShana until Yom Kippur, the slaves would not go to their homes, and they would not serve their masters, and fields would not return to their owners, but rather the slaves are eating and drinking and rejoicing, and their crowns are on their heads.  And when Yom Kippur arrives, the Beit Din blows the shofar, and the slaves go to their homes, and the fields return to their owners.

 

The law of yovel with the rest of the land and the law of Shmita are equal in every way.  Everything that is forbidden in Shmita from the work of the land is forbidden in yovel, and everything that is allowed in Shmita is allowed in yovel.  And all the labors for which one would receive lashes during Shmita, one receives lashes (for those offenses) in yovel, and the law of the fruits of yovel in eating and selling and in burning are like the fruits of Shmita in every way.

 

And in this way Shmita is more than yovel, in that Shmita causes the cancellation of debts, and yovel does not cancel debts.  And yovel is more than Shmita in that yovel frees slaves and releases land.  And this is the law of the sale of fields spoken of in the Torah, and this is a positive mitzvah, as it is said “redemption you shall give to the land” (Vayikra 25:24).  Yovel releases land at its beginning, and Shmita doesn’t cancel debts but at its end, as we have explained.

 

XI.  Selected Essays

 

YESHIVAT HAR ETZION

VIRTUAL BEIT MIDRASH PROJECT (VBM) ****************************************

ROSH HASHANA

Menachem Leibtag

****************************************

To our surprise, Chumash appears to have left out the two primary aspects of the holiday which we call Rosh HaShana:

 

* That it marks the beginning of the NEW YEAR, and

* That it is a Day of Judgment. This shiur attempts to uncover them.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Chumash contains only two brief and ambiguous references to Rosh HaShana:

 

1) In Parshat Emor: “On the SEVENTH month, on the first day of that month, you shall have a day of rest - ZICHRON TRU’AH...” (Vayikra 23:23-25)

 

2) In Parshat Pinchas: “On the SEVENTH month ... You shall have a YOM TERUAH...”. (Bamidbar 29:1-6)

 

In both of these Parshiot, the Torah commands us to observe a holiday on the first day of the SEVENTH month without even hinting as to why this day or month is special. Furthermore, the Torah tells us to observe this day as a ZICHRON TRU’AH, or YOM TRU’AH, without explaining precisely what these phrases mean! How does the SEVENTH month (‘MID-year’) become the NEW year? How does YOM TERUAH become a day of judgment?

 

To answer these questions, we must first explain the biblical concept of a ‘year’.

 

THE BIBLICAL YEAR

 

Although it is commonly assumed that Rosh HaShana marks the anniversary of HaShem‘s creation of the world, this specific issue is a controversy in the Talmud between R’ Eliezer and R’ Yehoshua[148]. According to R’ Yehoshua, who claims that the world was created in Nisan (the first month), is there nothing special about the first of Tishri (the seventh month)? And even according to R’ Eliezer, who claims that the world was created in Tishri, why should the anniversary of the Creation provoke a yearly ‘Day of Judgment’?

 

In Chumash itself, we find TWO yearly cycles. The cycle which begins in Nisan is best known, for the Torah explicitly commands us to count all of the months from Nisan (“parshat ha’chodesh”/ see Shemot 12:1-2). However, the cycle which begins in Tishri is less well known, for it is only implicit. Nonetheless, a quick analysis of several mitzvot and pesukim can show how obvious it really is. The most obvious proof is from the mitzva of “shmita“: “Six YEARS you shall plant your fields... and gather your produce, but on the seventh YEAR the land shall have complete rest... (Vayikra 25:3-5)

 

Although the Torah does not specify the precise time of year when this cycle begins, it can be inferred from the law of the “yovel” year which follows: “You shall count seven cycles of seven years... then you shall blow the shofar on the SEVENTH MONTH, on the tenth day of the month... (Vayikra 25:8-9)

 

If the yovel year begins on the SEVENTH MONTH, then obviously the entire shmita cycle must begin in the SEVENTH month. In addition to this textual proof, there is a very logical reason why the shmita cycle should begin in the SEVENTH month. As we know, the mitzvah of shmita relates to planting and harvesting one‘s field. Since the fall season (i.e. Tishri) marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the next year’s planting season, it makes sense that the shmita cycle begin in Tishri. In other words, in addition to the yearly cycle which begins in Nisan, and relates to the Exodus and our national redemption, another yearly cycle exists which begins in Tishri and relates to the natural cycle of the agricultural year. Proof of this ‘agricultural cycle‘ is found in the Torah’s presentation of the “shalosh regalim”: “Three times a year you shall hold a festival for Me: Observe chag HaMatzot... in the spring... chag ha’katzir, when you first reap your grain harvest, and chag ha’asif - AT THE END OF THE YEAR - when you GATHER YOUR PRODUCE (fruit harvest) from the fields...” (Shemot 23:14-16)

 

Here, the Torah specifically states that the harvest holiday, better known as Succoth, is the END OF THE YEAR. [Parshat Emor states specifically that this holiday is to be celebrated in the SEVENTH month. (See Vayikra 23:39!)] If the previous year ends in Tishri, the new year must also begin in Tishri.

 

 Our final proof is found in the Torah’s presentation of the mitzvah of HAKHEL, which connects both the shmita cycle and Succoth to the END OF THE YEAR: “At the END of every seven years, at the turn of the SHMITA cycle, on CHAG HA’SUCCOTH... you shall read this Torah...” (Devarim 31:10-11)

 

 Once again we find that the Torah considers the time of year of Succoth as the end of the agricultural year. Thus far, we have proven that the SEVENTH month is indeed the beginning of the NEW YEAR, i.e. the agricultural new year. Based on this understanding, we can now explain why it becomes a day of judgment.

 

RAIN - AND THE NEW YEAR Before we continue, we must review the different stages of the agricultural year in the Land of Israel: * The planting season begins during the autumn months of Cheshvan & Kislev, continuing into the winter. [Recall, that in the Land of Israel, it only rains between Succoth and Pesach.] * The grain harvest begins in the spring with the barley harvest in Nisan and the wheat harvest in Iyar and Sivan.

 

* The fruit harvest begins in the summer months of Tammuz and Av, and continues until Tishri.

 

With this in mind, we can proceed. Due to the nature of this cycle, the ultimate success of the agricultural year hinges on the amount of RAIN that falls in the months of Cheshvan and Kislev (late autumn and early winter). This early rainy season is so critical that the first three chapters of Mesechet Taanit describe in detail the public fasts which are declared should the first rain be only a few weeks late! Should more than a month go by without rain, more severe public fasts are declared, SIX Berachot are added to “shmoneh esray” - including ZICHRONOT AND SHOFROT, similar to the Berachot added on Rosh HaShana! [I recommend that you scan through the mishnayot of Mesechet Taanit in order to appreciate this point.]

 

It is not coincidental that on these fast days we daven as on Rosh HaShana. As mentioned above, the month of Tishri marks the beginning of the new agricultural year, and thus the forthcoming rainy season. It is precisely this rainy season which DETERMINES THE FATE OF THE ENTIRE YEAR. Insufficient rain in the autumn leads to thirst, drought, famine, and disease in the spring and summer. Thus, from nature’s perspective, it is the early rainy season which determines ‘who will live and who will die, who by thirst and who by famine, who by war and who by disease...’. Due to the importance of this early rain, man will do everything in his power to make sure that indeed it will fall. In ancient Canaan, people believed that worshiping a pantheon of rain and fertility gods such as Baal and Asheyra would secure adequate rain. Modern man, on the other hand, believes that rainfall is simply determined by chance, according to the whims of nature. Chumash tells us exactly the opposite - the rain that falls in the land of Israel is a DIRECT function of HaShem‘s “hashgacha” (providence). “For the land which you are about to enter is NOT like the land of Egypt [which receives a constant water supply from the Nile] ... the land which you are about to possess [Eretz Yisrael] contains hills and valleys, [there] you will drink water from the RAIN FROM HEAVEN (matar ha’shamayim)...” (Devarim 11:10-11)

 

After stating the land’s DEPENDENCE on RAIN FROM HEAVEN for its water supply, the Torah informs us that God Himself oversees this rainfall: “It is a land which the Lord your God LOOKS AFTER [doresh otah], always He keeps HIS EYE on it, from - REISHIT HaShana - the year’s beginning to the year’s end.” (Devarim 11:12) [See previous shiur on Parshat Ekev.]

 

Interestingly enough, this is the only time in Chumash where we find the name ROSH HASHANA (=REISHIT HASHANA); precisely in the context of the rainy season, at the start of the agricultural year!

 

This theme develops in the next parsha - “v’haya im shmoa” (the second parsha of daily kriyat shema!): “Should you listen to my mitzvot... then I will grant the RAIN for you IN SEASON (lit. at the proper time) -’YOREH u’MALKOSH’ - the early rain and the late rain... BEWARE, should you go astray... then God will shut the heavens so that there WILL BE NO RAIN...” (Devarim 11:13-16)

 

 Yet again, we find that the amount of rain which falls, especially during the critical season, is a DIRECT function of HaShem‘s “hashgacha”, and thus, a direct result of our religious behavior.

 

Based on this interpretation, the biblical importance of celebrating a holiday on the first day of Tishri now becomes clear. As we anticipate the forthcoming agricultural year and its critical rainy season, we dedicate a special day in which we abstain from work (“shabbaton”/ Vayikra 23:23) in order to gather together (“mikra kodesh”) and proclaim HaShem‘s DOMINION over the entire Creation. Based on our deeds, and our willingness to serve Him, He will determine the fate of the forthcoming year. Our fate lies in HIS hands, NOT in the hands of nature or any other god. [We therefore dedicate the month of Elul to repentance, in preparation for this day, in order to prove to HaShem that we are indeed worthy of a good judgment (according to the guidelines of parshat “v’haya im shmoa”).]

