Biblical Concept of Yovel Calls for Nuanced Thought and Action During a Time of Both Celebration and Mourning
Today, in preparation for the 50th anniversary of Israel’s military victory in the 1967 Six Day War, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights issued a study guide on the biblical concept of yovel, or Jubilee, to help synagogues and other Jewish institutions engage in challenging conversations about the meaning of this anniversary.
“The concept of yovel carries a sense of new possibility–of release from the assumptions and structures that have kept us from moving forward,” explained Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of T’ruah. “After fifty years of being stuck in political and physical battles, this should be the year that we find a path toward peace and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
In the Torah, yovel marks the fiftieth year of the agricultural cycle. In this year, debts would be forgiven, the land would lie fallow, slaves would go free, land would return to its original owners, and the shofar would sound to declare liberty and release.
“As Israel and Jews worldwide commemorate fifty years since 1967 and the Six Day War, the Torah serves as our guidepost calling us to reflect on what it means to “possess or “occupy” land, and in this case what it means to the Palestinians living on that land, for fifty years,” said Sally Gottesman, who, along with Anne Germanacos, conceived of and supported this project.
The guide delves into seven concepts associated with yovel through biblical text, classical commentary, and Hasidic interpretations, and also looks at the complexities of Jerusalem. Each section includes questions for conversation and background information on texts. Videos of prominent rabbis teaching texts from the guide will be released this winter.
A preview of the guide is available here. Rabbis who crafted the guide are available for interviews.