This week’s Torah reading describes the mitzvah of the Jubilee year. During the Jubilee, land that was part of a person’s ancestral heritage and which he had sold would be returned to him. To explain: When the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael, the land was divided among them, with every person receiving a portion of equal value. The people were then given the opportunity of working the land. Inevitably, some were more successful than others. There were some who failed so severely that they had to sell their land in order to purchase their life necessities.

As every person was living out his individual life story, the people as a whole were counting years. Every seven years, there was a Sabbatical year when the land would not be worked. After seven Sabbatical year cycles, 49 years, came the Jubilee. At the beginning of that year, any property that had been sold would be returned to its original owner or to his heirs.

On one hand, this is an amazing opportunity for rebirth and renewal. A person is given a second chance. On the other hand, we all know from experience that when a person is given a second chance, there is a high probability that he will do exactly what he did the first time. After all, his habits are scripted into his psyche to the point that the likelihood of significant change taking place is small.

Why then the mitzvah of the Jubilee?

To give a person the opportunity; to invite him to break out of his existing patterns and start something new.

Moreover, the mitzvah of the Jubilee also points to the inner strength a person possesses that enables him to break out of his previous mode of conduct and make that new start something more than a repetition of past events.

The Jubilee starts with the sounding of the shofar. In addition to the sounding of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah, the shofar is again sounded on Yom Kippur for the Jubilee. The shofar’s call emanates from the very essence of our being. It is simple, without musical trappings, the essence of a Jew calling out to his Father in Heaven.

It is from this essential core that a person begins rebuilding in the Jubilee. The essence of a Jew’s soul is an actual part of G‑d, infinite, unbounded, and undefined, like G‑d Himself. Often, however, this G‑dly potential lies latent and the person goes about his daily routine with little change or deviation. The sounding of the shofar calls this G‑dly potential into revelation and gives this person the potential to access it and begin living in a different manner entirely.

Looking to the Horizon

The seven-year Sabbatical cycle, like the seven-day weekly cycle, alludes to a cycle of greater scope. The history of the world is divided into seven millennia with the seventh millennium — like the Sabbath and the Sabbatical year — to be an era when G‑d’s presence will be tangibly felt. To use our Sages’ words: It will be the era that is “the era that is all Sabbath and rest for life everlasting.”

This is not only a prophecy for the future; it makes us aware of the special time in which we are presently living. If we follow the above conception, in the present age, it’s Friday afternoon, past midday. Now at that time, in Jewish homes, the house begins to take on a Shabbos look. Similarly, at this time, G‑d’s home, the world, is beginning to anticipate the era of the Redemption. By opening our eyes to the Messianic dynamics at work in our lives at present, our waiting for Mashiach can be charged with the force of an idea whose time has come.