 

Up until this point, we have uncovered the biblical reason why the SEVENTH month is considered the beginning of a NEW year and a time of judgment. In anticipation of the rainy season and its influence on the fate of the agricultural year, the Torah commands Bnei Yisrael to set aside a special day in which we must recognize that the fate of the forthcoming year will be determined by HaShem. With this background, we can better appreciate the significance of the special mitzva which the Torah commands us to keep on this day: 1) ZICHRON TRU’AH (in Parshat Emor) 2) YOM TRU’AH (in Parshat Pinchas) Why does the Torah command us to sound a TRU’AH specifically on this day?

 

“YOM TRU’AH” IN THE BIBLE Today, a shofar is considered a ‘religious artifact’, usually purchased at the local “sforim” store or Judaica shop. Back in the time of the Bible, things were a little different. Then, a shofar would have been sold by the local ‘arms dealer’, for it was used as the primary communications tool in war. Military commanders and officers used the shofar to communicate important signals to their troops (e.g. Gidon and his 300 men / Shoftim 7:16-20). Similarly, civil defense personnel used the shofar to warn civilians of possible attack and to mobilize reserves (see Amos 3:6). Therefore, in a manner similar to one‘s gut reaction to the sound of a siren today, the sound of a teruah in biblical times meant immediate danger. Hearing that sound was associated with going to battle or being under attack, i.e. a situation where one‘s life is on the line. For example, the prophet Tzfania uses the phrase YOM SHOFAR U’TRU’AH to describe a situation of war and terrible destruction. “At that time [on the YOM HASHEM], I will search Yerushalayim with candles and I will punish the men... who say to themselves ‘GOD DOES NOT REWARD NOR DOES HE PUNISH’ [i.e. no hashgacha!]... The great day of the Lord is approaching... it is bitter, there a warrior shrieks. That day shall be a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress (“tzarah u’mtzuka”), a day of calamity and desolation...., YOM SHOFAR U’TRU’AH ...” (Tzfania 1:12-16)

 

According to this pasuk, “yom teruah“ and “yom shofar“ clearly imply a day of imminent danger and war.

 

The prophet Amos also refers to the shofar in a similar context: “Should a shofar be sounded in the town, would its people not be frightened (ye’cheradu)? Could misfortune come to a town if God had not caused it?” (see Amos 3:6 and its context) [See also Yoel 2:1-3,11-14 & 2:15-17, & Yirmiyahu 4:3-8.]

 

Therefore, the Torah instructs us to make a “yom teruah“ on the first day of the seventh month in order to create an atmosphere which simulates the tension and fear of war. We are supposed to feel on this day, just as we would on a day of war - that our lives are truly in danger. This explains “yom teruah“. What is the meaning of “zichron teruah”?

 

ZICHRON TRU’AH Luckily, there is a pasuk in Parshat Bha’alotcha which ties together these two words: “Should war take place in your land...- v’HA’RAY’O’TEM - you must sound a TRU’AH with the trumpet (b’chatzotzrot), v’NIZ’KAR’TEM - and you will be REMEMBERED by the Lord your HaShem, and He will save you from your enemies.” (Bamidbar 10:9)

 

 Should war break out, HaShem commands us to sound a TRU’AH in prayer to HaShem - in anticipation of that war. In doing so, we are recognizing HaShem‘s hashgacha over the outcome of the forthcoming battle, and thus show Him that we deserve His special providence. This parallels the situation on the first of Tishri. In anticipation of the forthcoming rainy reason, we must sound a TRU’AH in order to remind ourselves that HaShem will determine the fate of the year and ask for His special providence. Therefore, this day is not only a YOM TRU’AH - a day of AWE on which our lives are judged, but also a ZICHRON TRU’AH - a day on which we must sound the shofar in order that HaShem will REMEMBER us.

 

SHOFAR SHEL AYIL Even though Rosh HaShana is commonly referred to as the JEWISH New Year, it is actually the NEW YEAR for ALL mankind. Nonetheless, Am Yisrael is first to declare God’s kingdom on this day, for it is our national duty to proclaim His Name. As we begin the year by sounding the TRU’AH, we specifically use a shofar from an “ayil” (a ram) - the symbol of “akeidat Yitzchak“, a testimony of our total devotion to HaShem. In doing so, we remind the Almighty of His choice of Avraham Avinu and His special relationship with his children, in order that He NOT judge us like any other nation; but rather as His own special Nation.

 

 Shabbat shalom & shana tova, Menachem

 

===========================

FOR FURTHER IYUN

 

A. In Chodesh Tishri, the ‘seventh’ month, we find many “chagim” which relate to nature, especially the ‘seven‘ days of Succoth marking the culmination of harvest season of the previous year. We also find three days of ‘Judgment’, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Shemini Atzeret.

 

1. Compare the korban musaf of each of these three chagim. (one par, one ayil, seven kvasim and one seir l’chatat).

2. In what way are these chagim connected? Note the use of the word “zeh” and “ach” in Vayikra 23:23-40.

3. According to Chazal, when are we judged for water? How does this relate to the above shiur?

4. Relate this to the tefillah of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur! (It’s in your Machzor at the end of the seder avodah.)

 

B. Why does HaShem need Am Yisrael to proclaim him king? The one thing HaShem, k’vyachol, can NOT do is make himself king. A kingdom is meaningless if there are no subjects. A king becomes king when and because he is accepted by his subjects. Similarly, only when HaShem is accepted and recognized by man does He become Melech. 1. Relate this to our davening on Rosh HaShana.

2 Explain changing “E-l HaKadosh” - to “Melech Hakadosh” according to this concept.

 

C. The Jewish New Year, the New Year special and unique to Am Yisrael is actually Nisan - “HaChodesh Hazeh lechem Rosh Chodashim Rishon hu lachem lchodshei HaShana” (Shemot 12:1-2). Yitzhak Mitzrayim (which took place in Nisan) marks the birth of the Jewish Nation.

1. What aspects of Pesach and Chag HaMatzot emphasize that we are a special nation, different than other nations.

2. What aspect of the chagim in Tishri, relate to all mankind. (Note 70 parim on Succoth etc. - see also Zechariah chap 14)

 

D. TKI’AH / TRU’AH - AC/DC A short explanation concerning the biblical difference between TKI’AH and TRU’AH. TKI’AH implies a straight note (like DC current), while TRU’AH implies an oscillating - up & down - note (like AC current). A TKI’AH usually indicates a public rejoicing or an ‘all clear signal’, while a TRU’AH usually indicates a warning of some sort. [Those of you who were in Israel during the Gulf War know what I am referring to.] This distinction is found in Parshat Bha’alotcha in connection to the mitzvah of “chatzotzrot” (trumpets). 1. Read Bamidbar 10:1-10. Note that according to that parsha, the “tekiah” was used as a signal for gathering the camp and happy occasions (10:3-4,7,10), while the “teruah” was used as a signal to prepare for travel in military formation and war (10:5-6,9). Relate this to the above shiur, see Ramban & Ibn Ezra.

 

E. It seems strange that the yovel year should begin on Yom Kippur (see Vayikra 25:8-10). It should begin on the first of Tishri - Rosh Ha’shana. 1. Relate the laws of yovel to the laws of Yom Kippur to find a thematic connection between them. Could this be the reason why Yom Kippur was chosen to proclaim the yovel? 2. Why do you think that Chazal learn many halachot of shofar and Rosh HaShana from the laws of yovel? 3. See Mesechet Rosh HaShana 33b-34a. Relate this Gemara to the above shiur.

 

* * *

 

The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

 

Parshat HaShavua

Yeshivat Har Etzion

 

PARASHAT BEHAR

Rav Reuven Taragin

 

Behar-Bechukotai - The Ownership of God and Man

 

I) Relationship to Sefer Vayikra

 

As opposed to the preceding parshiot which Moshe received in the ohel moed, the three chapters of Behar and Bechukotai (25-27) were given “behar” - at Sinai (25:1, 26:46, and 27:34). The placement of these Sinaitic chapters in Sefer Vayikra can be attributed to their connection to themes of the Sefer. Ibn Ezra (25:1) parallels the exile threatened as punishment for neglect of the “shmita“ (sabbatical year) laws (26:34-5) to the same fate linked in chapter 18 to improper marital practices. Additionally, Behar’s stress on interpersonal responsibility (25:6,10,14,39,49) mirrors that of Kedoshim’s list of “kedusha” commandments. (Chapter 19. See especially the parallel between verses 25:14,17 and verse 19:33.) Thirdly, Bechukotai’s discussion of sanctified objects in perek 27 can be seen as parallel to the voluntary offerings whose delineation opens Sefer Vayikra.

 

II) Interrelationship

 

The Ramban (27:1) addresses the interrelationship between the three chapters. Although all three chapters were of Sinaitic origin, verse 26:46 divides the three into two units. The first unit includes the commandments of chapter 25 and the curses of chapter 26. The curses were included in the commandment revelation because they share a cause and effect relationship with the commandments. The neglect of the shmita laws, which open chapter 25, bring the curses (26:34-5). The second unit, chapter 27, deals with the laws of sanctified objects.

 

The Ramban points out that the commandment sections of each unit ordain “yovel” (jubilee year) as the emancipation point for sold or sanctified objects. I think that a closer examination of the commandments found in Behar and Bechukotai will considerably enhance our appreciation of the Ramban’s linkage.

 

III) Behar - Chapter 25

 

A) Two Themes

 

Although Behar opens with the shmita laws (25:1-8), verse 9 and onward focus on yovel. What’s more, four out of the five units that follow the completion of the shmita / yovel laws include a reference to yovel.

 

1. (25:25-28) The return of sold land.

 

2. (29-34) The return of sold houses.

