The Torah prohibits normal farming of the Land of
Israel every seven years. This "Shabbat" for the land is
called "shemita". After every seventh shemita,
the fiftieth year, yovel (jubilee) is announced with the
sound of the shofar on Yom Kippur. This is also a year for the
land to lie fallow. G-d promises to provide a bumper crop prior
to the shemita and yovel years.
During yovel, all land is returned to its original
division from the time of Joshua, and all Jewish indentured servants are
freed, even if they have not completed their six years of work. A
Jewish indentured servant may not be given any demeaning, unnecessary or
excessively difficult work, and may not be sold in the public
market. The price of his labor must be calculated according to the
amount of time remaining until he will automatically become free.
The price of land is similarly calculated. Should anyone sell his
ancestral land, he has the right to redeem it after two years. If
a house in a walled city is sold, the right of redemption is limited to
the first year after the sale. The Levites’ cities belong to
The Jewish People are forbidden to take advantage of one another by
lending or borrowing with interest. Family members should redeem
any relative who was sold as an indentured servant as a result of
The Torah promises prosperity for the Jewish People if
they follow G-d’s commandments. However, if
they fail to live up to the responsibility of being the Chosen People,
then chilling punishments will result.
The Torah details the harsh historical process that will fall upon them
when Divine protection is removed. These punishments, whose
purpose is to bring the Jewish People to repent, will be in seven
stages, each more severe than the last. Sefer Vayikra,
the book of Leviticus, concludes with the details of Erachin
– the process by which someone vows to give the Beit Hamikdash
the equivalent monetary value of a person, an animal or property.