What is Yovel?



By Rabbi Lee Moore


In the book of Leviticus Yovel or ‘The Jubilee” is presented as the “sabbath of sabbatical years.” The sabbatical year, shmittah, comes every 7 years and mandates both a rest for the land (soil is not used for production) and a rest for economic strife (all debts are released). Yovel comes with the 7th of these 7-year cycles and is either the 49th or 50th year (there is a dispute about which, of course). It is similar to shmittah in that it is a time of social and economic release.

On the day of Yom Kippur during the Yovel year, the ram’s horn was blown to ‘proclaim freedom’ throughout the entire land. ‘Freedom’ in this case meant not only forgiveness of debt as in the shmittah year, but also the release of all slaves into freedom and radical land reform. Continue reading