Messianic Education Trust
    B'har/B'Chukkotai  
(Lev 25:1 - 27:34)

Vayikra/Leviticus 25:10   And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty in the Land to all those dwelling in her


These injunctions are part of the instructions for the year of Jubilee that the nation Israel is to observe every fifty years. After sounding the shofar loudly, the fiftieth year of every fifty year cycle is to be sanctified and liberty is to be proclaimed. We know how to blow the shofar, but how are the things in our text to be done and what do they mean? Is there a lesson here that we can learn for today? What can we make Rabbi Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch's comment that this is "a year of restitution and regeneration which goes beyond the liberation of slaves and restitution of property which we have to undertake"?

The verb - the Pi'el affix 2mp form of the root , to consecrate, hallow, sanctify (Davidson), with a vav-reversive to render it future, "and you shall ..." - has the sense of preparing or purifying by a religious rite. Baruch Levine points out that "The Jubilee year is to be hallowed just as Shabbat is hallowed. The verb is customarily used to convey the sanctification of the Sabbath; by using this verb in connection with the Jubilee, a parallelism between the two occasions is created." The year is to be set apart for G-d, declared or announced and then kept pure for holy use. Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi explains that this is done by the Sanhedrin, who are to make a formal declaration that this is the fiftieth year and authorise the blowing of the shofar throughout the Land so that everyone knows: "At its onset, they sanctify it in court and say, 'The year is sanctified.'" The ancient Sages of the Talmud debated whether this was to done on Yom Teruah (also known as Rosh Hashanah) or on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. They concluded that "from New Year to the Day of Atonement slaves were neither dismissed to their homes nor subjected to their masters, but they ate and drank and made merry, wearing garlands on their heads. When the Day of Atonement came, the Beth Din sounded the horn; slaves were dismissed to their homes and fields returned to their original owners" (b. Rosh Hashanah 8b).

The word , a masculine noun from the unused root , can mean a swallow (as in "As a sparrow must flit and a swallow fly" (Proverbs 26:2, NJPS), a spontaneous flowing and liberty. Although, as Gunther Plaut reminds us, "this is the verse traditionally rendered, 'Proclaim liberty throughout the land' and inscribed on the Liberty Bell, which announced the signing of the (American) Declaration of Independence," it is unlikely that the ideas of national autonomy or civil rights were in the author's mind. The Sages said that, "All authorities agree that the word means freedom. What does this tell us ... what is the significance of the word? The freedom of one who dwells where he likes and can carry on trade in the whole country" (b. Rosh Hashanah 9b). Drawing on recent scholarship, Baruch Levine reports that, "Hebrew d'ror is Explaining Terms ...

cognate: Cognate words have a common language ancestor; the word comes from Latin: cognatus, "blood brother". Hebrew shalom, Arabic salam, Maltese sliem and Amharic selam all share a common ancestor.
cognate with What Is ...

Akkadian: A semitic language, spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, particularly by the Babylonians and Assyrians, named from the city of Akkad, a major city of Mesopotamian civilisation. Written in cuneiform; spoken for several millenia but probably exinct by 100CE
Akkadian anduraru, which designates an edict of release issued by the old Babylonian kings and some of their successors. This edict was often issued by a king upon ascending to the throne and was a feature of a more extensive legal institution known as mesharum, a moratorium declared on debts and indenture. The Akkadian verb dararu, like Hebrew , means 'to move about freely', referring in this instance to the freedom granted those bound by servitude." Who Is ...

Nechama Leibowitz: (1905-1997 CE), born in Riga, graduate of the University of Berlin, made aliyah in 1931; professor at Tel Aviv University; taught Torah for over 50 years
Nechama Leibowitz comments that "The term in the sense of liberty appears only this once in the Torah. The positive gift of freedom rather than just the release from a yoke. In the Jubilee year the voluntary servant, who shuns freedom and responsibility, who 'acquires' a master, is compelled to go free and serve the One whom it is legitimate to serve. He is relieved of the human bondage, that he might submit to the yoke of Heaven above."

