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SHEMITTA & YOVEL – ILLUMINATED BY ABARBANEL

May 26th, 2016

In his shiur on Parshat Behar Rabbi Dunner looks at the beginning of the parsha, which discusses the mitzvot of Shemitta and Yovel.

Moshe informs the Jews that once they arrive in the Land of Israel, every seventh year will be a Sabbatical year, during which all agricultural work will cease. After seven Sabbatical years have passed, the fiftieth year will be known as Yovel, during which no agricultural work can occur, all ancestral land must be returned to its original owners, and Jewish bondsmen must be released and sent home.

The chapter dealing with these mitzvot is full of anomalies and curiosities. Most famously it begins with a reference to Mount Sinai, which seems strange in view of the fact that all mitzvot emanate from Mount Sinai. In this chapter there is an exclusive focus on the agricultural restrictions during while it completely omits all references to laws relating to financial transactions during Shemitta, which also requires explanation. Shemitta is only referred to as a “Sabbath”, while Yovel is only referred to as “holy”, even though both Shemitta and Yovel are very similar.

Why does the Torah use different adjectives to describe them if they are both so similar? We are told that Yovel must be announced with a shofar blast, although Shemitta years will not require a shofar blast. Why the differentiation?

Rabbi Dunner shares Abarbanel’s illuminating explanation of the backdrop to both these mitzvot, which helps us understand how there is much more to them than meets the eye, and why their interrelationship amounts to much more than corresponding laws.

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