The Sabbatical Year; Charity

Sixth Reading 15:1 In addition to resting from agricultural work during the sabbatical year, you must conduct a release of loans at the end of1the sabbatical year, which comes every seven years.

2 This is the type of release you must conduct: every creditor must relinquish whatever money he lent his fellow. No creditor may exact repayment from his fellow, i.e., his brother-Israelite, for a loan, for God has proclaimedthis year to be one of release in honor of God.

3 The prohibition against exacting repayment, couched above as a restrictive commandment, is subject to an active commandment as well: you may exact repayment for a loan only from a gentile who owes you money, but you must relinquish your claim to whatever moneyyour brother-Israelite owes you.

4 However, these rules will hopefully be irrelevant, for there will be no destitute people among you who will need to borrow money, inasmuch as God will bless you with material abundance in the land that God, your God, is giving you to possess as an inheritance you can bequeath to your descendants

5 provided, of course,that you hearken to the voice of God, your God—even if only partially at first, since the impetus of positive action will lead you to further positive action—by safeguarding all the commandments that I am commanding you today, i.e., studying the Torah’s instructions regarding how to perform them, and then performing them.

6 For God, your God, has blessed you with abundance if you observe His commandments, as He spoke to me concerning you2 and as I will relate to you later.3Thus, you will lend your ownmoney to many nations—and you will not lend them money you have borrowed from other nations, for you will be so wealthy that you will not have to borrow money. Furthermore, you will rule over many nations—and not as regents for nations who rule over you, for other nations will not rule over you.

7 If, however, you are negligent in fulfilling God’s commandments,4 and there will therefore be among you a destitute person, you must lend him money,5 and if necessary, give him a monetary gift. If you have to choose between two destitute individuals, the more destitute one takes priority. If you have to choose between giving to one of your half-brothers—either your paternal half-brother or your maternal half-brother—your paternal half-brother takes priority. If you have to choose between giving to a local destitute person or to a destitute person who lives further away, you should give first to the one in your locale, in your land that God, your God, is giving you. Do not deliberate unnecessarily, for you must not harden your heart regarding giving. Do not reconsider, either, for once you have opened your hand to give, you must not close your hand to the destitute. If you do, you will eventually lose your money and he will beyour brother in poverty.

8 Rather, you must open your hand for him wholeheartedly—each time you give him money.6 If he does not want to accept the money as a gift, then lend him moneyagainst some article you take as a security. You only need to lend him enough for his needs, not enough to make him wealthy. But if he was accustomed to a certain standard of living before becoming destitute, you should provide him with whatever he is now lacking, even if this might be considered a luxury by others.7 In particular, you should provide him with the means to get married, if necessary.

9 Beware lest there be an unfaithful thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of release, is approaching,’ and, because you know that your loan will be released,8 you begrudge your destitute brother-Israelite and not give him a loan, for in that case he will cry out to God against you, and even though your stinginess will be accounted as a sin for you in any case, God will punish you more quickly if he cries out to Him.

10 Rather, you must give him a loan despite your hesitations, and if necessary a gift of money,9 despite your reluctance. Even if you cannot muster the inspiration to give wholeheartedly, you must still give, and repeatedly, if necessary. Furthermore, you should optimally give in private so as not to embarrass the needy individual.10Your heart must not be grieved when you give to him, for even if you promise to give him and then circumstances prevent you from keeping your word, God, your God, will still bless you in all your work and in all your endeavors on account of this word of yoursas if you had actually given.

11 For as long as you are negligent in performing God’s commandments11there will never cease to be destitute people in the land. Therefore, because the reward for charity is so great, I command you in God’s Name, for your own benefit, saying, ‘You must repeatedly open your hand to your brother-Israelite, whether poor or destitute, in your land.’

Hebrew Bondservants

12 Despite your obligation to care for the poor, someone might nevertheless become so destitute that he is driven to steal something, and because he is so impoverished, he cannot pay back its monetary value. As you know, in such a case the court is allowed to identure him for a period of service, using the price paid for him to repay his victim.12 It may also happen that a father is too poor to marry off his minor daughter, and, as you also know,13 in such a case he is permitted to indenture her for a period of service to a wealthier family with the intention that she eventually marry a member of this family.

If your brother-Israelite, a Hebrew man, is indentured to you by the court in this way, or if a Hebrew young woman is indentured to you by her father in this way (and you decide not to marry her yourself or have her marry your son), he or she must serve you until the term of service is terminated, by whichever of the following occurs first: (a) monetary redemption or signs of incipient puberty (in the case of the girl), (b) the Jubilee year, or (c) the passage of six years, in which latter caseyou must send him or her forth free from you in the seventh year.

13 No matter how the his service is terminated, when you send forth the man free from you, you must not send him forth empty-handed.

