Leviticus 25:1-55 (26:2)

Leviticus 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27



Sedra 9, Be Har

Leviticus 25:1 – 26:2

The Jubilee laws given again



25:1 VA YEDABER YHVH EL MOSHEH BE HAR SINAI LEMOR

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה בְּהַר סִינַי לֵאמֹר

KJ (King James translation): And the LORD spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying,

BN (BibleNet translation): Then YHVH spoke to Mosheh on Mount Sinai, saying:


25:2 DABER EL BENEY YISRA-EL VE AMARTA AL'EHEM KI TAVO'U EL HA ARETS ASHER ANI NOTEN LACHEM VE SHAVTAH HA ARETS SHABAT LA YHVH



דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם וְשָׁבְתָה הָאָרֶץ שַׁבָּת לַיהוָה

KJ: Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.

BN: Speak to the Beney Yisra-El, and tell them: When you come to the land which I am giving you, the land itself shall keep a Sabbath to YHVH.


Number Seven



25:3 SHESH SHANIM TIZRA SADECHA VE SHESH SHANIM TIZMOR KARMECHA VE ASAPHTA ET TEVU'ATAH



שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים תִּזְרַע שָׂדֶךָ וְשֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים תִּזְמֹר כַּרְמֶךָ וְאָסַפְתָּ אֶת תְּבוּאָתָהּ

KJ: Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;

BN: For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce.


This law is modified by the laws concerning gleanings, given in Leviticus 19:9 ff, and the laws concerning new trees, given in Leviticus 19:23 ff


25:4 U VA SHANAH HA SHEVIY'IT SHABAT SHABATON YIHEYEH LA ARETS SHABAT LA YHVH SAD'CHA LO TIZRA VE CHARMECHA LO TIZMOR

וּבַשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן יִהְיֶה לָאָרֶץ שַׁבָּת לַיהוָה שָׂדְךָ לֹא תִזְרָע וְכַרְמְךָ לֹא תִזְמֹר

KJ: But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.

BN: But the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to YHVH; you shalt neither sow your field, nor prune your vineyard.


The implication is that all fields and all vineyards lie fallow through a whole year, rather than the more logical agricultural system of rotating jubilee fields and vineyards. The implications of this are self-evident - see verse 20 below.


25:5 ET SEPHIYACH KETSIYRCHA LO TIKTSOR VE ET INVEY NEZIYRECHA LO TIVTSOR SHENAT SHABATON YIHEYEH LA ARETS



אֵת סְפִיחַ קְצִירְךָ לֹא תִקְצוֹר וְאֶת עִנְּבֵי נְזִירֶךָ לֹא תִבְצֹר שְׁנַת שַׁבָּתוֹן יִהְיֶה לָאָרֶץ

KJ: That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.

BN: You shall not reap those harvestable items which grow of their own accord, nor shall you gather the grapes from your undressed vines; it shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.



ET SEPHIYACH: The law applies to humans, not to nature, so it is not a fact of nature, or of Creation, that is being imposed, and therefore it actually makes no theological sense to have such a law: the trees will go on producing fruit, the strawberry plants likewise, the wild garlic and zucchini, anything which, once planted, has the capacity to self-germinate and survive without human husbandry - but humans can't pick it and eat it in the Jubilee law. How utterly absurd! And are you permitted to dig out the nettles, to pull the tiny start-ups of trees that are sprouting through the soil? Whereas a rotational jubilee, in which there is both rest and provision against famine...

NEZIYRECHA: Note the connection to the word NAZIR, emphasising the "prohibition" side of Nazirut, the abstention from alcohol.



