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Shemita - Chapter 10

Shemita - Chapter 10

Halacha 1

It is a positive commandment to count sets of seven years1 and to sanctify the fiftieth year,2 as [Leviticus 25:8-10] states: "And you shall count seven years for yourselves... and you shall sanctify the fiftieth year." These two mitzvot are entrusted to the High Court3 alone.4

Halacha 2

When did the counting begin? After the fourteen years following the entry into Eretz [Yisrael]. [This is derived from Leviticus 25:3]: "Six years shall you sow your field and six years shall you trim your vineyard." [Implied is that] each person must recognize his [portion of the] land. [The people] took seven years to conquer the land and seven years to divide it.5 Thus the counting began after the 2503rd year after the creation, from Rosh HaShanah,6 after the conjunction [of the sun and the moon before the creation] of Adam, which was in the second year of the creation.7 They declared the [two thousand,] five hundred, and tenth year after the creation which was the 21st year after the entry into Eretz Yisrael as the Sabbatical year. They counted seven Sabbatical years and then sanctified the fiftieth year which was the 64th year after they entered Eretz [Yisrael].

Halacha 3

The Jewish people counted 17 Jubilee years8 from the time they entered [Eretz Yisrael] until they departed.9 The year they departed, when the Temple was destroyed the first time, was the year following the Sabbatical year and the 36th year in the Jubilee cycle. For the First Temple stood for 410 years. When it was destroyed, this reckoning ceased.

After it ceased, the land remained desolate for seventy years.10 Then the Second Temple was built and it stood for 420 years. In the seventh year after it was built, Ezra ascended [to Eretz Yisrael]. This is referred to as the second entry.11 From this year, they began another reckoning. They designated the thirteenth year of the Second Temple as the Sabbatical year12 and counted seven Sabbatical years and sanctified the fiftieth year. Although the Jubilee year was not observed in [the era of] the Second Temple,13 they would count it in order to sanctify the Sabbatical years.

Halacha 4

It follows that the year in which the [Second] Temple was destroyed, [more precisely, the year] beginning from Tishrei that was approximately two months after the destruction14 - for the reckoning of Sabbatical and Jubilee years begins in Tishrei - was the year following the Sabbatical year. It was the fifteenth year of the ninth Jubilee cycle.15

According to this reckoning, this year which is the 1107 year after the destruction, which is the 1487th year according to the reckoning of legal documents,16 which is 4936th year after the creation,17 is a Sabbatical year and it is the 21st year of the Jubilee cycle.18

Halacha 5

Nevertheless, all of the Geonim have said that they have received a tradition, transferred from teacher to student that in the seventy years between the destruction of the First Temple and the building of the Second Temple, they counted only Sabbatical years, not the Jubilee year. Similarly, after the destruction of the Second Temple, they did not count the fiftieth year. Instead, they counted only sets of seven from the beginning of the year of the destruction. [This interpretation] is also apparent from the Talmud in Avodah Zarah.19 This reckoning is a received tradition.

Halacha 6

[The reckoning of] the Sabbatical year is well-known and renowned among the Geonim and the people of Eretz Yisrael. None of them make any reckoning except according to the years of the destruction.20 According to this reckoning, this year which is the 1107th year after the destruction is the year following the Sabbatical year.21

We rely on this tradition and we rule according to it22 with regard to the tithes,23the Sabbatical year, and the nullification of debts, for the received tradition and deed24 are great pillars in establishing [Halachic] rulings and it is appropriate to rely on them.

Halacha 7

The Jubilee year is not counted in the set of Sabbatical years.25 Instead, the 49th year is a Sabbatical year and the fiftieth year is a Jubilee year. Then the 51st year is the first of the six years of the [next] Sabbatical cycle. This is true of every Jubilee year.

