Ask The Rabbi

Jews " Jubilee

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Jubilee Year

Larry Heiberger from St. Louis, MO wrote:
Dear Rabbi,

When is the 50th year (Jubilee Year) to commence, and is it celebrated the same way as it was in the Biblical days?

J. Woody from Paterson, NJ wrote:
Dear Rabbi,

Please tell me (so far as can be known) when the true Jewish Year of Jubilee is, according to our present calendar. Some say 2000, but I think that it might have been picked for it's attractiveness.

Tore Lende from Norway wrote:
Dear Rabbi,

Do the Jews in Israel - or any Jews - keep the Jubilee year (Leviticus 25) by not sowing or reaping, etc.? If not, why not? Sincerely, a friend of the Jews.


Dear Larry, J. Woody and Tore,

The Torah commands us to allow the land of Israel to lie fallow every seventh year. This is known as the shemita year. After seven shemita years is the fiftieth "jubilee" year, in Hebrew called yovel. The Torah commands that the land lie fallow during yovel as well.

Today, we are not required by the Torah to observe yovel. The Torah says that yovel only applies when the Jewish people dwell in the Land of Israel according to their tribes. Ever since the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe were exiled (c. 600 B.C.E.), yovel has no longer been applicable. Therefore, even Torah observant Jews do not observe yovel.

When is the next Yovel? Maimonides, based on historical calculations, writes: "According to this calculation, this year - which is the 1107th year from the destruction of the Temple...and the year 4936 from Creation - is the the 21st year in the Yovel cycle." Since today is 5758 from Creation, the next yovel would be seven years from now. But the Rambam himself writes that his calculations are not conclusive.

Sources:

  • Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shemita Veyovel, 10:4,8


 
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