25:6 VE HAYETAH SHABAT HA ARETS LACHEM LE ACHLAH LECHA U LE AVDECHA VE LA AMATECHA VE LI SECHIYRCHA U LE TOSHAVCHA HA GARIM IMACH


וְהָיְתָה שַׁבַּת הָאָרֶץ לָכֶם לְאָכְלָה לְךָ וּלְעַבְדְּךָ וְלַאֲמָתֶךָ וְלִשְׂכִירְךָ וּלְתוֹשָׁבְךָ הַגָּרִים עִמָּךְ

KJ: And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee,

BN: But the Sabbath-produce of the land shall be your food: for you, and for your servant, and for your maid, and for your hired employees, and for whoever has settled in your locality and dwells alongside you.


For a desert people fleeing from slavery, these are very high expectations of their future life: servants, maids... they clearly do not see themselves as following the Av-Rrahamic tradition of tent-dwelling bedou with goats to tend! This is either planning for the luxuries of affluent city-life, or else a later text gaining retroactive validation.

What does "sabbath product" mean? That no agricultural or husbandry work may be done, but nevertheless what is produced naturally that year can still be eaten? No, verse 5 prohibited that. Again, see verse 20 below.

 
25:7 VE LI VEHEMTECHA VE LA CHAYAH ASHER BE ARTSECHA TIHEYEH CHOL TEVU'ATAH LE'ECHOL



וְלִבְהֶמְתְּךָ וְלַחַיָּה אֲשֶׁר בְּאַרְצֶךָ תִּהְיֶה כָל תְּבוּאָתָהּ לֶאֱכֹל

KJ: And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.

BN: And for your cattle, and for the beasts that are in your land, all its increase shall be for food.



TEVU'ATAH: What increase? There will surely be a decrease if farming is shut down for a year. The inference though is that you can slaughter whatever is still alive for food, but nor the new-born animals. And if that is the case, are the laws of the daily offerings and the festival offerings, which require yearling animals, suspended in the Jubilee year?

What will the people eat, if they are they not permitted to grow anything for a whole year, and have to leave that which grows of its own accord for the beasts and the strangers? Or are they going to do as Yoseph did, and build store cities in the six years of plenty, to avert the inevitable famine of the jubilee? The law makes no sense (and the history of that disastrous economic and political strategy has surely been learned, hasn't it?). There has to have been a rotational jubilee. Once again, see verse 20 below.

samech break


25:8 VE SAPHARTA LECHA SHEVA SHABTOT SHANIM SHEVA SHANIM SHEVA PE'AMIM VE HAYU LECHA YEMEY SHEVA SHABATOT HA SHANIM TESHA VE ARBA'IM SHANAH



וְסָפַרְתָּ לְךָ שֶׁבַע שַׁבְּתֹת שָׁנִים שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים וְהָיוּ לְךָ יְמֵי שֶׁבַע שַׁבְּתֹת הַשָּׁנִים תֵּשַׁע וְאַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה

KJ: And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years.

BN: And you shall count seven sabbath years - seven times seven years - so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years.


Balancing perfectly the forty nine days of the Omer, before Shavu'ot, the harvest festival on the 50th day after Passover. But does this mean there will be a jubilee every seven years, and then every seven times seven, and in the 50th? And when does the count start again? In the 50th or 51st?


25:9 VE HA'AVARTA SHOPHAR TERU'AH BA CHODESH HA SHEVIY'I BE ASUR LA CHODESH BE YOM HA KIPURIM TA'AVIYRU SHOPHAR BE CHOL ARTSECHEM


וְהַעֲבַרְתָּ שׁוֹפַר תְּרוּעָה בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִעִי בֶּעָשׂוֹר לַחֹדֶשׁ בְּיוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים תַּעֲבִירוּ שׁוֹפָר בְּכָל אַרְצְכֶם

KJ: Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.

BN: Then you shall make proclamation through the sounding of the shophar on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall make proclamation with the shophar throughout all your land.


Whatever happened to this? Why do we not still celebrate the 50th year on Yom Kippur?

But it takes this Jubilee proclamation to make us realise why the new year was moved from Pesach-Passover in the spring to where it is now: in the 7th month, the sacred number 7 yet again.