 

3. (39-46) The emancipation of Jewish-owned slaves.

 

4. ((47-55) Foreign-owned slaves.

 

In all four cases, the yovel reverses the previous sale. The last verse of the parasha, “You shall observe my Shabbatot and fear my Mikdash, I am HaShem“ (26:2), seems to break the yovel theme of the rest of the parasha. Ibn Ezra and Chizkuni are so influenced by the centrality of the yovel theme that they explain this verse in reference to shmita and yovel as well, shmita being “shabbat HaAretz,” and yovel being “kodesh” (25:10,12).

 

Yovel’s frequent appearance makes the presence of the chapter’s “yovelless” center unit (35-38), which prohibits usury, seem anomalous. I think the presence of the usury prohibition most clearly expresses a second theme present in the chapter - the special consideration Jews are expected to show their brethren. This theme is reflected not only by the usury prohibition, but also by the following unit (fourth overall) that contrasts the laws of Jewish slaves with those of gentile ones.

 

The unit of slavery (39-45) subdivides into two sub-units. Each sub-unit opens and closes with a matched phrase - the first by “he shall not be sold/work as a slave” (39,42) and the second by “you shall not work him ‘befarekh’ (with rigor/ to break his spirit).” (43,46) The first sub-unit mandates that a Jewish slave be freed at yovel; the second sub-unit contrasts this special dispensation with the management of a gentile slave who may/must be enslaved indefinitely. (See further study questions.)

 

The limitation of the period of a Jew‘s enslavement, as opposed to that of the average slave, most emphatically reflects the Torah’s insistence in the framework of the two sub-units that he basically is not to be treated as a slave. The unique, super-erogatory treatment of a Jewish slave is confirmed by the formulation of the concluding verse - “And your brothers - the sons of Israel - a man over his brother shall not rule with rigor (46).”

 

The unique compassion Jews must show one another already appears within the framework of the initial exposition of the yovel laws. The Torah inserts four verses that deal with fraud (14-17) in an artificially created space between the presentation of the shmita / yovel laws (1-13) and their justification and summary (18-24). Just as in the slave unit, the mini-unit blends into the context by using adherence to yovel laws as the example of a proper sale.

 

The Torah reinforces the relationship between the third and fourth units and the fraud mini-unit, all three based on Jewish social responsibility, by including the phrase - “And you shall fear your God” in all three of these units (17,36,43) and nowhere else in the chapter.

 

Thus, the four units that follow the shmita/yovel laws can be divided into two groups which make two independent points. The first two units deal with the sale of property and mandate that the sale not be final. The yovel liberation and the redemption possibility, the central component added by the first two units, express the limitation in one‘s ownership - “the land may not be sold forever for the land is mine; you are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all inheritance land you shall grant redemption (23-4).” The second group of two units deals with the compassion that must be shown to other Jews - whether freemen or slaves. The second of the two units mentions the yovel emancipation as an indication of the fact that no Jew should be treated as a slave.

 

B) The Relationship Between the Two

 

The two distinct themes - yovel and the special treatment of Jewish brethren - are related both conceptually and textually. Conceptually, both are reflections of the limits God’s underlying ownership places on man’s. Just as “the land may not be sold forever for the land is mine,” (23) so too no Jew can be owned “for they are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt.” (42) Additionally, recognition of the fact that even one‘s basic freedom from the bondage of Egypt, is a product of God’s compassion, should bring one to show unique compassion to fellow Jews in settings besides slavery, such as loans and others business dealings.

 

The Torah intertwines the two themes in the fifth unit (47-55) applying both to a Jew who, out of desperation, enslaves himself to a gentile. Ideally the slave’s relatives, even distant, should show compassion and redeem their brother. The redemption clause, heretofore (in the first two units, which dealt with property) an expression of the man’s restricted land ownership now reflects the responsibility fellow Jews have to enslaved brethren.

 

If no one redeems the slave, the Torah adds two stipulations. “The gentile may not rule over him with vigor in your sight” (53), for one should find a foreigner’s lack of compassion for another Jew as intolerable as his own. Additionally, the slave must be freed at yovel - “for the Jewish people are my servants that I brought out of Egypt; I am HaShem - their God” (55).

 

IV) Chapter 27 (Bechukotai) and Parashat Behar

 

Chapter 27 applies Behar’s theme of God’s exclusive ownership to “hekdesh” (objects owned by the Temple). The chapter stresses the unacceptability of a Jew being owned by distinguishing between the dedication of property and self-dedication. That the two types of dedication are meant to be contrasted rather than understood as a continuum may be seen by the fact that they are separated by a mesora-break (after 27:8), the ONLY one in the perek. Dedication generally applies to the object actually dedicated. Although the possibility of redemption generally exists, it is merely an option. What’s more, it meets with a penalty - an extra fifth is adas a surcharge. Otherwise, the object remains hekdesh and may be purchased by another. A Jew‘s self-dedication, though, has only one resolution - personal redemption; another’s acquisition or a permanent state of hekdesh-ownership are not considered possible. Even hekdesh cannot possess another Jew.

 

Likewise, the Torah limits the scope of hekdesh’s hold on property. Although an animal fit for sacrifice or a “cherem” fall inextricably under hekdesh’s control, land that is dedicated returns to it’s original owner through redemption or, in certain circumstances, yovel. Hekdesh fairs no better than the commoner; it’s control is likewise undermined by God’s underlying ownership.

 

“Bekhor” (first born animal), singled out as an exception (26), fits well within the framework of the chapter. God’s execution of yetziat Mitzrayim grants Him ownership of man, and therefore hekdesh’s ability to control man is limited. It also grants him ownership of all firstborns and, thus, preempts man’s sanctification.

 

Thus, it is not merely the mutual mention of yovel that characterizes the two chapters, but the joint limitation of ownership of both land (the redemption clause) and man (the dedication being a vow, not a transfer of ownership).

 

Further questions:

 

1. “You shall enslave them (non-Jewish slaves) forever” (25,46). R. Akiva (Gittin 38b) interprets this as a prohibition on the emancipation of non-Jewish slaves, although in context it could easily have been interpreted as merely excluding the MANDATORY emancipation at yovel. How does his interpretation strengthen the underlying theme of the contrast between slaves, as explained in the shiur?

 

2. Halachically, redemption applies to any Jew sold as a slave (Kiddushin 14b). Explicitly, however, the Torah mentions it only in regard to a female slave (Shemot 21:4) and, in our parasha, in regard to a slave sold to a non-Jew (25:48). Why are these two cases stressed? What does this indicate about the context for this halakhic institution?

 

3. Are shmita and yovel “religious” institutions (about God’s ownership of the land) or social institutions (about equality and freedom)? Read carefully the opening of the parasha and compare to Shemot 23, 10-12 (Shemot 23:12 is about Shabbat - but notice the context of Shabbat in that verse!) and Devarim 15:1-2; 12-18.

 

4. yovel, including even counting the fiftieth year separately, depends on “kol yoshveha aleha” - having the Jewish people as a whole living in Eretz Yisrael. This is the only mitzva hateluya ba-aretz with this stipulation. Why is the mitzva dependent not only on kedushat ha-aretz, but also on the presence of the people in the land?

 

The Agricultural and Historical Significance

Of Sefirat Ha-Omer

 

By Rav Yaakov Medan

Translated by Zev Jacobson

 

Each of the chagim (holidays) has a dual significance which is rooted and expressed in the duality of our calendar. The Jewish calendar is based on the movement of both the sun and the moon, in contradistinction to the solar calendar of ancient Egypt (and the Western world) and the lunar calendar of ancient Babylon (and the Islamic world). We calculate the months according to the waxing and waning of the moon (29 or 30 days to each month), but adjust the years based on the cycle of the sun and the seasons. (The lunar year is only 354 days long, as opposed to the 365 days of the solar year. In order that Pesach should fall out in the spring, we add an extra month every few years.)

 

Correspondingly, each holiday has both a historical and an agricultural significance. Pesach commemorates Yetzi’at Mitzrayim (the Exodus) and marks the beginning of the barley harvest. Shavuot commemorates Matan Torah (the Giving of the Torah) and marks the beginning of the wheat harvest. Succoth commemorates the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness and marks the season when the produce is gathered in from the fields. The agricultural significance of the chagim is connected with the solar cycle that determines the seasons and represents the stable, natural, unchanging flow of time. However, the historical element of each holiday is linked to a specific day of a specific month and is, thus, connected with the lunar cycle - one that involves constant flux as expressed in the appearance and disappearance of the moon. This phenomenon is representative of the waning and waxing of the nations of the world who rise to power and then fade away.

 

The combination of these two cycles into one unit is an assertion of faith: HaShem, who is responsible for the creation of the world and who causes plants to grow, is the one who controls history. The God of Nature is He who redeemed us from Egypt. However, there is also a unique link between each festival and the time of year that it is celebrated - as will presently be explained.

 

The Torah (Devarim 16:1) assigns great importance to the period of the year when Pesach must be celebrated - Chodesh Ha-Aviv (Spring). The Festival of Freedom, which commemorates the unique historical event of the Exodus, must coincide with the start of the annual agricultural season - the harvest. What is the connection between the two?

 

For the six months from Succoth until Pesach, the farmer is a slave to his land. He must clear the fields of stones, plough, sow and water without seeing the fruits of his labor. However, when the middle of Nisan comes, a dramatic change takes place. The farmer is transformed from one who “sows in tears“ to one who “reaps in joy”. He is now master of his land and earns his daily bread from it. This new-found freedom commences on Pesach when the barley harvest begins, as beforehand one is not permitted to benefit from the current year’s grain. Thus, the two freedoms - agricultural and historical - go hand-in-hand. A barley offering (korban omer) is brought in the Temple on the second day of Pesach, expressing our recognition that it is God who causes the rains to fall and the grain to grow, just as it is He who redeemed us from bondage.

