Behar- Freedom throughout the land

On Mount Sinai, G-d told Moshe about the Sabbatical year, and the jubilee year, and made it a rule that they be observed when the Jews came into the land. The laws could only apply when the majority of people were in the land.


The idea of the Sabbatical year (shmitta), characterised as a Sabbath to G-d was that every seventh year, the land lies fallow as a tribute from the Jewish people, who periodically give their homeland over to G-d. R’ Eli Munk wrote that this expressed the conviction that the country can become the property of the people only in so far as G-d grants it to them.


Rambam argued that the shmitta year contributed to the productivity of the soil. Rav Kook focussed on the spiritual perspective, seeing the halt to the usual work routines as a means of ceasing the incessant worry about property, debts and business transactions. The produce of the land was for everyone to eat rather than to sell. The shmitta year had an element of peace and goodwill.


In the Jubilee year, every one was to return to their ancestral homeland, and the equal division of land was re-established so the permanent accumulation of land in the hands of a few was prevented. The Jubilee year was holy and acted as a reminder of the exodus from Egypt, since it brought slaves their freedom. Properties were to be returned without the need for redemption or payment. R’ SR Hirsch wrote that there would be a stabilisation of the division of land between town and countryside. Towns would be prevented from growing too large, as no land under cultivation could be subdivided for construction. New towns could only be established on non-arable land. The personality of the Jew in Israel arose from the combination of the inventive spirit of the townspeople and the solid faith of the farmer.

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