And now that we have seen this seventh year ... seventh month ... can we expect something for the seventh day of that month? In fact no, but as we hear these 7 by 7s, should we go back to Genesis 5:28, where Lamech has a son (No'ach, as it happens) at the age of 182, and then (verse 30) "... lived after he begat No'ach five hundred and ninety-five years, and begat sons and daughters", and add those two numbers together, and get 777 (no need for us to do it, verse 31 does it for us), and then go back to Genesis 4:23 and especially 24, Lamech's previous appearance, and wonder what this has to do with his statement there that "I have slain a man for wounding me, and a young man for bruising me... If Kayin shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold"?


25:10 VE KIDASHTEM ET SHENAT HA CHAMISHIM SHANAH U KERA'TEM DEROR BA ARETS LE CHOL YOSHVEYHA YOVEL HI TIHEYEH LACHEM VE SHAVTEM ISH EL ACHUZATO VE ISH EL MISHPECHATO TASHUVU

וְקִדַּשְׁתֶּם אֵת שְׁנַת הַחֲמִשִּׁים שָׁנָה וּקְרָאתֶם דְּרוֹר בָּאָרֶץ לְכָל יֹשְׁבֶיהָ יוֹבֵל הִוא תִּהְיֶה לָכֶם וְשַׁבְתֶּם אִישׁ אֶל אֲחֻזָּתוֹ וְאִישׁ אֶל מִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ תָּשֻׁבוּ

KJ: And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout allthe land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.

BN: And you shall set the fiftieth year apart as holy, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants; it shall be a jubilee to you; and every man shall return to his possession, and every man shall return to his family.


SHENAT HA CHAMISHIM SHANAH: No one translates this properly. SHENAT and SHANAH are both there for a reason: and you shall hallow the year of the fiftieth year... It isn't just the fact of the Jubilee, but the very idea of the Jubilee, that needs to be acknowledged. Once again, the distinction between KEVA and KAVANAH - my friends at the Heschel school in Toronto have asked me to add a link to this essay, exploring this theme, and the man for whom they are named: click here.

YOVEL: This word could sustain a PhD thesis on its own; I shall present the bones, as briefly as I can. First YEVUL: one possible root, which happens also to mean "the produce of the land" (Leviticus 26:4 and 20, Deuteronomy 11:17 and 32:22, Judges 6:4, Psalm 67:7 - 67:6 in some Christian versions - and many more), and leads to TEVEL = "fertile" or "inhabited earth". Then YAVAL, almost certainly a different root though that too merits a chapter in the PhD thesis, meaning "to flow", which leads to YIVLEY MAYIM in Isaiah 30:25, but more significantly to the MABUL, which was the No'achic Flood (Genesis 6:9 ff; significantly because there are also YAVAL and YUVAL and a TUVAL, and even a TUVAL-KAYIN, all of them No'ach's half-brothers (we don't think of No'ach as having brothers, perhaps because he didn't take them on the Ark), and then there is the YOVEL, not just the Jubilee itself, but also the metal trumpet which sounds the Jubilee, and the word for "rejoice" which we are called upon to do at the Jubilee... and so the Jubilee which is the rest and renewal of the Earth is also that other Creation story, the cleaning and re-starting of the Earth, which was the Epic of Gilgamesh before it became the Biblical myth of No'ach. 

VE SHAVTEM ISH EL ACHUZATO: The part of speech used here is not straightforward. Literally it reads: "you shall return every man to his possession", with the next phrase saying the same for his family. Who though is the "you"? Is it simply an instruction to Mosheh, with the expectation that he will then enact it - or his successors in the future? It cannot be a proclamation to the universal "you", as other laws are, because some will not be in a position of having anyone to send, and others will not be in a position of having possessions or family to return to. I have therefore translated it the other way around, removing the "you", and leaving each man self-dependent.

