Sabbatical and Jubilee

Leviticus 25:1-13

Our portion delves into the details of some of the laws which have already been mentioned. Its opening line, “And the LORD spoke unto Moses in Mount Sinai, saying” (25:1), is cited by the Sages to demonstrate that not only the broad strokes of the Ten Commandments, but all the laws of the Torah, were given by God at Mount Sinai.


We are given a more complete picture of the expectations of the Sabbatical, or shmita, year. Every seventh year, we are commanded to let the land rest completely. Traditional farming activities, from planting and plowing to weeding and finally harvesting, are forbidden. More than an agricultural law, this is a social requirement, for all the land that year is treated as if it were ownerless, and the natural growth may be eaten by anyone (including, but not restricted to, the landowner and his family).


Once every seven cycles, a Jubilee year is declared with a shofar blast on the Day of Atonement. That year, which follows a Sabbatical year, the land must also be left to rest. In addition, as the rest of the portion explains, the Jubilee serves as a “reset” for the nation, with slaves being freed and land reverting to its original owners.


Of the Jubilee, the Torah says, “…proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof…” (25:10). This verse appears on the Liberty Bell in Pennsylvania. As the Israel Bible points out, this made it a symbol of freedom in the eyes abolitionists in the 1830s, and it is an icon of American independence and liberty to this day.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

The Torah requires the years leading up to the Jubilee be counted. Why do you think that is? Is it a practical act, or could there be a moral imperative behind it? Where else does the Torah command that ‘seven sevens’ be counted?


Comments ( 11 )

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  • Damian Sco

    Seems to me this is foward looking to the greatest moment in all of History. The Messiahs coming:

    “Seventy ‘sevens’[c] are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish[d] transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.[e]

    25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One,[f] the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.[g] The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’[h] In the middle of the ‘seven’[i] he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple[j] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.[k]”[l]

  • Robin Rosenblatt

    A Short Texas Longhorn History
    Help bring the real Red Heifer home to Israel

    Texas Longhorn originated in the north western Black Sea Shore area between 5,000 to 15,000 years ago. They lived and traveled through Great Middle Eastern Deserts, moving westward into ancient Israel and then spreading throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa and arrived in Spain. In Minoan, a Knossos Palace, there is a 5,000-year-old painting that strongly resembles a Texas Longhorn. 

    Columbus, from Spain, brought a few Longhorns in his tiny boats to the New World in 1494. Approximately 300 years later, in 1865 these Longhorns had grown into millions in the scrubland of the Southwest Texas and Mexico. Texas Longhorn are a hardy, drought tolerant, disease resistant breed. Allowed us to do long distanced cattle drives with little, if any, loss of weight. The American cattle industry started with Texas Longhorns helping feed America after the Civil War and rebuild America. 

    Texas Longhorn history is far more complex than what is written here. This information demonstrates how well these cattle will thrive in Israel and in other harsh, semi-desert countries. 

    This short historical paragraph relied on information from several articles that are far more detailed. Texas Longhorn: Forgotten Breed with A Bright Future, by Mary Lou Harrsch and Cattle and Civilization: The Epic of the Longhorn, by Michael M. Fennell. 

    Help bring the real Red Heifer home to Israel ‪

  • Herman Arentsen

    I think the Torah requires the years leading up to the Jubilee be counted has several reasons:
    a.Counting the years make us see to future things such as the release from slavery to be restored as a independent personality.
    b.Counting the years make us aware of our dependency of the Eternal One's rules in order to obey in future circumstances
    c.counting time makes waiting for those of his household more bearable, it's only temporarily.
    d.people become more aware of the ownership of HaShem, He is the Great Landlord.

    Tehillim 90 says: "Teach us to count our days so that we might get wise hearts"

    Some other places of 7 times 7 be counted are in B'reshit 7 "of every clean beastthe sire and his dam" In Wajikra 13 "a contagious person was put in separation" in order to see if the person was clean.
    Counting sevens brings most of the time an end to some period : the 8th day is the day of freedom, of festivities of release.