 

We are commanded to count fifty days from Pesach until Shavuot (Vayikra 23:15-18). This is called Sefirat Ha-Omer (counting of the Omer) and is so termed because it commences on the day that the Omer is offered. From the verses in the Torah, it seems that the significance of this counting relates purely to the agricultural cycle: we mark off the days between the barley offering of Pesach and the wheat offering (shtei ha-lechem - the two loaves) which is brought on Shavuot.

 

Since barley ripens before wheat, these fifty days represent the interlude when only barley is being harvested. The farmer eagerly anticipates the new crop that he will soon harvest. In the words of our Sages, he waits as “a bride awaits her wedding day.”

 

Barley is used primarily as animal fodder; it is the

superior wheat that will serve as food for him and his family. Furthermore, the barley offering permits the current year’s grain to be eaten only outside of the Temple; whereas the wheat offering permits it to be used in the Temple itself as part of the sacrificial service. Just as a bride is not satisfied with her engagement to her groom, but awaits their marriage, so too the farmer awaits the time when his grain will enter the House of God - symbolic of the close relationship between man his Maker. With every day that passes, the farmer gives thanks to HaShem for having sustained and blessed him in the inheritance that was promised to his forefathers.

 

However, our Sages identify Shavuot as the date of the giving of the Torah, and it is the historical significance of the day that lends the central meaning to the analogy of a “bride anticipating her wedding day.” The Exodus is compared to an engagement between HaShem and Israel. By redeeming us from bondage, He chose us to be His people, His beloved (see Shir Ha-Shirim, Yirmiyahu 2:2, and Hoshea ch. 2). However, the union was only sealed at the foot of Mount Sinai where we voluntarily accepted the Torah, thus forging a special bond with God. Upon leaving Egypt, the Jews counted each day that brought them closer to Shavuot, to the intimate connection that they yearned to have.

 

Every year, we relive this feeling of longing and anticipation. We eagerly await the festival of Shavuot when our covenant with HaShem is re-affirmed and renewed. We hope and pray that the bread of affliction - the poor man’s bread of Pesach - is transformed into the full, rich loaves of the Shavuot service. Thus, Sefirat Ha-Omer as a period of transformation and longing is relevant in both the agricultural and the historical senses. The satisfaction and fulfillment of Shavuot is also to be experienced in both these realms, although the Sages place more emphasis on the historical overtones of the day. Note, however, that the focus of the historical experience is not merely recollection of the past, but reliving it in the present.

 

It is somewhat puzzling that while the Torah speaks directly of both aspects of Pesach - agricultural and historical - it focuses solely on the agricultural significance of Sefirat Ha-Omer and Shavuot. In fact, it is the Sages who calculate that Matan Torah took place on the selfsame day that we are commanded to offer the shtei ha-lechem. Why does the Torah not mention the historical significance of the day at all?

 

While it is true that there is no direct mention of Shavuot as the commemoration of the revelation at Sinai, the connection is very strongly hinted at in the verses by the use of Sefirat Ha-Omer as the link between Pesach and Shavuot, as will be explained.

 

Sefirat Ha-Omer is very similar to the mitzva of Sefirat Ha-yovel, whereby we are enjoined to count 49 years and consecrate the fiftiethyear as the yovel (Jubilee). This similarity is expressed both in the verses themselves (compare Vayikra 23:15-16 to 25:8-10) and in the laws relevant to the actual counting. (For example, with regard to Sefirat Ha-Omer, we are commanded to count seven sets of seven days - each set comprising a week; with regard to Sefirat Ha-yovel, we are commanded to count seven sets of seven years - each set comprising one shmita cycle where the ground is worked for six years and left untouched in the seventh year. In both cases it is a mitzva to count each day or year AND each individual set.) It is clear that the similarity between the two is not accidental and by taking a closer look at Sefirat Ha-yovel, we can better understand Sefirat Ha-Omer.

 

On Yom Kippur of the fiftieth year, a shofar is blown throughout the land to proclaim the yovel year. Another term for shofar is “yovel,” and hence the name of the year. The basis of this practice has its roots in Matan Torah, where HaShem announced His presence with “the powerful sound of the shofar“ (Shemot 19:19) and signified that His presence had departed from the mountain by a long shofar blast (“bimshokh ha-YOVEL,” Shemot 19:13). The sound of the shofar on yovel parallels the shofar at Sinai and, thus, the counting of the yovel is strongly reminiscent of the build-up to Matan Torah.

 

Furthermore, on the Succoth following the shmita year, there is a mitzva of Hakhel (Gathering) where every able-bodied man, woman and child is enjoined to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and gather together to hear words of Torah from the mouth of the king (Devarim 31:10-12). The purpose of Hakhel, in the words of the scriptures, is: “In order that you may hear and in order that you may learn to fear the Lord your God.” This, too, is cited as the purpose of Matan Torah (see, e.g., Shemot 20:18), where the entire nation congregated to hear the words of HaShem.

 

In the yovel year, this assumed greater significance, as all slaves were freed on Yom Kippur and were, thus, able to participate in the communal acceptance of the Torah that took place on Hakhel. Thus, the Sefirat Ha-yovel was in fact a countdown to the freedom from slavery and embracing of the Torah. By way of comparison, it follows that Sefirat Ha-Omer expresses the same idea.

 

The special nature of the Sefira - preparation for the bond between God and His people - is strongly hinted at by the Korban Ha-Omer itself. There are only two instances when an offering of barley is brought: the Omer offering and the Sotah offering (brought by a woman whose fidelity to her husband is under suspicion). The period between the exodus and the Revelation at Sinai is one of trial. The betrothed (Israel) is tested to verify the extent of her loyalty to the groom (God). Only once her unquestioning faithfulness has been proven can the union be finalized.

 

In a similar vein, we find only two places where the name of God is cast into water: At the Sotah ceremony[149] and at Mara. (After crossing the Red Sea, the Jews wandered for three days without water. When they came to Mara and found a well whose water was too bitter to drink, they complained to Moshe and he was instructed by HaShem to cast a piece of wood into the water to sweeten it - Shemot 15:22-25. According to the Midrash, the wood contained the name of God.) In both cases, the betrothed must prove herself and her faithfulness.

 

The allusion to the Sotah ceremony makes it clear that Israel were not redeemed to be free from responsibility. Rather, we were taken out of bondage in order to assume the difficult task of being “a light unto the Nations.” Nevertheless, as our Sages state in Pirke Avot: “There is none as free as he who is totally involved with the Torah.”

 

This is the message of the Omer - in order to be worthy of the gifts of HaShem, both on a material (agricultural) plane and on a spiritual plane (Matan Torah) - we must prepare ourselves correctly.

© Virtual Jerusalem, Ltd., 1995-1996. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

 

Mashiach and yovel[150]

 

Sources: Hilchot Melachim 11:1. Shmita V’yovel 10:8.12:16

 

Parshat Behar teaches about the special laws of Shmita (the 7th year) and yovel (the fiftiethyear).

 

In the laws discussing Mashiach, the Rambam tells us that Mashiach will bring back the laws of shmita and yovel just as they were before. But before that, the laws of shmita and yovel do not fully apply.

 

This is because the posuk says that we need kol yoshveha -- all the Bnei Yisrael-- living in Eretz Yisrael. Mashiach will lead all the Bnei Yisrael out of galut and back to Eretz Yisrael. Then we will be able to keep all the mitzvot of the Torah fully.

 

Yovel and Geula [151]

 

Sources: Rabbeinu Bachaye 25:47

 

After seven shmita cycles of seven years each, the fiftiethyear is declared yovel. yovel also hints to the geulah (redemption). In the fiftiethyear, the shofar is blown and all slaves are set free. In the same way, the Bnei Yisrael will be set free from our slavery in galut (exile).

 

There is a second way that yovel hints to the geulah. The word yovel is just like the word yovilu. The word yovilu is written in Tehillim (76:12): all the nations “yovilu shai” -- will bring gifts to HaShem when the geulah comes.

 

* * *

 

PARSHA BEHAR

Rabbi M.M. Schneerson

 

In the Sedra of Behar, instructions are given about the observance of two special kinds of sanctified year-the seventh year (Shmita or `release’) when the land was rested and lay fallow; and the fiftieth year (yovel or ‘Jubilee’) when the Hebrew slaves were emancipated and most property reverted to its original owner. The two institutions were connected, the Jubilee being the completion of seven seven year cycles. It was not, itself, counted as a year in the seven-yearly reckoning. The Jubilee lapsed as a practical institution when some of the Tribes went into exile. But we can distinguish three periods in its history: (i) a time when the Jubilee was observed, (ii) a time during the second Temple when it was not observed but was still counted for the purpose of fixing the seven-year cycle, and (iii) a time (like the present) when neither Temple stood, and the seven-year cycle was counted without reference to the Jubilee. The Sicha explores the spiritual meaning of the seventh and fiftieth years, and thus gives an inward interpretation to the three periods, and the religious consciousness they represent.

 

1. THE JUBILEE

 

“And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the and unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you; and you shall return every man unto his possession, and you shall return every man unto his family.” 1 In this connection, the Talmud states: “When the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh went into exile, the Jubilees were abolished, as it is said, `And you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof-that is (only) at the time when all its inhabitants dwell upon it, but not at the time when some of them are exiled.”2

 

Despite the fact that the Jubilee-as a time of emancipation of slaves and restitution of property-lapsed, the (Babylonian) Talmud notes that even during the period of the second Temple, “They counted the Jubilees to keep the years of release holy.”(3) Every seventh year was a year of release (‘Shmita‘), a sabbatical year for the land when it was `released’ from cultivation and lay fallow. In this cycle, according to the Rabbis,(4) the fiftieth year was not counted, so that they had to continue counting the Jubilees in order to be able to observe the Shmita years of release in their proper time: to ensure that release was observed in the seventh year after the Jubilee rather than after the forty-ninth year.