It would, anyway, be hugely difficult to carry out, even in pre-exilic times when everyone lived in Kena'an (Canaan). Today, we couldn't do it, the Diaspora is spread too wide and most of us have no idea which tribe we belonged to, if we aren't actually converts to Judaism from a later period. And yet it's Torah - we are required to do it.

And it also throws up another question, which I don't believe anyone has previously considered. In Luke 2 we are told that: "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world  (this was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria)." This is problematic for Christianity because the census took place in the year 6 BCE, so either Jesus was born six years earlier than the Gospels maintain, or Luke has his facts wrong. But it isn't only the date of the census that is problematic. Luke continues "And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea..." Nazareth didn't in fact exist at the time, and wouldn't for at least another fifty years - this is almost certainly an error for Genaseret, which was the name in those days for the Sea of Galilee, and the village of Genaseret was located at the north-western corner of that lake, walking distance even for the sick and elderly from Tabgha (feeding of the five thousand), Midgal (home of Mary Magdalene) and Kfar Nachum (Capernaum, where he preached and found most of his disciples) - a much more likely likely location for his home anyway, for all these reasons. 
   But even this isn't the problem that I am addressing here. Luke then states that he went: "...to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David." David was from the tribe of Yehudah, and Beit Lechem Ephratah (Bethlehem), where he was born, was in the tribal territory of Bin-Yamin (Benjamin) in his time; but by Jesus' time it had became absorbed into Yehudah; indeed, we know that it was absorbed in 722 BCE, when Yehudah and Bin-Yamin became the only tribes left. 
   The fact that Jesus' ancient ancestor David was born and brought up in Beit Lechem is therefore just as irrelevant as whether Joseph came from Nazareth or Genaseret - Genaseret was once in the tribal territory of Naphtali, but Naphtali disappeared with the other nine tribes in 722 BCE, after which everything centralised on Yerushalayim; so if Joseph was returning to his tribal territory for a census, he would have gone to Yeru-Shalayim, not Beit Lechem.
   However - the lengthy introduction was necessary, to understand the nuances of this, and both sets of italics at the end of that last paragraph especially - there could have been a perfectly good reason for his going back to his ancestral home in Beit Lechem, and in the year -1 or +1, however you prefer to date the birth of Jesus at an epoch before the invention of the 0. He could have gone back, because of what it says in this verse: "VE SHAVTEM ISH EL ACHUZATO: and every man shall return to his possession, and every man shall return to his family." He could have done, not because it was the census, but because it was the Jubilee.


25:11 YOVEL HI SHENAT HA CHAMISHIM SHANAH TIHEYEH LACHEM LO TIZRA'U VE LO TIKTSERU ET SEPHIYCHEYHA VE LO TIVTSERU ET NEZIREYHA

יוֹבֵל הִוא שְׁנַת הַחֲמִשִּׁים שָׁנָה תִּהְיֶה לָכֶם לֹא תִזְרָעוּ וְלֹא תִקְצְרוּ אֶת סְפִיחֶיהָ וְלֹא תִבְצְרוּ אֶת נְזִרֶיהָ

KJ: A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed.

BN: That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee to you; in it, you shall not sow, nor reap whatever grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of the undressed vines.



This infers a double-year, both the 49th and the 50th being a jubilee, and therefore no farming. How did YHVH expect his chosen people to eat?

What exactly are undressed vines; as opposed to dressed vines?


25:12 KI YOVEL HI KODESH TIHEYEH LACHEM MIN HA SADEH TOCHLU ET TEVU'ATAH

כִּי יוֹבֵל הִוא קֹדֶשׁ תִּהְיֶה לָכֶם מִן הַשָּׂדֶה תֹּאכְלוּ אֶת תְּבוּאָתָהּ

KJ: For it is the jubilee; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.

BN: For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat the increase of it out of the field.


Or maybe there was a belief that leaving the fields unworked for a year every seven will actually increase their yield, and the increase can then be stored, and consumed in the jubilee year? And if so, how? Without planting any seeds? Without manuring them? Without pruning, pollarding, etc? Again, see verse 20 below.


