A Spiritual Economy

What Are Shemittah And Yovel Really About?

Immanuel Shalev
Immanuel Shalev


Parshat Behar is all about the seemingly strange laws of two different events. The first is Shemittah – the “Sabbatical” year – which comes every seventh year. In the Shemittah year, we don't work the land; we let it rest. And the second "event" discussed in Parshat Behar is Yovel – the “Jubilee” year – which falls in the fiftieth year (i.e. after every seventh Shemittah). In the Yovel year, not only does the land rest, but slaves and land both go “free.” Slaves are released from their masters and land is returned to its ancestral holder. But what are the Shemittah and Yovel cycles really about?

Sabbath… for the land? Freedom of a people, freedom for land? Rest? These all sounds like nice ideas, but how do they all fit together? What exactly is the significance of these odd, seemingly archaic laws? Is there some spiritual meaning behind Shemittah and Yovel that can apply in all generations, whether we're in or outside of the land?

Join David and Imu (who aren't farmers, or economists!) as they grapple with this strange section of the Torah and discover how the ancient cycles of Shemittah and Yovel can apply to our lives today.