Halacha 8

From the time the tribes of Reuven and Gad and half the tribe of Menasheh were exiled,26 [the observance] of the Jubilee year ceased, as [implied by Leviticus 25:10]: "You shall proclaim freedom throughout the land to all of its inhabitants." [One can infer that this commandment applies only] when all of its inhabitants are dwelling within it. [Moreover,] they may not be intermingled, one tribe with another, but rather each tribe is dwelling in its appropriate place.27

When the Jubilee is observed in Eretz [Yisrael], it should also be observed in the Diaspora,28 as [implied by the phrase used in the above verse:] "It is the Jubilee," [i.e.,] in every place. [This applies] whether the Temple is standing or whether the Temple is not standing.29

Halacha 9

When [the laws of] the Jubilee year are observed, the laws of a Hebrew servant are observed,30 as are the laws of homes in a walled city, the laws of a field given as a dedication offering, and the laws of ancestral fields.31 We accept [a gentile as] a resident alien32 and the Sabbatical year is observed in Eretz [Yisrael] and debts are nullified in all places according to Scriptural Law. In the era when the Jubilee year is not observed, none of these mitzvot are observed except the Sabbatical year in Eretz [Yisrael] according to Rabbinic Law and also the nullification of debts in all places according to Rabbinic Law, as we explained.33

Halacha 10

It is a positive commandment to sound the shofar on the tenth of Tishrei34in the Jubilee year.35 This mitzvah is entrusted to the [High] Court first,36 as [Leviticus 25:9] states: "You shall sound a shofar blast. Each and every individual is also obligated to sound the shofar, as [the verse] continues: "and you shall sound the shofar."37

We sound nine shofar blasts in the same way as we sound them on Rosh HaShanah.38 We sound the shofar throughout the boundaries of [Eretz] Yisrael.39

Halacha 11

[The requirements] of shofar used for the Jubilee and Rosh HaShanah are the same in all matters.40 Both on Rosh HaShanah and in the Jubilee the tekiyot are sounded except in the Jubilee year, they are sounded41both in the court that sanctifies the new moon42 and in a court that does not sanctify the moon.43 [Moreover,] for the entire time the court is in session, every individual is obligated to sound [the shofar even] outside the presence of the court.

Halacha 12

When Rosh HaShanah falls on the Sabbath, by contrast, [the shofar] would be sounded only in a court that sanctified the new moon. Every individual may sound [the shofar] only in the presence of the court.44

Halacha 13

[The observance of] three matters are of critical importance with regard to the Jubilee year:45 the sounding of the shofar,46 the release of servants,47and the return of fields to their owners.48 This is referred to as "the release of land."

Halacha 14

From Rosh HaShanah49 until Yom Kippur, servants would not be released to their homes,50 nor would they be subjugated to their masters,51 nor would the fields return to their [original] owners.52 Instead, the servants would eat, drink, and rejoice, with crowns on their heads. When Yom Kippur arrives and the shofar is sounded in the court, the servants are released to their homes and the fields are returned to their owners.

Halacha 15

With regard to the land being allowed to rest, the laws of the Jubilee year are the same of those of the Sabbatical year. Whatever agricultural labors53 are forbidden54 in the Sabbatical year are forbidden in the Jubilee year. Whatever is permitted in the Sabbatical year is permitted in the Jubilee. Whenever the performance of a labor is punishable by lashes in the Sabbatical year,55 it is punishable by lashes in the Jubilee year. [Similarly,] the laws governing the eating,56 sale,57 and removal58 of the produce of the Jubilee year are the same as those governing the produce of the Sabbatical year in all respects.

Halacha 16

The Sabbatical year has an added dimension lacking in the Jubilee, for debts are nullified in the Sabbatical year,59 and they are not nullified in the Jubilee. The Jubilee year has an added dimension lacking in the Sabbatical year, for in the Jubilee, servants are released and land is released. This refers to the laws regarding the sale of land in the Torah.60 This is a positive commandment,61 as [Leviticus 25:24] states: "You shall grant redemption to the land.

The Jubilee year releases land at its beginning,62 while the Sabbatical year does not release debts until its conclusion, as explained.63


Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 140) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 330) includes the commandment to count the sets of years among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. As the Rambam states in Sefer HaMitzvot the mitzvah is not to count a 50 year cycle, but rather to count seven sets of seven year cycles.


Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 136) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 332) includes the commandment to sanctify the fiftieth year among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. In Sefer HaMitzvot, the Rambam explains that the sanctification of the year is reflected in considering the produce of that year ownerless.


The Sanhedrin, the court of 71 judges which served as Judaism's supreme Rabbinic authority.


I.e., their fulfillment is not incumbent on each person individually, but on the people as a whole, and hence, on the High Court, who acts as their agent.