25:13 BI SHENAT HA YOVEL HA ZOT TASHUVU ISH EL ACHUZATO


בִּשְׁנַת הַיּוֹבֵל הַזֹּאת תָּשֻׁבוּ אִישׁ אֶל אֲחֻזָּתוֹ

KJ: In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession.

BN: In this year of jubilee every man shall return to his possession.


So do the Mishmerot of the Temple return to their tribes? Do foreign traders cease travelling? Do foreign ambassadors and their staff close their consulates? Does KA EZRACH KA GER allow Babylonian slaves captured in war to go home to Babylon and Egyptian slaves purchased from traffickers to go home to 
Egypt? None of this is elucidated.


25:14 VE CHI TIMKERU MI MEKAR LA AMIYTECHA O KANOH MI YAD AMIYTECHA AL TONU ISH ET ACHIV

וְכִי תִמְכְּרוּ מִמְכָּר לַעֲמִיתֶךָ אוֹ קָנֹה מִיַּד עֲמִיתֶךָ אַל תּוֹנוּ אִישׁ אֶת אָחִיו

KJ: And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour's hand, ye shall not oppress one another:

BN: And if you sell anything to your neighbour, or buy from your neighbour's hand, you shall not wrong one another.


MIM'KAR: Or Mi Mekar? The sheva below the second Mem suggests the former, but the Chaf medugash insists on the latter, with the first Mem functioning as prefix. However YIMKAR in the next verse confirms the former. An oddity of grammar, because really this should be YIMCHAR, without the dagesh.

Some laws are difficult to enforce, but few more so than this one; less an instruction than a pious hope.



25:15 BE MISPAR SHANIM ACHAR HA YOVEL TIKNEH ME ET AMIYTECHA BE MISPAR SHENEY TEVU'OT YIMKAR LACH

בְּמִסְפַּר שָׁנִים אַחַר הַיּוֹבֵל תִּקְנֶה מֵאֵת עֲמִיתֶךָ בְּמִסְפַּר שְׁנֵי תְבוּאֹת יִמְכָּר לָךְ

KJ: According to the number of years after the jubile thou shalt buy of thy neighbour, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee:

BN: You shall buy from your neighbour according to the number of years that have passed since the jubilee, and according to the number of years that he has been cultivating the crops that he is selling to you.


I have somewhat extended my translation beyond the word-for-word literal, in order to draw out what I believe is the intention. Though I am not certain whether this ruling is based on the 7, the 49, or the 50 - see the note to the next verse.

The ruling is actually rather clever, and it takes us back to the laws of the fruit trees in Leviticus 19:23 ff, providing a Mosaic model for a rule of "Retail Transparency". Corn planted in the same field year after year, stubbled, resown, reharvested, endlessly manured until the quantity of cow dung is greater than the quantity of natural mud, will lose nitrogens, will become carbonated, all manner of degradations and diminutions of quality in the harvested product. The same for fruit trees and tomato plants, et al. But dating from the jubilee allows the purchaser precise and certain knowledge of what he is purchasing. The Bible as an Economics text-book, as well as a medical manual, a history book, an anthology of poetry...


25:16 LEPHI ROV HA SHANIM TARBEH MIKNATO U LEPHI ME'OT HA SHANIM TAM'IT MIKNATO KI MISPAR TEVU'OT HU MOCHER LACH



לְפִי רֹב הַשָּׁנִים תַּרְבֶּה מִקְנָתוֹ וּלְפִי מְעֹט הַשָּׁנִים תַּמְעִיט מִקְנָתוֹ כִּי מִסְפַּר תְּבוּאֹת הוּא מֹכֵר לָךְ

KJ: According to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it: for according to the number of the years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee.

BN: The price shall increase in proportion to the number of years since the jubilee, higher with each year, and decrease in proportion to the number of years that he has been cultivating the crop, lower with each year; this shall apply to any and every crop that he is selling you.