14 You must provide him with a sizeable gift of sheep and goats from your flock, orgrain from your threshing floor, orwine from your vat, or any other item that replenishes itself on its own—thus excluding infertile animals, money, etc.—with which God, your God, has blessed you. Specifically, the value of the gift must be at least that of thirty shekels of silver.14

15 You must remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that God, your God, redeemed you, bestowing great material abundance upon you when you left—both when you first left and again at the Sea of Reeds. Therefore, I am commanding you today,in God’s Name, to do the same thing when you release your bondmen.

16 If he says to you, ‘I will not leave you,’ because he loves you and your household, for it is good for him with you,

17 you must take an awl and put it through his right earlobe and straight into the doorpost, and he will be a bondman to you until the next Jubilee year, when he will go free whether he wants to or not.15

In addition to giving a gift to your bondman when you free him, you must also do the same for your bondwoman when you free her.

18 You should not be troubled by having to give the bondman this bonus when you send him away from you free, because for six years he has served you twice as much as a hired servant normally would have: if you gave him a non-Jewish bondwoman as an additional wife, he has provided you with servants through her, besides performing his regular service.16 Do not worry about the expense, for God, your God, will bless you in all that you do.

Consecrating Firstborn Animals

Seventh Reading 19 As you know,17 you must give every firstborn male that is born of your herd or flock to a priest. When you do so, you must consecrate it verbally to God, your God. You must not work the field with the firstborn of your ox or other cattle, nor with the firstborn of your flock. You must not shear the firstborn of your flock or cattle.”

20 Addressing the priests (as individuals), Moses continued: “You must eat it ‘before God, your God,’ i.e., within the place—the city—that God will choose as the location of His Temple. You, your wife, your children,and the rest of your household may eat it once its blood and fats have been offered up on the altar. You should optimally eatthe firstborn that are born each year within the first year of their lives, but if you do not, this does not invalidate the sacrifice; you may still sacrifice it and eat its meat later. The meat of the firstborn may be eaten on the same day it is offered up, the night after, and/or the following day.

21 If the firstborn animalbe blemished—whether it be lame, blind, or suffering from any other bad, permanent blemish that is visible on its exterior—you must not sacrifice it to God, your God.

22 The meat of a blemished firstborn animal is not subject to the restrictions of ritual purity imposed upon eating sacrificial meat: You may eat it in any of your cities, the ritually impure people and the ritually pure people together, just as they may eat of those animal species that are not offered up as sacrifices, such as gazelle and deer—even if the meat of this animal thereby becomes ritually defiled.18 In contrast, however, the restrictions of ritual purity imposed the second tithe remain in force if it becomes invalidated for use for its original purpose. Hence, if it becomes ritually defiled, you may not eat it.19

23 However, even though you are thus permitted to eat meat whose consumption was otherwise restricted because it was allocated for the altar, do not suppose that its blood—which was also forbidden20—has now also become permitted. No, you must not consume its blood; you must spill it onto the ground when you slaughter the animal, as water. However, even though I have compared these animals in some respects to wild animals—deer and gazelle—you are nevertheless not required to cover their blood when you slaughter them, as you are require to do to the blood of wild animals when you slaughter them.21 In this respect, the blood of these otherwise-consecrated animals is like water, unlike the blood of gazelles and deer.”

The Festivals

16:1 Again addressing the entire people, Moses continued: The restriction of offering up sacrifices only in the centralized Temple22 applies to the sacrifices you must offer up on the festivals, as well. Furthermore, now that you are about to enter the land and begin cultivating it, you must ensure that these festivals coincide with specific points in the annual progression of the seasons. As you know, you are to observe the three pilgrim festivals each year.23 Safeguard the timing of the month of Nisan, ensuring that the grain will be ripe when Nisan arrives, so you will be able to offer up the omer of barley from the new crop on the second day of Passover as prescribed.24 If you see that the grain will not be ripe in time, add a leap month to the calendar before Nisan that year.25 You must also make sure that Nisan will fall in the ripening season because you must offer up the Passover offering to God, your God, which commemorates the Exodus from Egypt, during this month, and because God, your God, brought you out of Egypt in the month of ripening—specifically, on the morning after26 Pharaoh gave you permission to leave on the night of the 15th of Nisan.27

2 You must slaughter the Passover sacrifice to God, your God, from the flock,28 and a peace-offering from the cattle, in the Temple, the place on which God will choose to rest His Name. If there are too many people in your group29 for each one to receive a satiating portion of the Passover sacrifice, then offer up a peace-offering on the 14th of Nisan and eat it first, so your portion of the Passover sacrifice will satiate you. This optional festival peace-offering is brought in addition to the obligatory festival peace-offering30 brought on the first day of the holiday (or during the ensuing six days if it is not possible to offer it upon the first day).31 The meat from this peace-offering, unlike that of the Passover offering, may be eaten the following day (the 15th of Nisan). However, it may not be eaten beyond this time; if any of it is left over on the 16th of Nisan, it must be burned up.32 If you set aside money to purchase an animal for the Passover sacrifice and it costs less than what you have set aside, the remaining money remains consecrated; you must use it to purchase peace-offerings.33

3 You must not eat the Passover offering with leavened bread, for you must remove all leavened bread from your possession before you even slaughter it.34For seven days thereafter you must eat matzos, the bread that will remind you of your affliction in Egyptbecause, since the Egyptians pressured you to leave quickly,35you went out of Egypt hastily, andthe bread you baked that morning did not have time to rise. You are to eat the Passover sacrifice and matzos in order that you remember the day when you went out of Egypt all the days of your life.