Zevachim 118b derives the fact that it took the Jews seven years to conquer Eretz Yisrael from the statements of Caleb quoted in Joshua 14:7 and it postulates that the division also took seven years.


Avodah Zarah 9a states that the Torah was given in the year 2448, when the forty years the Jews wandered in the desert and the fourteen years that the land was conquered and divided are added, a total of 2502 are reached. Thus the counting began in the 2503rd year.


I.e., our counting begins from the creation of Adam which was on Rosh HaShanah, for Adam's creation superseded the creation that preceded his to the extent that Rosh HaShanah is considered the anniversary of creation and the beginning of the year and not the 25th of Elul even though that date was the first day of creation.

Adam's creation is mentioned as occurring in the second year after creation, because any portion of a year is considered as a year. Thus the five days from the 25th of Elul until Rosh HaShanah are the first year referred to here. Hence, there is a theoretical conjunction of the sun and the moon for that year. See Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh 6:8 and notes which mention the day and time of the first conjunction.


I.e., they were in the midst of counting the seventeenth Jubilee as explained in the following note.


I Kings 6:1 relates that the first Temple was built 480 years after the exodus from Egypt. When the 40 years of wandering in the desert and the 14 years when Eretz Yisrael was conquered and divided is subtracted from that figure, 426 years remain. When the 410 years that the First Temple stood (as stated in Yoma 9a) are added, a total of 836 is reached. 836 divided by 50 equals 16. Thus the Jews were exiled in the 36th year of the seventeenth Jubilee cycle. Note the discussion of the Rambam's wording "17 Jubilees" by the Ra'avad, Radbaz, Kessef Mishneh and others based on Rosh HaShanah 9a.


And for the 70 years of the Babylonian exile, the Jubilee year cycle was not followed. See Halachah 5.


See also Chapter 12, Halachah 15.


For they began counting from Ezra's arrival.


See Halachah 8. The Rambam's intent is that the mitzvot of the Jubilee year were not observed.


For the destruction took place on the ninth of Av.


The Second Temple stood for 420 years (Yoma, loc. cit.). Thus if the reckoning of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years began in its seventh year, there is a total of 414. Eight Jubilee cycles produce a total of 400 years. Thus the year following the destruction was the 415th year and it was the year following the Sabbatical year.


In the Talmudic era, it was customary to date legal documents from the time of Alexander the Great's ascent to the throne. See Hilchot Gerushin 1:27.


This corresponds to 1176 C.E. This date is interesting in another context, for it gives us some insight into the Rambam's writing and editing of the Mishneh Torah. In his Introduction to the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam mentions the date of the composition of the work as 4937, and in Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh 11:16, he speaks of the date 4938. Thus it is apparent that he worked on the text for several years, wrote the Introduction in 4937, and then edited and added to the work in 4938.


I.e., that date is 1121 years after the last Jubilee observed before the destruction of the Second Temple. Thus if that figure is divided by fifty, 21 years are left over. Hence, it is a Sabbatical year.


See Avodah Zarah 9b.


For it is accepted that the year following the destruction was the beginning of a Sabbatical cycle, as stated in Halachah 4.


I.e., when 1107 is divided by 7, there is a remainder of 1.


The Radbaz states that this was the practice in his day and this is the present practice in Eretz Yisrael and throughout the world, for the Rambam's ruling is accepted by both the Beit Yosef and Rama (Choshen Mishpat 67:1). See Sefer Meirat Einayim 66:5.


For the obligations of the second tithe and the tithe for the poor depend on the years of the Sabbatical cycle.


I.e., the way the law has actually been observed.


This applies whether the Jubilee year was observed in its full sense, as in most of the First Temple era, or it was merely counted as throughout the Second Temple era.


The tribes of Reuven and Gad and half of the tribe of Menashe were exiled approximately 18 years before the remaining seven and a half tribes. They in turn were exiled approximately 130 years before the destruction of the Temple and exile of the tribe of Judah.


For each tribe was given an ancestral heritage of its own.


With regard to the freeing of Hebrew servants.


I.e., it is the presence of the Jewish people in the land and not the existence of the Temple which determines the land's sanctity.


See Hilchot Avadim, ch. 1-2.


The laws governing the latter three subjects are described in Chapters 12 and 13.