Again I have extended the translation to obtain clarity. Essentially this establishes a system of logical pro-rating, but it also provides a compensation clause to allow for the loss of product in the jubilee year; if it's nearer to the next jubilee, the buyer needs compensating; if it's just after the jubilee, the seller should get full price.

ROV HA SHANIM... ME'OT HA SHANIM: "Multitude" and "fewness" are the literal translations used in most translations here, but what actually do the words mean? Majority and minority? The largest number remaining versus the smallest, or the largest gone by versus the smallest?

I am trying to imagine a contemporary equivalent, to make sense of this. Imagine Apple brings out a new iPhone only once every seven years, to mark the jubilee. The price in the first year is, say, $100, by the second you only pay $90, and by the last year only $25, which is fair, because the new phone due next year will be $120 initially, but with amazing updates and improvements, so why would you want to buy a six-year-old, obsolete anachronism of a phone; and if you do, Apple are probably pleased to get rid of their over-stock at $25 a time? I think this is what the law is establishing, with one outstanding issue: that crops are crops are crops, and you don't get updates with improvements to grapes and oranges - or yes you do, if you look again at the law in the second half of verse 15.


25:17 VE LO TONU ISH ET AMIYTO VE YAR'E'TA ME ELOHEYCHA KI ANI YHVH ELOHEYCHEM

וְלֹא תוֹנוּ אִישׁ אֶת עֲמִיתוֹ וְיָרֵאתָ מֵאֱלֹהֶיךָ כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

KJ: Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God.

BN: And you shall not cheat each other; but you shall fear your god; for I am YHVH your god.


The key to all this lies is the intention: this is the establishment of Ethical Capitalism, and it appears to have become forgotten in our current version based on Market Forces.


25:18 VA ASIYTEM ET CHUKOTAI VE ET MISHPATAI TISHMERU VA ASIYTEM OTAM VIY'SHAVTEM AL HA ARETS LA VETACH


וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֶת חֻקֹּתַי וְאֶת מִשְׁפָּטַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם וִישַׁבְתֶּם עַל הָאָרֶץ לָבֶטַח

KJ: Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.

BN: Therefore you shall carry out my statutes, and keep my ordinances, and execute them; and thus you shall dwell securely in the land.


This poses one of the more intriguing of theological problems, and Jews have wrestled with it for at least two thousand years. What is the connection between us being upright, moral human beings, who follow every value and principle to the nth degree, and some evil son-of-a-bitch with imperial ambitions elsewhere, who decides to attack and conquer us anyway - as happens all-too-frequently? The only answer, based on this verse, is that YHVH is there to provide protection if we do meet the standards, and that it is our own fault if we don't. But YHVH doesn't interfere in human history (forgive my coughing), and Midrash after Midrash and Responsum after Responsum confirm this - take a look at the story of Akhnia's Oven, for the most famous example, in 
Bava Metziah 59b. And then there is a second, rather more disturbing inference: if YHVH does not, and is not permitted to interfere in human history, then "it must be our fault" applies, to the Babylonian and Greek and Roman conquests, to the pogroms, and even to the Holocaust. And "the justification of the judgement" endorses the matter. 


25:19 VE NATNAH HA ARETS PIRYAH VA ACHALTEM LA SHOVA VIY'SHAVTEM LA VETACH ALEYHA


וְנָתְנָה הָאָרֶץ פִּרְיָהּ וַאֲכַלְתֶּם לָשֹׂבַע וִישַׁבְתֶּם לָבֶטַח עָלֶיהָ

KJ: And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety.

BN: And the land shall yield her fruit, and you shall eat until you have enough, and dwell securely in it.


The same principle applies to food and fertility as it did to safety in the previous verse. And yet, every insurance company in the world provides coverage whenever there is an incident that is deemed to be "an act of God".