Now let's run forward several centuries, to the time of Isaiah the prophet. We hear him using the same word, in a very similar way, with both 'release' and 'liberation' in the same verse: "The spirit of the L-rd G-D is upon me, because the L-RD has anointed me; He has sent me as a herald of joy to the humble, to bind up the wounded of heart, to proclaim release to the the captives, liberation to the imprisoned" (Isaiah 61:1, NJPS). The Jewish people exiled in Babylon are to free under the terms of 'release' as they are restored to their land. Isaiah, looking forward to the time of release, makes the formal proclamation "in the Spirit" that will be actualised - at the end of the seventy years prophesied by Jeremiah - by the Persian king, Cyrus: you may go home, I give you release!

Skip forward another six-seven hundred years and we find Isaiah's words being read aloud in the Nazareth synagogue by Yeshua: "he Spirit of the L-rd is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives ..." (Luke 4:18, ESV). By His anointed reading, Yeshua made proclamation; He declared that this was the start of the season of Jubilee. So why were the people and the synagogue officials so up in arms? Firstly, because it was the role of the Sanhedrin or the person in authority (as Cyrus was) to make that decision; Yeshua was implying that He had that authority to proclaim the year of Jubilee and give instructions for the shofar to be blown throughout the land. Secondly, because if it were a physical/literal year of Jubilee, that would have thrown the whole economy of the region in complete and unplanned disarray. Preparing for the Jubilee year - not sowing or reaping, living off simply the natural growth - was a serious business and who would be able to pay the Roman taxes? Thirdly, if the historical evidence we have is correct, Israel had almost never, if ever, kept the Jubilee and the idea of returning all the land to its original ancestral owners and releasing all the slaves and indentured servants was an unthinkable challenge to the local landowners. The aggressive response to Yeshua's words suddenly becomes very understandable!

And what about us, another two thousand years on. Do we have an obligation to declare freedom and release today? Messianic Jews are careful to sanctify Shabbat each Friday evening, saying (or singing) the blessing over wine or grape juice: the fruit of the vine. This is our formal proclamation of release. As we have seen, Jubilee and Shabbat are inseparably linked: textually, linguistically and spiritually. Shabbat is the one day in seven when we all have release: release from our labours, release to holiness and time set apart for G-d away from our weekday work, release to commemorate the creation order when G-d looked at everything He had made and "behold, it was very good" (B'resheet 1:31a). The gospel that Yeshua preached in first century Israel and entrusted to us to preach throughout the world until He returns - may it be soon and in our days! - includes that proclamation of release: release from sin and death. We ourselves have been released from our meaningless lives of sin, released to sharing the gospel and growing the kingdom of G-d.

This duty goes far beyond Hirsch's "year of restitution and regeneration which goes beyond the liberation of slaves and restitution of property which we have to undertake." Our whole lives are to be given over to serving the vision of the kingdom, in practical as well as spiritual ways. These might include pro-live advocacy, debt counselling or relief, volunteering in hospitals or prisons, even down to baby-sitting for couples who struggle to get out. Anywhere there is bondage and constriction, wherever people are trapped or held prisoner, we can - in the name of Yeshua - proclaim release and see the captives find, even if only for an evening, freedom and a little liberty.

And if not? Hear what Jeremiah brought to the king and officials of Judah in the last days before the Temple was destroyed: "Assuredly, thus said the L-RD: You would not obey Me and proclaim a release, each to his kinsman and countryman. Lo! I proclaim your release -- declares the L-RD -- to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine; and I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth" (Jeremiah 34:17, NJPS). If we would see release from our sin, debt and bondage, as we pray each day in the prayer that Yeshua taught His disciples - "forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12, ESV) - then we must declare, and be prepared to make, freedom for our fellows.

Further Study: Luke 7:19-23; Zechariah 9:11-12; 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Application: How can you announce release for someone today? The court is sitting and the Chief Justice has a list - why not ask Him to let you help with some of the cases!

12:37 06May18 Margaret Terry: This morning it opened up why Jubilee would cause such an upset; it made it so easy to understand where Jesuah saying. This has always encouraged me but never I thought of the Romans and tax and going over the head of the leaders. Thank you

18:54 10May18 Erin Truxell: Very interesting. I'm still learning about the Jewish religion and it helps me to understand the group I'm in on facebook.

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© Jonathan Allen, 2018



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