I.e., if a gentile accepts the observance of the Seven Laws Given to the Descendants of Noah, he is granted the right to dwell in Eretz Yisrael. See Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 10:6; Hilchot Melachim 8:10-11.


See Chapter 9, Halachah 3, with regard to the nullification of debts. With regard to the observance of the Sabbatical year, the Rambam's statements are the subject of a difference of opinion among the commentaries. Our translation follows the version of the text suggested by Rav Yosef Corcus which is accepted by Rav Shabsi Frankel. It is also the conception followed by the Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 331). The Kessef Mishneh, however, interprets the text differently, reading the last line as: "with the exception of the Sabbatical year in Eretz [Yisrael] and, according to Rabbinic Law, the nullification of debts." Some commentaries have suggested that the Rambam's statements in Sefer HaMitzvot (positive mitzvah 135) support this interpretation. Most other Rishonim follow the conception that the observance of the Sabbatical Law is a Rabbinic ordinance in the present era. See also Chapter 12, Halachah 16, and notes and Hilchot Terumah 1:26 and notes.


Yom Kippur.


Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 137) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 331) includes this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. This mitzvah also includes setting the servants free, as the Rambam mentions in his listing of the mitzvot at the beginning of these halachot.

Sefer Hamitzvot, loc. cit., states that, thematically, this sounding of the shofar differs from the sounding of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah. On Rosh HaShanah, the shofar is sounded as "a remembrance before God." In the Jubilee, by contrast, the sounding of the shofar is the proclamation of freedom required by the Torah.

The commentaries note that this difference is also reflected in the wording used to describe the commandments. With regard to the sounding of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah, the Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvot, positive commandment 170, Hilchot Shofar 1:1) states the mitzvah is to hear the sounding of the shofar, while here he states that the mitzvah is to sound the shofar.


I.e., first, the shofar is sounded in the High Court (the Sanhedrin of 71 judges) and then it should be sounded by every individual.


I.e., the verse uses two forms, the first singular, and the second plural, for the same verb. On this basis, it is derived that first, the shofar is sounded by the court for the people as a unified entity, and then, it is sounded by each person individually. See Rosh HaShanah 30a, 34a.


I.e., sounding three series of tekiah, shevarim, teruah, tekiah blasts. See Hilchot Shofar, ch. 3, for details.


The Or Sameach interprets this phrasing to mean that although the Jubilee is observed in the Diaspora, the shofar is not sounded there.


See Hilchot Shofar 1:1.


I.e., even when Yom Kippur falls on the Sabbath.


I.e., the Sanhedrin of 71 judges.


I.e., an ordinary local court.


See Hilchot Shofar 2:8-9.


I.e., if these three mitzvot are not fulfilled, the Jubilee year is not granted its sanctity (Rosh HaShanah 9b).


This would appear to refer to the sounding of the shofar by the High Court, and not its sounding by every individual.


A Hebrew servant is granted his freedom in the Jubilee year, whether he was sold into slavery on his own initiative or by the court and even if he willingly extended his servitude, as Leviticus 25:40 states: "Until the Jubilee year, he will work with you." See Hilchot Avadim, ch. 2.


As described in the following chapter.


Even though the laws of the Jubilee year do not take effect until the sounding of the shofar on Yom Kippur, the sanctity of the year begins on Rosh HaShanah [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 1:1)].


Lest the shofar not be sounded in the court and thus the laws of the Jubilee year not apply, as stated in the previous halachah.


For the likelihood is that it will be sounded.


Even though the laws of the Jubilee year do not take effect until the sounding of the shofar on Yom Kippur, the sanctity of the year begins on Rosh HaShanah [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 1:1)].


We have used this translation because both work with the land and work with trees are forbidden in the Sabbatical year. See Chapters 1 and 2 above.


By both Rabbinic and Scriptural Law.


See Chapter 1, Halachah 2.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandments 224-226) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvot 333-335) include the prohibitions against working the land, harvesting the aftergrowth of crops, and harvesting fruit in the Jubilee year among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.


I.e., the respect given to the produce of the Sabbatical year, as explained in Chapter 5.


See Chapter 6.


See Chapter 7.


As related in Chapter 9.


Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 138) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 340) includes this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. This mitzvah is described at the beginning of the following chapter.


On Yom Kippur, as stated in Halachah 14.


As stated in Chapter 9, Halachah 4.

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