 

Tosafot (5) raises an objection: the Jerusalem Talmud states, “At a time when the Jubilee is not observed as a year of release, neither do you observe the seventh year as a release.”(6) If so, during the second Temple period, when the Jubilee was not observed, merely counted, it should follow that the seven year release of Shmita should also have lapsed.

 

Rashi’s opinion is that the seventh year was observed during the Second Temple, only as a Rabbinic law. In other words, the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds are not in disagreement, the Jerusalem Talmud asserting that the sabbatical year was not (while the Jubilee was in abeyance) a requirement of Torah law, the Babylonian Talmud mentioning that it was nonetheless continued, by Rabbinic decree.

 

But according to Tosafot, the two Talmuds conflict, the Babylonian asserting that the seventh year was obligatory under Torah law, independently of the Jubilee, in disagreement with the Jerusalem Talmud.

 

2. THE SPIRIT AND THE LAW

 

The legal decisions of the early Rabbis, the Tannaim and the Amoraim, were not made merely as a result of a this-worldly reasoning. They were men of great spiritual insight, who saw matters in a spiritual light and then translated their vision into intellectual and legal terms. Since their souls differed in the visionary heights they were able to reach, so also their practical decisions differed, and this was the source of their legal disagreements.

 

Seen in this way, we might say that the disagreement (according to Tosafot) between the Jerusalem and Talmuds as to whether the Shmita year of release was required by Torah law during the second Temple period, has its origin in the different levels of spirituality these two works represent. The Babylonian is the lower level. “ `He hath made me to dwell in dark places’-this, said Rabbi Jeremiah, refers to the Babylonian Talmud.”

 

At the higher level of the Jerusalem Talmud, it required the sanctity of the Jubilee to complete the sanctity of the shmita year. At the lower, Babylonian, level, the seventh year was complete in itself even without the Jubilee.

 

3. THE LAPSING OF THE JUBILEE

 

When the Second Temple was destroyed, the year of release was counted in a new Way.

 

While the Temple stood, the fiftieth year was not counted as part of the seven-year cycle. But “during those seventy years between the destruction of the First Temple and the building of the Second, and also after the destruction of the Second, they did not count the Jubilee year, but only (unbroken) seven-year cycles.”‘

 

Why, then, is there a difference between the way we count the year of release now, and in the Second Temple, when the Jubilee had ceased to be observed?

 

Using our previous concept, we might say that while the Temple existed, the level of spirituality was so high Shmita year of release needed the higher sanctity of the Jubilee for its completion-at one period, the actual observance of the Jubilee at another, at least the counting of it. But when the Temple was destroyed, spiritual achievement sank to the point where the year of release no longer had any connection with the Jubilee.

 

4. THE INNER MEANING OF THE SEVENTH AND FIFTIETH YEARS

 

To understand all this, we must discover the equivalents of the seventh and fiftieth years in the religious life of man. The seventh year, the time of release, represents the “acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of heaven“. This is when man suppresses his ego in obedience to G-d (bittul ha-yesh).’ His ego still exists, and continually needs to be silenced. That is why, as every seventh year approached, its claim would be heard: `What shall we eat on the seventh year? Behold, we may not sow, nor gather in our increase.” Even though on each previous occasion it had seen for itself the fulfillment of G-d’s promise, “I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth produce for the three years,” it always renewed its anxieties.

 

The Jubilee, on the other hand, represents the complete abnegation of one‘s being to G-d (bittul bi-metziut). There is no longer a contending ego. Instead of serving G-d through an effort of willpower, one serves through understanding, an understanding so complete that it breaks through the curtain of self-deception that separates man from G-d. It is the `year of freedom‘, meaning, freedom from concealment and from the ego that holds man in its chains.

 

5. TWO KINDS OF OBEDIENCE

 

Each of these levels has a certain merit vis-à-vis the other.(16) Bittul bi-metziut, or the obedience that comes from understanding, has the advantage of being extensive. It encompasses the whole man in its orientation towards G-d.

 

Bittul ha-yesh, or the obedience that comes from an effort of will, has the advantage of being intensive. It is an intense spiritual struggle within the soul of man.

 

To give an analogy: there are two kinds of relationship between a servant and his master. There is the `simple’ servant, whose real desire is to be free, but who serves because he accepts the burden of his situation. And there is the `faithful’ servant, who serves his master out of love and a genuine desire to obey. Whereas the obedience of the latter is more complete, since his whole nature affirms his service, the obedience of the former is more intense because it is a result of a deliberate subjugation of part of his character. It cost him more in terms of inward effort.

 

6. THE THREE AGES

 

We can now see the full significance of the three periods in Jewish history with respect to the Jubilee and the year of release.

 

When the first Temple stood, both were observed, that is, Jewish spirituality combined obedience through love and understanding with obedience through effort and subjugation. Love lay even in their subjugation; their effort was also with understanding. The love which transcends the self, returned to fill the self.

 

At the time of the Second Temple, the Jubilee was no longer observed but it was still counted. Love and understanding still counted, still left their traces, in the service of effort and will.

 

But when the Second Temple was destroyed, all that was left was the year of release, the intense struggle to conquer the ego, and obey for obedience’s sake. No trace of the Jubilee, of inward unanimity, remained.

 

7. A DISAGREEMENT EXPLAINED

 

So now we no longer see the things of the spirit with the clear light of understanding. We are forced to act against our reason, in a gesture of reluctant obedience. True inwardness is beyond us. And yet, the ultimate inwardness never departs. The essence of the soul is always present. In the current spiritual darkness of exile, it still works its subconscious, subliminal influence.

 

And this is the ultimate source of the disagreement between the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds as to whether the year of release is a matter of Torah or of Rabbinic Law in our time; that is to say, whether it still] exists in its own right, or merely as a Rabbinic remembrance of times past, (17) when the Jubilee was celebrated.

 

To the Babylonian Talmud, the product of exile, the observance of the seventh year and its corresponding service of “acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven“ seemed like an act in itself, with no connection to that higher state of the Jubilee and the service which came through love and understanding.

 

The Jerusalem Talmud, with its higher spiritual awareness, still felt the Jubilee and its service as a continuing, if subliminal, presence. So they saw the year of release as still connected with, and observed in remembrance of, the time when it belonged together with the Jubilee, when the first Temple stood. Similarly, it is also a preparation for the time where that former state will return, with the building of the third Temple, when the Messiah comes.

 

 (Source: Likkutei Sichot Vol. VII Pp. 170-174).

 

1. Vayikra 25, 10.

2. Arachin, 32b; Rambam, Hilchot Shmita Veyovel 10, 8.

3. Arachin, ibid; Rambam, ibid 3.

4. Arachin, 33a.

5. Arachin, ibid.

6. Sheviit 1, 2; Gittin 4, 3.

7. Gittin, 36a.

8. Cf.Biurei Hazohar, Vayishlach, 20b.

9. Cf. lntroduction to Tanya, Part, 1. Zohar, Part nl, 245a.

10. Sanhedrin, 24a.

11. Rambam, ibid, 5.

12. Cf. Taamei Hamitzvot Lehaarizal, Behar; quoted in

 Derech Mitzvotecha,35b.

13. Cf.Likkutei Torah, Behar, 42d.

14. Vayikra 25,2O.

15. ibid, 21.

16. Cf., for more extensive treatment of the theme,

 Likkutei Sichot, Vol. IX, pp. 72ff.

17. Gittin, 36b.

 

* * *

 

From: http://keitzmeguleh.blogspot.com/2008/10/yovel-and-geulah.html

 

Chapter 1

The Rambam on Counting Yovel

 

The following is an excerpt from chapter 10 of the Mishneh Torah Hilchot Shmitah v’Yovel chapter 10.

 

1.    It is a positive commandment to count years, 7 by 7, and to sanctify the 50th year, as it is written “And you shall count for yourselfs 7 sabbaths of years... and you shall sanctify the 50th year” (Leviticus 25:8).  And these two commandments are the responsibility of the Great Court(the Sanhedrin) alone.  And from when did they start to count?  They started 14 years after entering the land, as it is written “For 6 years you shall plant your fields, and for 6 years you shall prune your vineyeard” (Leviticus 25:3), when every person should know their land.  And they spent 7 years conquering the land, and 7 years in division.

 

2.    We see from this that in the year 2503 from the Rosh Hashanah after the birth of Adam HaRishon, which is the 2nd year of creation, they began to count. And they did the year 2510 from creation, which is the 21st year from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael, Shmitah. And they counted 7 Shmitah years and sanctified the 50th year, which was the 64th year from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael.

 

3.    Am Yisrael counted 17 Yovels, from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael to the time they left, and the year they left, in which the 1st Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, was the year after Shmitah, and year 36 of the Yovel, for the 1st Beit HaMikdash stood 410 years.

 

4.    And due to the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, this count ceased, for the land was nullified. And the land remained destroyed, 70 years; and the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was built, and stood 420 years. And in the 7th year from its construction, Ezra came up to Eretz Yisrael, and that is the Bi’ah Shniyah, and from this year a new count began. And they made the 13th year of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash Shmitah, and they counted 7 Shmitah years and sanctified the 50th year, even though there was no Yovel during the time of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash, they would count it in order to sanctify the Shmitah years.

 

5.    We see from this that the year that the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, whose start is from Tishrei after the destruction by 2 months, for it is from Tishrei that we count Shmitah and Yovel, that year was the year after Shmitah, and year 15 of the 9th Yovel.

