Torah Fax

Friday, May 20, 2005 - 11 Iyar, 5765
Torah Reading: BeHar (Leviticus 25:1 - 26:2)
Candle Lighting time: 7:53 PM
Shabbat ends: 9:01
Pirkei Avot: Chap. 3
Shabbat is 27 days of the Omer  
Liberty In The Land
American culture has been strongly influenced by the Torah. One such instance is the inscription,  "Proclaim Liberty through all the land to all the inhabitants thereof," on the Liberty Bell, now in Philadelphia: In truth the verse quoted was not a sweeping call for liberty and freedom for all people but a far more specific and profound imperative.
In Biblical times people would have the option to sell themselves into servitude for six years so that they could pay their debts and support their families. To demonstrate that the Torah did not encourage this practice—of even relinquishing limited freedom—the  Torah ruled that one must leave his “master-employer” after six years. Moreover, if he or a relative could come up with the money, he could be released even earlier. If, however, the servant did not want to leave after six years, the Torah would allow him to stay—under certain conditions—until the Jubilee year.
In early Biblical times, when this procedure was in effect, every fifty years would be designated as a super-Sabbatical year in which the land would not be cultivated, all of the land purchased would be revert to its original owners and all the indentured servants would have to leave their masters.
This Jubilee year, known in Hebrew as Yovel,  was inaugurated with the sounding of the  shofar on Yom Kippur. Indeed, the very word Yovel derives from the word that means a sheep from whose horns the shofar was made. 
Two questions come to mind. First, why would the Jubilee year be named after the shofar, the instrument with which the year and its release of servants was declared? Second, why did the Jubilee year begin on Yom Kippur rather than on Rosh Hashanah.
Our rabbis answered the second question by citing the fact that Yom Kippur gives us a fresh start. Likewise the Jubilee year allowed society a fresh start. Those who had to sell either their property or themselves into slavery due to economic circumstances would regain their property and their freedom and be able to start over and remake their lives. It is still customary for many Jews to pay off their debts before Yom Kippur.
One could offer a deeper explanation for the selection of Yom Kippur for the release of servants from their masters, and also explain why it was inaugurated by the sounding of the Shofar.
The problem with the indentured servant was that he had two masters, G‑d and the person who “purchased” him and bailed him out of his financial difficulties and thereby gave him an opportunity to star life anew.
Now Judaism is very big on gratitude. There are several practices in Jewish life where the focus is on expressing that gratitude. Adam sinned again, or Sages tell us, when confronted with his first sin, he blamed G‑d for giving him a wife who served him the forbidden fruit. Yet, notwithstanding the importance of expressing gratitude to one’s employer, it is imperative that it does not get “upgraded” from gratitude to an employer to the level of accepting him as the worker’s master.
We can now understand why the release of the servants was done after Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is the day when we accept G‑d as our King. Before the servant could truly be free and start life anew he had to be imbued with a sense that G‑d is his only Master.
But since our personalities (intellectual and emotional) comprise ten faculties, we then take the ten days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur to instill this awareness of G‑d’s exclusive mastery over us, into every one of the ten faculties of our soul. There should not remain even on fiber of our being that recognizes a second master. Indeed, true freedom can only be experienced when one has only one Master.
We can now understand why the Jubilee year was introduced with the sounding of the shofar. According to Rabbi Sa’adia Gaon (tenth century), the primary reason for this commandment was to emulate the process of the coronation of a king. When we sound the Shofar—the sounds of which emanate from the innermost parts of our being—we thereby declare our absolute devotion to the one Master of the universe.
After ten days of working on one’s personality so that it is in tune with G‑d’s sovereignty, a final series of Shofar blasts was sounded on Yom Kippur to once again emphasize the need to surrender one’s freedom to the one, and only one, G‑d. Otherwise, there was the danger that in the course of the ten days that followed Rosh Hashanah and its sounding of the Shofar then, the intensity of the message might lose some of its steam.
We were told by our prophets that the Messianic Age will also be ushered in by the sounding of the “Great Shofar.” Precisely at a time when freedom will be experienced, there is a need to affirm the exclusivity of G‑d’s sovereignty through the coronation process, the sounding of the Shofar.
And despite the fact that we live in a free country, we may not realize the degree to which we accept other people, trends, fads and political ideologies as our masters. Before we can be fully redeemed we must disavow any other master.
Moshiach Matters
Yehi Ratzon-May it be Your will, L-rd our G‑d and G‑d of our fathers, to have mercy on us and forgive all our sins, atone for us all our iniquities, and forgive and pardon all our transgressions. May the Beit Hamikdash be rebuilt, speedily in our days ... (From the morning prayers)
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