25:20 VE CHI TOMRU MAH NOCHAL BA SHANAH HA SHEVIY'I
 HEN LO NIZRA VE LO NE'ESOPH ET TEVU'ATENU


וְכִי תֹאמְרוּ מַה נֹּאכַל בַּשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת הֵן לֹא נִזְרָע וְלֹא נֶאֱסֹף אֶת תְּבוּאָתֵנוּ

KJ: And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase:

BN: And if you shall say: 'What shall we eat in the seventh year? Behold, we may not sow, nor gather in our increase.


As inevitably they will ask, because the law leads to this.

NE'ESOPH: I have not applied this to the translation, but I am wondering: would it be more accurate to translate NE'ESOPH as "yield" rather than "increase"?

It makes for an interesting literary technique, that the text is set out in such a way that I have had to write "see verse 20 below" on four separate occasions; the opposite of prefiguration - give the information, but leave out the most crucial piece, which will answer the worrying questions raised by only giving the limited information. Why not give the text differently; announce the jubilee without detail; then announce the laws of the 6th year; then give the detail of the 7th year?


25:21 VE TSIVIYTI ET BIRCHATI LACHEM BA SHANAH HA SHISHIT VE ASAT ET HA TEVU'AH LISHLOSH HA SHANIM

וְצִוִּיתִי אֶת בִּרְכָתִי לָכֶם בַּשָּׁנָה הַשִּׁשִּׁית וְעָשָׂת אֶת הַתְּבוּאָה לִשְׁלֹשׁ הַשָּׁנִים

KJ: Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years.

BN: Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth produce for the three years.


An answer that, lacking any historical evidence whatsoever, requires very considerable faith, but still does not offer economics, let alone store-cities, permanent irrigation systems, or chemical fertilisers. But is does appear to confirm that the Jubilee is in the 50th as well as in every 7th year - why else would there need to be 3 years of miraculous surfeit when even Republicans in the US and Conservatives in the UK never promise more than 2?


25:22 U ZERA'TEM ET HA SHANAH HA SHEMIYNIT VA ACHALTEM MIN HA TEVU'AH YASHAN AD HA SHANAH HA TESHIY'IT AD BO TEVU'ATAH TOCHLU YASHAN

וּזְרַעְתֶּם אֵת הַשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁמִינִת וַאֲכַלְתֶּם מִן הַתְּבוּאָה יָשָׁן עַד הַשָּׁנָה הַתְּשִׁיעִת עַד בּוֹא תְּבוּאָתָהּ תֹּאכְלוּ יָשָׁן

KJ: And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store.

BN: And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat of the produce, the old store, until the ninth year; until her produce come in, you shall eat of the old store.


This is equivalent to gathering two challot on the sixth day (Exodus 16:4 ff); but on a scale that simply will not work. Especially if famine or drought or blighted crops or a boom-and-bust market caused there to be a shortfall rather than a surfeit in years 5 and 6. Sad to say, but the system introduced in Mitsrayim (Egypt) by Yoseph worked much better (Genesis 41 ff) - and that too was on a 7-year cycle.



25:23 VE HA ARETS LO TIMACHER LI TSEMITUT KI LI HA ARETS KI GERIM VE TOSHAVIM ATEM IMADI

וְהָאָרֶץ לֹא תִמָּכֵר לִצְמִתֻת כִּי לִי הָאָרֶץ כִּי גֵרִים וְתוֹשָׁבִים אַתֶּם עִמָּדִי

KJ: The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye arestrangers and sojourners with me.

BN: And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine; for you are strangers and settlers with me.


The laws constantly make the GERIM and TOSHAVIM equal to the EZRACHIM, which is to say the non- and the Beney Yisra-El; but now the Beney Yisra-El turn out themselves to be GERIM and TOSHAVIM - if only before YHVH. And YHVH owns the land, not the Beney Yisra-El. This helps us understand why the laws call for equality, but they also add confusion because elsewhere we are clearly told that YHVH has set the Beney Yisra-El apart from the other nations, so that they are not equal.