 

6.    And according to this calculation, this year, which is 1107 of the Destruction, which is 1487 to the count of Shtarot, which is 4936 to Creation, is a Shmitah year, and it is year 21 from the Yovel.

 

7.    However, all of the Geonim said that it is a tradition in their hands, from one generation to the next, that they only counted Shmitah during the 70 years between the Destruction of the 1st Beit HaMikdash and the Building of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash, without Yovel, and thus it is since it was destroyed this last time, we don’t count the 50th year, but rather just every 7 years alone, from the the beginning of the year of the Destruction. And thus is the conclusion from the Talmud Avodah Zarah, according to this calculation, which is a tradition.

 

8.    And the year of Shmitah is well known by the Geonim and the people of Eretz Yisrael, and all of them counted only from the years of the Destruction, and removing the remainders of 7. And according to this calculation, this year which is 1107 to the Destruction, is the year after Shmitah. And this is what we rely on, and according to this calculation we teach for the matter of Maaser, and Shmitah, and Shmitat Kesafim, for the tradition and the deed are great pillars for instruction, and upon them it is proper to depend.

 

Chapter 2

Explanation of the Rambam

 

1. It is a positive commandment to count years, 7 by 7, and to sanctify the 50th year, as it is written “And you shall count for yourself 7 sabbaths of years... and you shall sanctify the 50th year” (Leviticus 25:8).  And these two commandments are the responsibility of the Great Court (the Sanhedrin) alone.  And from when did they start to count?  They started 14 years after entering the land, as it is written “For 6 years you shall plant your fields, and for 6 years you shall prune your vineyeard” (Leviticus 25:3), when every person should know their land.  And they spent 7 years conquering the land, and 7 years in division.

 

The Exodus took place in the year 2448, according to the count brought in Midrash Seder Olam Rabba.  The 40 years in the desert finished in 2488.  After this there were 7 years in which Yehoshua bin-Nun led B’nei Yisrael in conquering the land, ending in 2495.  A further 7 years went in to dividing the land amongst the 12 tribes.  This ends in the year 2502.

 

2. We see from this that in the year 2503 from the Rosh Hashanah after the birth of Adam HaRishon, which is the 2nd year of creation, they began to count. And they did the year 2510 from creation, which is the 21st year from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael, Shmitah. And they counted 7 Shmitah years and sanctified the 50th year, which was the 64th year from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael.

 

The Rambam here tells us that they started in the year 2503, but counting from year number 2.  Really, then, the count started in year 2504.  This is implied by the fact that the 1st Shmitah is recorded as the year 2510. The first Yovel was, therefore, in 2553.

 

Background: Midrash Seder Olam Rabba assumes that Adam HaRishon was born in year 1.  The Rambam, however, states that we count starting from the “Year of Chaos”.  If Adam HaRishon was born on the 1st of Tishrei, that means that the other 5 days of creation were in Elul, and since we don’t have a year 0, we shift the creation of Adam HaRishon to year 2.  Then, in order to simplify our calendrical calculations, we calculate backwards to the prior hypothetical Tishrei, and that is the 1st Molad, on which all other calculations are based.  This is called Molad BaHaRa”D.  (BaHaRa”D is an acronym for the 2nd day of the week, the 5th hour, and 204 chalakim)

 

In Tractate Arachin, there is a disagreement on how to count the Yovel Cycle.

 

 

The Rambam brings as the halachah the opinion of Rabbanan, that we count 7 Shmitah Cycles, and then have a Yovel Year.  The following year is number 1 of the followign Shmitah and Yovel Cycles.

 

3. Am Yisrael counted 17 Yovels, from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael to the time they left, and the year they left, in which the 1st Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, was the year after Shmitah, and year 36 of the Yovel, for the 1st Beit HaMikdash stood 410 years.

 

The 1st Beit HaMikdash, which stood from 2929 to 3339.  Continuing these 50 year cycles onward from 2504, we see that 3339 was the 36th year of the 17th Yovel cycle.  That is to say that 16 Yovel cycles were completed, and the Destruction was during the 17th cycle.

 

4. And due to the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, this count ceased, for the land was nullified. And the land remained destroyed, 70 years; and the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was built, and stood 420 years. And in the 7th year from its construction, Ezra came up to Eretz Yisrael, and that is the Bi’ah Shniyah, and from this year a new count began. And they made the 13th year of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash Shmitah, and they counted 7 Shmitah years and sanctified the 50th year, even though there was no Yovel during the time of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash, they would count it in order to sanctify the Shmitah years.

 

The Rambam’s opinion is that during the 70 years of the Babylonian Exile, Shmitah and Yovel were not counted, due to the nullification of the initial holiness of the land imparted in the time of Yehoshua bin-Nun.  As the Gemara teaches, the holiness imparted by Yehoshua was for its time, but the 2nd holiness, imparted in the time of Ezra, is eternal, even to our days.

 

This is an interesting idea.  We have seemingly separate issues: The counting of Shmitah and Yovel, and the holiness of the Land ofIsrael.  According to the Rambam, the counting of Shmitah and Yovel is dependent on the holiness being in force.

 

5. We see from this that the year that the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, whose start is from Tishrei after the destruction by 2 months, for it is from Tishrei that we count Shmitah and Yovel, that year was the year after Shmitah, and year 15 of the 9th Yovel.

 

There is a very old tradition brought down that both of the Templeswere destroyed in the year after Shmitah.  In order to make this work, the Rambam asserts that in the case of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash, we are referring to the year after the destruction.  It should be noted that the Tosefot on Arachin says that the 2nd Beit HaMikdash stood 421 years; this makes the calculation work.

 

6. And according to this calculation, this year, which is 1107 of the Destruction, which is 1487 to the count of Shtarot, which is 4936 to Creation, is a Shmitah year, and it is year 21 from the Yovel.

 

Following the idea in Halachah 4, the holiness of the land is still in force, and therefore we should still count Yovel cycles.  These numbers are the result.

 

7. However, all of the Geonim said that it is a tradition in their hands, from one generation to the next, that they only counted Shmitah during the 70 years between the Destruction of the 1st Beit HaMikdash and the Building of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash, without Yovel, and thus it is since it was destroyed this last time, we don’t count the 50th year, but rather just every 7 years alone, from the the beginning of the year of the Destruction. And thus is the conclusion from the Talmud Avodah Zarah, according to this calculation, which is a tradition.

 

The Rambam here brings a tradition which nullifies his own conclusion.  During the time of the Babylonian Exile, the counting did continue, but only Shmitah cycles.  Thus it is also during the Exile of Edom in our days, we continue with only the Shmitah cycles.  This calculation, that 3829, the year of the Destruction, was a Shmitah year, leads to the year 5768 also being a Shmitah year, as we practice now as halachah.

 

8. And the year of Shmitah is well known by the Geonim and the people of Eretz Yisrael, and all of them counted only from the years of the Destruction, and removing the remainders of 7. And according to this calculation, this year which is 1107 to the Destruction, is the year after Shmitah. And this is what we rely on, and according to this calculation we teach for the matter of Maaser, and Shmitah, and Cancellation of Debts, for tradition and deed are major pillars for instruction, and it is proper to depend upon them.

 

The Rambam here stresses the need to follow this tradition from the Geonim, despite the logic for this decision not being evident to us.  We submit to their superior judgement.

 

Chapter 3

Arriving at a Combined Approach

 

As mentioned before, there are two opinions on how to count Yovel.

 

 

The conclusion in the Gemara is that the halachah is according to Rabbanan, and that is the counting system used by the Rambam, cited above.

 

 

There is a problem with both of these systems: They contradict our halachic practice.  Per Rabbanan, Shmitah was in the year 5764.  Per Rebbi Yehudah, it was in 5767, and our accepted halachah is that Shmitah was last in 5768.

 

It would appear that there is a secret behind the disagreement between Rabbanan and Rebbi Yehudah which is hinted at in the tradition of the Geonim.  The tradition that we have states that after the destruction of each Beit HaMikdash, instead of counting according to Rabbanan, we count just Shmitah cycles of 7 years.  Perhaps that is not entirely precise.

 

I propose the following:

 

During the time of Exile, both Babylon and Edom, the halachah is like Rebbi Yehudah.

 

That is to say:

 

 

This is hinted at in Sefer Yehezkel:

 

Yehezkel (Ezekiel) 40:1 In the 25th year of our exile, on Rosh Hashanah, on the 10th of the month, in the 14th year after the city was hit, in the midst of this day, the Hand of Hashem was upon me, and brought me there.

 

What year has the Rosh Hashanah on Yom Kippur?  That is Yovel. And thus it is, since the 1st Beit HaMikdash was destroyed in the 36thyear of the Yovel, the following Yovel would be in the 14th year after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash.

 

Per the Rambam, cited above, the purpose of the Yovel count (when the commandment of Yovel is not in force) is in order to ensure that Shmitah is observed in the proper years.  However, if we use the counting system of Rebbi Yehudah, it is now no longer necessary to count Yovel for that purpose.

 

If we examine the Yovel years that occur from the time of Ezra, where the count restarted in the year 3416, we find a startling result:

 

 

The events of those Yovel years have obvious ramifications for the Redemption of the Land of Israel, which is one of the ideas of Yovel itself.

 

The 48th Yovel will take place in the year 5776, after the next Shmitah year.  If we count the Yovel years starting in the time of Yehoshua bin-Nun, 5776 will be the 66th Yovel.

 

Chapter 4

A Yovel of Yovels

 

By the commandment of Counting the Omer, we see two seemingly contradicting commands:

 

  1. We are commanded to count 50 days.
  2. We are commanded to count 7 complete weeks.

 

For halachah, we count 49 days, and Shavuot is celebrated on the 50th day, without any counting.  There is an idea of 49 days of our efforts from below, and then Hashem completes the 50 days for us from above.

