Yovel

June 21, 2006

Jubilee Year; Fiftieth year; “You shall count for yourself seven cycles of ‘Shemitah’ years, seven years seven times,” (“Vayikra”/Leviticus 25:8), then “You shall sound a broken note in the Seventh Month, on the tenth of the month, on Yom HaKippurim, you shall sound the ‘Shofar’ throughout your Land. You shall sanctify the fiftieth year and Proclaim Freedom throughout the Land (that proclamation is inscribed on the Liberty Bell of the United States of America) for all its inhabitants; it shall be the Jubilee Year for you; you shall return, each one to his ancestral home, and you shall return, each man to his family.” (ibid. 25:9-10)

A minimal compendium of the Laws of the “Yovel” is as follows:

It is treated as a “Shemitah Year” with regard to the prohibition of agricultural activity.
The “Yovel” Year is an automatic end point for the work period of all “Avadim Ivriim,” “Hebrew Indentured Servants.” This applies even for those who have chosen to stay with their “masters” “forever” [“forever” in this context means beyond the initial period of a maximum of six years, but not beyond a “Yovel.”] For example, say an indentured servant decides to remain with his “master” beyond the six-year period and there are eighteen years left till the “Yovel.” Then he must remain with the “master” for eighteen years, until the “Yovel.” If he began his period of indentured service when there were only three years left till the “Yovel,” then he works only three years.
All property sold in the Land of Israel returns to its original owner (as determined by the original “lottery” conducted by Joshua when the Jewish People entered and conquered the Land (refer to the Book of Joshua (Chapters 14-17)). Since most people’s tribal identifications are no longer known (with the exception of “Kohanim” and “Leviim,” this Law no longer applies. The reason behind this Law is stated in this verse, “And the Land shall not be sold in perpetuity (forever), because you are but settlers and temporary residents with Me.” (“Vayikra”/Leviticus 25:23) Therefore, the price of a piece of property should reflect the number of years remaining till the “Yovel” Year, for on that year, all sales are cancelled. (Thus, the price of a piece of property sold in the third year of the “Yovel” would be much higher than the price of that property if sold in the forty third year.)