4 No leavening agents of yours may be seen—i.e., found—throughout your domain—i.e., under your control—for seven days.36None of the meat of the Passover sacrifice—which you must slaughter in the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, i.e., the day preceding the seven days of Passover—may remain uneaten all through that night until the morning. However, if you offer up the festival peace-offering on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan,37 you may eat the meat of this offering all the following day, and even the night following that day, as well, as long as you finish it before the morning of the 16th of Nisan.

5 The obligation to offer up the Passover sacrifice solely in the Temple, couched above as an active commandment,38 is also subject to a restrictive commandment: You must not offer up the Passover offering within any of the other cities or other locations in the land that God, your God, is giving you, for God has commanded you to offer up sacrifices only in the Temple.39

6 Rather, you must slaughter the Passover offering in the place on which God, your God, will choose to rest His Name, i.e., in the Temple, in the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan. You must then eat it, after the sun sets, anywhere in the Temple city,and finally, the following morning—which is the anniversary of the appointed time that God fixed for your departure from Egypt—you must set aside the leftovers (if there are any) to be burned later.

7 You must roast the Passover offering40and eat it anywhere in the place that God, your God, will choose, i.e., the Temple city. You must spend the night following the first day of the festival in the Temple city; you may leave and go home only the following morning (i.e., the 16th of Nisan).

8 The only bread you may eat for the next six days is matzos; you must not eat leavened bread.41If you wish to eat matzos made from the year’s new crop of grain, you may do so only after the omer of barley is offered up on the second day of Passover;42 thus, you may eat matzos made from the new crop of grain for only six out of the seven days of the festival. On the seventh day of Passover there must be a restriction of activity in honor of God, your God: you must not do any work on it. Rather, you should linger together for the final festive meals.43

9 You must count seven weeks for yourself. You must begin to count these seven weeks from the 16th of Nisan, which is the first time the sickle may be put to the standing crop of grain to harvest it. The first grain that may be cut from the year’s new crop is the omer of barley offered up on this day in the Temple; after it is offered up, you may begin to harvest your personal crops.44

10 At the end of these seven weeks, you must observe the festival of Shavuot in honor of God, your God. You must celebrate it by offering up extra festival peace-offerings and inviting guests to eat them with you; this applies to the other two pilgrim festivals, as well.45The extent of your generosity should be in accordance with the abundance with which God, your God, will have blessed you.

11 You must rejoice before God, your God—you and your wife, plus the four categories of your household members: your son, your daughter, your bondman, and your bondwoman—on condition that you also provide for the four types of people God asks you to care for specially: the Levite from your city, the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow who are among you. God promises that if you gladden ‘His’ four, He will gladden ‘your’ four. You must all rejoice by celebrating the festivals and eating these peace-offerings in the place on which God, your God, will choose to rest His Name, i.e., the Temple city.

12 You must recall that you were a slave in Egypt and that God redeemed you only in order that you safeguard these rules—i.e. ensure that you observe them properly—by studying the Torah’s instructions regarding how to perform them properly, and then do them.

Maftir 13 You must observe for yourself the festival of Sukot for seven days, from the 15th to the 21st of Tishrei, which is when you typically gather the produce into your homes from your threshing floor and your winepress that has been outside all summer, for safekeeping during the rainy winter.

14 As you were promised with regard to Shavuot,46 so must you rejoice in your festival of Sukot—you and your wife, plus the four categories of your household members: your son, your daughter, your bondman, and your bondwoman—on condition that you also provide for the four types of people God asks you to care for specially: the Levite, the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow who are from your city. Again,God promises that if you gladden ‘His’ four, He will gladden ‘your’ four.

15 You must celebrate the festival in honor of God, your God, for seven full days—beginning from the night of the 15th of Tishreiin the place that God will choose, i.e., the Temple, because God, your God, will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, and this will be your opportunity to thank Him for having done so. If you celebrate properly, God assures you that during the entire festival you will be only happy.

16 Every one of your males must appear before God, your God, in the place He will choose—the Temple—three times a year: on Passover, the festival of matzos; on the festival of Shavuot; and on the festival of Sukot. Each male must not appear before God empty-handed, but must rather bring with him animals to offer up as ascent-offerings on each festival,47 besides the obligatory festival peace-offerings48 and extra festival peace-offerings.49

17 Every man must bring as much of these offerings as he can afford, in accordance with the blessing of God, your God, that He has given you in the form of material abundance. The wealthier he is, the more ascent-offerings he should bring; the larger his party of family and guests, the more peace-offerings he should bring.