 

If we consider from the time of Ezra that there are to be 49 Yovel Cycles of our own efforts, we stand today 7 years ahead of the beginning of the 49th cycle.  The 49th cycle is destined to be the completion of the efforts of the nation of Israel.

 

If we look at the original count as being 50 year cycles, and that our goal, even then, was to arrive at a Yovel of Yovel years, then we see an act of kindness from Hashem: Switching to 49 year cycles shortens the time of Galut by decades.  In our case, we are set to arrive at the 48th Yovel a total of 39 years earlier than we would in a 50 year cycle count.  That is because the first 9 Yovel years are identical in the 2 sets, so 48 – 9 = 39 years.  Hashem has mercy on us, and the end comes towards us (Tehillim 102:14 per Kol HaTor)

 

Looking at the Yovel cycles as parallel to the Omer period, we also find parallels.  To name a few:

 

 

Chapter 5

Yovel Number “Yovel”

 

In the book Imrei Binah, the years 5719 and 5768 are mentioned in relation to the Geulah, because they are the 2 Yovel years which encase the 48th Yovel cycle.

Why is the 48th Yovel significant? It is because the Gematria of the word Yovel is 48.  Therefore, the 47th Yovel, which is the 1st year of the 48th cycle, marks the beginning of Am Yisrael’s movement towards the Geulah, whereas the end of the cycle, on the 48th Yovel itself, will bring Am Yisrael’s return to its land, with the arrival of Moshiach.

We now stand after this 48th Yovel cycle, and we can see that the events did not materialize as the text has said explicitly.

 

With the combined counting system mentioned above, the beginning of the 48th cycle is the year 5727, the year of the Six-Day War, with obvious implications.

 

The year 5719 is given dual significance by Imrei Binah:

 

The year 5727 has a similar nature:

 

 

This calculation for 5727 is stated in Zohar Chadash in Ma’amar Darach Kokhav miYaakov:

At the time of the End of Days, according to the hour of the day, at the time that the sun shines, from the 6th Day, at the time that is ready according to the count of years, of Yovel and Shmitah together, which is רע”ד (Raa’d, 274 in Gematria) from the 6th Day...

 

This is at 60 years of the 6th millenium...

 

Shmitah and Yovel fell together in 5727.  The reason that 5727 is called Shmitah, or rather why the latest year of the 19 year cycle is called Shmitah, I will not explain now.  But notice that the Zohar gives a confirmation: It is 274 years from the end of the 6th day, or 6001 - 274 = 5727.  It is 6001 and not 6000, for the Zohar counts using the system of Seder Olam Rabba, which is one year lower than our count.  This can be shown also from the Introduction to the Tikkunei Zohar 4a, wherein the author implies that that the 2nd Beit HaMikdash was destroyed in the year 3828, which accords to the Seder Olam Rabba.

 

The end of this same passage of the Zohar Chadash makes it clear that it is describing the events surrounding year 60, which as Zohar Vayera 119 tells us, is the Pekidah, a rocky beginning to the Geulah.

 

If the Zohar defines 5727 as year 60, let us try to complete the picture.

 

Imrei Binah says that the following Yovel, Yovel number 48, brings the arrival of Moshiach.  The Zohar in Vayera says that in year 66, Moshiach will be revealed in the Galil.

 

This next Yovel, in 5776, is also the 66th Yovel counting from Yehoshua’s time.  That is to say, counting the 16 Yovels before the destruction of the 1st Beit HaMikdash, the 2 during Galut Bavel, and then the 48 more Yovel years from Ezra until 5776, for a total of 66 Yovel years.

 

We must remember that the revelation of Moshiach, per the Zohar, is in 66, whereas the Zechirah, which brings the Geulah, is after another half time.  This too is hinted at in Imrei Binah, where the author refers to the Dome of the Rock as the desolate abomination.  A total of 1335 years after its construction brings us to 5783-5786.

 

Nonetheless, it is no wonder that the Yovel year brings such advancement in the Geulah process, for this is already taught in Kabbalah that the Geulah comes from the side of the Upper Yovel.

 

* * *

 

The Ramban, commenting on Shemot (Exodus) 21:2, says:

 

2. IF YOU BUY A HERREW SERVANT. G-d began the first ordinance with the subject of a Hebrew servant, because the liberation of the servant in the seventh year contains a remembrance of the departure from Egypt which is mentioned in the first commandment, just as He said on it, And you will remember that you were a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Eternal your G-d redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today.[152] It also contains a remembrance of the creation, just as the Sabbath does, for the seventh year signals to a servant a complete rest from the work of his master, just as the seventh day of the week does. There is in addition a ‘seventh’ amongst the years, which is the jubilee, for seven is the chosen of the days [to be the Sabbath], and of the years [to be the Sabbatical year] , and of the [seven] Sabbaticals [to be the jubilee]; and they all point to one subject, namely, the secret of the days of the world - from Bereshit (in the beginning) till vayechulu (and they were finished).[153] Therefore this commandment deserved to be mentioned first, because of its extreme importance, alluding as it does to great things in the process of creation.

 

Ramban’s reticent and challenging language is illuminated in an essay by l. Weinstock[154] where he traces the development of this Cabalistic doctrine: The universe is subject to cycles of seven thousand years; after each six thousand years of growth and activity the seventh thousand is one of “rest” - destruction. This process repeats itself seven times - representing a total of forty-nine thousand years, the fiftieth thousand being the jubilee when all existence returns to its beginnings. This phenomenon applies to the planet on which we live as well as to the worlds above us. One can thus get a glimpse into the meaning of Ramban’s words before us, that this commandment “alludes to great things in the process of creation.”

 

Rabbenu Bahya[155] accepted the notion of cycles according to which the history of the world proceeds in a series of 6,000 years followed by a 1000-year Sabbath and then another series and so on, until the great Jubilee at the end of 49,000 years.

 

One of the main concepts in Sefer HaTemunah[156] is that of the connection of the Sabbatical year (Hebrew: Shmita) with sephirot and the creation of more than one world. The author of Sefer HaTemunah believed that worlds are created and destroyed, supporting this theory with a quote from the Midrash, “God created universes and destroys them”.[157] The Talmud[158] states that “Six thousand years shall the world exist, and one [thousand, the seventh], it shall be desolate”. Sefer HaTemunah asserts that this 7000-year cycle is equivalent to one Sabbatical cyle. Because there are seven such cycles per Jubilee, the author concludes that the world will exist for 49,000 years.[159]

 

* * *

 

Further reading:

 

Maimonides, “Yad Hachazaka”, Talmud Torah, 3:10.

Maimonides, “Laws of shmita and yovel”, 13:13.

 

* * *

 


This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address:  gkilli@aol.com

Web page:  http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

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Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com

 

 

 



[1] Shemot (Exodus) 19:13

[2] Yehoshua (Joshua) 6:5

[3] Ezra II, 64.

[4] Lev. XXV, 10.

[5] Though the Jubilees had been abolished, years of release were still observed, consequently they had to count the Jubilees in order to be able to observe the years of release in their proper time. For the year of Jubilee was not included in the seven years cycle. They therefore had to know when the year of Jubilee arrives to be able to fix the next year of release, which was to be the eighth year following the year of Jubilee.

[6] In the cycle of seven years.

[7] Both as the year of release and the beginning of the next seven year cycle.

[8] Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:15

[9] Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:8

[10] Mechilta here on the Verse.

[11] Ecclesiastes 1:10.

[12] I Samuel 1:22.

[13] Isaiah 63:9.

[14] Mechilta here on the Verse.

[15] The epithet for Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, the redactor of the Mishnah , or as he is often known Rabbenu Hakadosh, “Our holy teacher,” or simply “Rabbi.”

[16] In his commentary to Leviticus 25:40-41, Ibn Ezra wrote on the verses. He will serve with you unto the year of jubilee. Then will he go out from you ... : “This is what the Rabbis have received by tradition concerning the verse, and he will serve him ‘t’olam;” meaning that he is to serve him until the jubilee year.” Thus Ibn Ezra did understand the verses there and found in them Scriptural proof that olam means fifty years, whilst here he wrote that it means “time.” Apparently, “he forgot” - as Ramban puts it - “what he wrote with understanding elsewhere.”

[17] I.e. The year is reckoned to commence at different dates for different purposes, as the Mishnah goes on to specify.

[18] The first month of the Jewish calendar (in Biblical times known as ‘the month of Abib‘, or the springing corn), commencing in the latter half of March or the earlier part of April.

[19] If a document is dated with a certain year in a king’s reign, the year is reckoned to have commenced in Nisan, no matter in what month the king came to the throne. The Gemara discusses what kinds of kings are meant — whether Israelitish or other.

[20] The meaning of this is discussed infra in the Gemara.

[21] The sixth month of the Jewish calendar.

[22] For purposes of tithe it was necessary to specify the year in which cattle were born, because cattle born in one year could not be given as tithe for cattle born in another, v. Lev. XXVII, 32.

[23] So that according to these authorities there were only three New Years.

[24] The seventh month.

[25] The meaning of this is discussed infra in the Gemara.

[26] I.e., from the first of Tishri in these years ploughing and similar operations were forbidden. V. Lev. XXV, 4, 11.

[27] For reckoning the years of ‘uncircumcision’. V. Lev. XIX, 23.

[28] I.e., those gathered after this date could not be used as tithe for those gathered before. Cf. n. 6.

[29] The eleventh month.

[30] For tithing the fruit. V. notes 6 and 11.

[31] But which are ushered in with a blast of the shofar on the Day of Atonement, in the daytime.

[32] Lit. ‘depend on an act’. I.e., the New Years which begin with the advent of the day itself.

[33] The prohibition of the new corn for personal consumption and for offerings respectively is raised only by the offering of the Omer and the two loaves.