  • Ken

    The frequent use of numbers draws attention to special lessons. The most obvious lesson was to those to whom it was given thousands of years ago. They needed to be aware of what year it was in relation to the 50th year of release. If the years were few or many, then the purchase/redemption price was lesser or greater. This is observed to some degree today.
    As pointed out by others, the “seven sevens” of years are similar to “The Feast of Weeks” (seven sevens of days). Each followed by a special 50th period (a year or a day).
    As 7 is a number of completeness (a full week), it seems that the number 50 following a period of “seven sevens” is a number that exemplifies fulfillment. In the Jubilee, we have restoration or restitution of the people to a level of equity among themselves. This removes their servitude to fellow man, it is a return to full liberty among themselves, but they remain God’s servants (verse 55).
    Another lesson is the association with the trumpet blast on the day of Atonement. As the Day of Atonement is forgiveness of sins, this special 50th day of Atonement may typify the Messianic period when God forever remembers their sins NO more because the people have being restored to perfection and their redemption is fully complete.

  • Ken

    It is DIVINE principles such as this that has made the US a great country.
    Quote “The Liberty Bell’s inscription is from Leviticus 25:10: “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” This …verse [from the Hebrew Scriptures] refers to the “Jubilee”, or the instructions to the Israelites to return property and free slaves every 50 years. Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly Isaac Norris chose this inscription for the State House bell in 1751″. What a great example and decision.
    There are those who say our country was NOT founded on Divine principles.
    They are tone deaf to the Sound of Liberty. The sound of Liberty continues to sound with clarity to those who have a ear to hear…

    • Danielle Reisman

      Great modern reference Ken! A question to think about… What are we without our principles?

  • Sheila

    Sabbath means cessation. Every 7th year was a Sabbath Year which was to be kept separated and distinct from the preceding 6 years. It was a holy year especially devoted to the Lord. God’s command was for the land to rest —-no work of the land from sowing to harvesting— so the land would observe its own Sabbath to the Lord. God was the ultimate owner of the land as it was holy unto Him. God’s people were called to totally trust in Him as their Provider and His blessings and provision were released when they feared Him and obeyed His commandments. (Not sure if this is the answer so would appreciate your thoughts). Relating to the sevens —– would this relate to a 7 year cycle x 2 in the life of Jacob whenHe served Laban for his wives. Also the Feast of Weeks was celebrated 50 days after the Barley Harvest. Agree with Diana’s thoughts here.

    • Danielle Reisman

      Great response Sheila! Something I would like to add is that the ultimate point of the land having it’s own Sabbath was to have it’s inhabitants recognise that that land belonged to God, and even though He allows us to inhabit His land, we must remember we are just inhabitants and God is the ultimate owner.

      • Phyllis Pearson

        Yes, you are right Danielle, I had just been thinking that G-d is saying the land is much like we humans, we need the Sabbath so to does the land. But I think you have worded it better than me. 'The Earth is the Lords and the Fullness thereof'
        Just as Adam was given stewardship of the land so to that passes on to us, and it's only as we obey and keep these 'laws'? that the land is fruitful.

  • Diana Brown

    HaShem commanded the Land was to rest from it’s agricultural burden every 7 years. Every 50 years a Jubilee was declared to cancel debts so slavery would have an end unless the slave wished to remain a slave. These commands were to insure HaShem’s people always knew He was their Provision and Portion. It did take faith in them to fulfill these Torah Teachings.
    HaShem’s Covenant People were responsible to count the years so these commandments would be fulfilled and the Land would not expel them for their disobedience.
    Torah and the Priests taught whatever HaShem commands is for our good, the good of creation and good for Eretz Yisrael, ultimately, one day, the whole earth.

    • Diana Brown

      The second question….Count seven Shabbats, add one day and Bnei Israel was at Mt Sinai receiving the Torah on Shavuot, Feast of First Fruits. Christians know these as Pentacost. Israel counts the Omer and on day 50, the feast is remembered and keep to the Lord God. His Spirit falls on Israel with fresh revelation at this time. Sages speak of wonderful things in the Rabbinical commentary like the Mishnah and Talmud and the Zohar of Kabbalah Jewish Mystical Literature.

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