[34] Lev. XXV, 9. Referring to the Jubilee.

[35] Ibid 10. These words are apparently superfluous, it having already been said, and thou shalt number forty-nine years.

[36] Lev. XXV, 9. Referring to the Jubilee.

[37] In sign of their approaching freedom.

[38] Cf. infra 24a.

[39] Lev. XXV, II.

[40] Ibid 10. These words are apparently superfluous, it having already been said, and thou shalt number forty-nine years.

[41] V. infra.

[42] The word ‘it’ being specific.

[43] Rashi 21:6 and Vayikra 25:8-11

[44] From PARTNERS IN TIME

[45] Vayikra 25:55

[46] Bava Metzia 10b

[47] Shemot 21:6

[48] Succah 52a

[49] Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 12:5

[50] Kiddushin 30b

[51] Avot 6:2

[52] Devarim 11:21

[53] Avot 6:2

[54] They have no need of this lesson, seeing that they do not consider the year sanctified from its inception. (Cf. Tosafot. s.v. ibcru 8b).

[55] Lit. ‘the year fifty and first’. So our texts, the meaning being, according to Rashi, that you are not to reckon the fiftieth year as fiftieth to the Jubilee and first to the next septennate. Tosafot, by a slight change of wording, renders: ‘You are to count the fiftieth year (as fiftieth to the Jubilee), but you are not to count the fiftieth year as one (to the following septennate)’, which is a smoother reading.

[56] As fiftieth to the Jubilee and first to the next septennate.

[57] .I.e., add a little from the ordinary week-day on to the holy day.

[58] Ex. XXXIV, 21

[59] Lev. XXV, 4.

[60] Ploughing under trees in the sixth year which will benefit them in the seventh.

[61] Stuff which grows of itself and reached a third of its growth in the seventh year.

[62] As there is no ploughing, which is considered a religious duty.

[63] R. Ishmael takes the words ‘in plowing time etc.’ to refer to the Sabbath, and learns from them that the ‘Omer to be brought on the second day of Passover may be reaped on Sabbath, v. Mak. 8b.

[64] Lev. XXIII, 32.

[65] Ibid.

[66] And after dark would be on the tenth.

[67] Lev. XXIII, 32.

[68] Ran observes that since the former problem is left unsolved, a day’ would be the equivalent of ‘one day’ (since when in doubt the more stringent interpretation is adopted), and consequently a jubilee as one jubilee, and the problem cannot arise. Therefore he must have vowed ‘this (the) jubilee’.

[69] On the former supposition it is forbidden; on the latter it is permitted.

[70] Lev. XXV, 10.

[71] I.e., that year is the fiftieth, the jubilee, and it cannot be counted also as the first of the following fifty and seven year cycles.

[72] Ibid. 3.

[73] Since there is no sowing in the jubilee year.

[74] The forty-eighth year produce must suffice for itself, the forty-ninth, which is a Sabbatical year, the fiftieth, which is Jubilee, and until the harvesting of the fifty-first. This is a difficulty on any view, R. Judah’s included: he posits it merely to prove that the Biblical statements about the Sabbatical year do not in any case apply to the Jubilee period, even on the view of the Rabbis.

[75] I.e., the verse by which you desire to refute me.

[76] A Yovel of Yovels,

https://sites.google.com/site/yovelgeulah/chapter-3

[77] Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:15

[78] Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:16

[79] Tehillim 102:14 per Kol HaTor chapter 4.

[80] This is apparently the approach of Judah Ben Samuel who was a legendary and prolific German rabbi of the 12th century who made some astonishing and specific predictions about the future of Jerusalem and Israel that came true.

[81] גילוי at http://keitzmeguleh.blogspot.com 

[82] Amos 4:7

[83] I.e., not actual famine, but the first signs thereof, no one being completely satisfied.

[84] Lit., ‘men on whose behalf miracles occur.’ — Jast.

[85] Lit., ‘plenty and no plenty’.

[86] Either Heavenly voices announcing the advent of Messiah, or the blasts of the great Shofar; cf. Isa. XXVII, 13.

[87] Though troubles and evil decrees have come in abundance, they were not in the order prescribed.

[88] Most of this section is an excerpt from an article in “Israel Toray” magazine

[89] Vayikra (Leviticus) 25

[90] Mamlūk, also spelled Mameluke, slave soldier, a member of one of the armies of slaves that won political control of several Muslim states during the Middle Ages. Under the Ayyūbid sultanate, Mamlūk generals used their power to establish a dynasty that ruled Egypt and Syria from 1250 to 1517. The name is derived from an Arabic word for slave.

[91] Jerusalem, 1531-1572, Safed

[92] 1591 Candia – 1655 Prague

[93] “Mazref le-Chochma”

[94] 1724-1806

[95] 1800-1865

[96] 1817-1891

[97] 1925-1993

[98] Vienna

[99] Mainz

[100] Speyer

[101] According to Rav Yehuda HeHasid, 5727 (Six Day War) was a Yovel and the next Yovel is 5777.

[102] Erachin 32b

[103] Ar. 12a

[104] The Soncino Talmud footnote

[105] Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot shmita Veyovel, 10:4,8

[106] Of fifty years.

[107] [Messiah. The belief in his Davidic descent is already mentioned in the Psalms of Solomon XVII, 21.]

[108] Of the last fifty years.

[109] I.e., if at the end of the jubilee, shall it be at the beginning of the fiftieth year or at the end thereof?

[110] He will certainly not come before then, but may delay a long time afterwards.

[111] Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:9

[112] Sifra, Be-Har 2, 106c

[113] Rosh Hashanah 29a

[114] Encyclopedia Judaica on Sabbatical years.

[115] Lev. XXV, 9. Referring to the Jubilee.

[116] Ibid 10. These words are apparently superfluous, it having already been said, and thou shalt number forty-nine years.

[117] In sign of their approaching freedom.

[118] Cf. infra 24a.

[119] from Mishna comments on RH 1:1

[120] from Mishna comments on RH 1:1

[121] They have no need of this lesson, seeing that they do not consider the year sanctified from its inception. (Cf. Tosafot. s.v. ibcru 8b).

[122] Lit. ‘the year fifty and first’. So our texts, the meaning being, according to Rashi, that you are not to reckon the fiftieth year as fiftieth to the Jubilee and first to the next septennate. Tosafot, by a slight change of wording, renders: ‘You are to count the fiftieth year (as fiftieth to the Jubilee), but you are not to count the fiftieth year as one (to the following septennate)’, which is a smoother reading.

[123] As fiftieth to the Jubilee and first to the next septennate.

[124] I.e., add a little from the ordinary week-day on to the holy day.

[125] Ex. XXXIV, 21.

[126] Lev. XXV, 4.

[127] Ploughing under trees in the sixth year which will benefit them in the seventh.

[128] Stuff which grows of itself and reached a third of its growth in the seventh year.

[129] As there is no ploughing, which is considered a religious duty.

[130] R. Ishmael takes the words ‘in plowing time etc.’ to refer to the Sabbath, and learns from them that the ‘Omer to be brought on the second day of Passover may be reaped on Sabbath, v. Mak. 8b.

[131] Lev. XXIII, 32

[132] Ibid.

[133] And after dark would be on the tenth.

[134] Lev. XXIII, 32.

[135] And thereby reintroduced into force the laws of the Years of Release and Jubilee.

[136] Ezra IV, 24.

[137] Ibid. VI, 15.

[138] Ibid. VII, 8. R. Ashi holds that the statement ‘the same happened with the second Temple‘ refers also to the termination of the jubilee and explains it by deducting six years from the total of 420.

[139] Jos. XIV, 7.

[140] Ibid. 10.

[141] Allowing forty years for the sojourn of Israel in the wilderness.

[142] Vayikra (Leviticus) 26

[143] See also 4:27, 8:18

[144] Ohr Somayach - In-Depth Questions on the parsha and Rashi’s commentary. Parshat Behar For the week ending 13 Iyar 5755, 12 & 13 May 1995

[145] Rosh HaShana 8a

[146] Tehillim (Psalms) 90:4

[147] See Bechorot 52b

[148] see Mesechet Rosh HaShana 10b-11a

[149] The woman accused of adultery.

[150] BEHAR A selection from Midrashim and Talmud Published and (c) Copyrighted 1996 Prepared by the Students of Beit Chaya Mushka Seminary and edited by Rabbi Berl Bell

 

[151] BEHAR A selection from Midrashim and Talmud Published and (c) Copyrighted 1996 Prepared by the Students of Beit Chaya Mushka Seminary and edited by Rabbi Berl Bell

 

[152] Deuteronomy 15:15.

[153] Genesis 2:1. See Ramban Vol. I, pp. 61-64.

[154] B’maglei Haniglah V’hanistar, pp. 151-241

[155] Bahya Ibn Asher was a 13th-century Spanish biblical exegete, kabbalist, and the author of a commentary to the Pentateuch written in the year 129I. Bahya was a disciple of Solomon Ibn Adret, whose kabbalistic ideas as well as those of Adret’s teacher, Nahmanides, are expressed more or less openly in his commentary.

[156] Sefer HaTemunah was probably written anonymously in the 13th or 14th century, but it is pseudepigraphly attributed to Nehunya ben HaKanah and Rabbi Ishmael, tannaim of the 1st and 2nd centuries. According to Hebrew Manuscripts in the Vatican Library Catalog, the work was composed in the 1270s. The first extant edition was published in the city of Korets in Poland in 1784.

[157] Aryeh Kaplan, Yaakov Elman, Israel ben Gedaliah Lipschutz (January 1993). Immortality, resurrection, and the age of the universe: a kabbalistic view. Ktav Publishing House. pp. 6–9. ISBN 978-0-88125-345-0.

[158] Sanhedrin 97a

[159] Ibid. 154