This also has theological implications for the politics of nationhood: you cannot own land, YHVH is saying; and the reply of the politicians is: we cannot own the fertility of the land, or its geography, the positioning of its lakes and mountains, the existence of tectonic plates, its propensity for avalanche or earthquake: but we can draw lines along its surface, and fence and garrison those lines: we can own land in the eyes of other people.


25:24 U VE CHOL ERETS ACHUZAT'CHEM GE'ULAH TITNU LA ARETS

וּבְכֹל אֶרֶץ אֲחֻזַּתְכֶם גְּאֻלָּה תִּתְּנוּ לָאָרֶץ

KJ: And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.

BN: And in all the land that you will come to possess, you shall grant the option of that land being redeemed.


Meaning what exactly? That just as the act of sacrifice obtains YHVH’s permission to eat his animals, so sacrificing a year of planting obtains his permission to inhabit and cultivate his land? Yes, in part; but only in part.

GE'ULAH comes from the same root as GO'EL, which is used both for YHVH's role as the redeemer of Yisra-El from its sins, and for the blood-vengeance in a case like the killing of Av-Ner by Yo-Av and Avi-Shai in 2 Samuel 2:18-28 and 2 Samuel 3:22-38. The methodology of redemption for land is given in the following verses, as are the circumstances in which the land go'el applies - and interestingly it too goes back to the economics of Yoseph, where the people mortgaged their land to Pharaoh, in order to pay for food when they had no money left, and then mortgaged themselves for the same reason: the land go'el is the means by which you get your land back.

samech break



25:25 KI YAMUCH ACHIYCHA U MACHAR ME ACHUZATO U VA GO'ALO HA KAROV ELAV VE GA'AL ET MIM'KAR ACHIV

כִּי יָמוּךְ אָחִיךָ וּמָכַר מֵאֲחֻזָּתוֹ וּבָא גֹאֲלוֹ הַקָּרֹב אֵלָיו וְגָאַל אֵת מִמְכַּר אָחִיו

KJ: If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.

BN: If your brother has become poor, and sells some of his inheritance, then his kinsman who is next-in-line shall come to him, and shall redeem whatever his brother has sold.



ACHUZATO: I have changed the translation here from "possession" to "inheritance"; the Yehudit can mean either, but the latter is what is intended here. It is an important distinction: getting back the family land, the clan's history and identity, is different from getting back a green or brown-field site you picked up as a property speculation but then couldn't raise the loan for the development.

But go suggest this to the foreclosure banks! And then go look at the beginning of the Book of Ruth where Bo'az does this.


25:26 VE ISH KI LO YIHEYEH LO GO'EL VE HISIYGAH YADO U MATSA KEDEY GE'ULATO

וְאִישׁ כִּי לֹא יִהְיֶה לּוֹ גֹּאֵל וְהִשִּׂיגָה יָדוֹ וּמָצָא כְּדֵי גְאֻלָּתוֹ

KJ: And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it;

BN: And if a man has no one to redeem it, and he grows rich and finds sufficient means to redeem it...


25:27 VE TISHAV ET SHENEY MI MEKARO VE HESHIV ET HA ODEPH LA ISH ASHER MACHAR LO VE SHAV LA ACHUZATO



וְחִשַּׁב אֶת שְׁנֵי מִמְכָּרוֹ וְהֵשִׁיב אֶת הָעֹדֵף לָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר מָכַר לוֹ וְשָׁב לַאֲחֻזָּתוֹ

KJ: Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession.

BN: Then let him count the years of its sale, and restore the excess to the man to whom he sold it; and he shall return to his inheritance.


So you sold your house for 100,000, because you were broke and this at least gave you rental cash until things turned around; five years later they have, and the market value on that house is now 300,000. The man took it from you as an act of generosity and compassion, not a wholesale purchase; but still you must reclaim it at market value, and not simply give him back the 100,000 and move in. 

Which sounds like an entirely reasonable legal requirement - until you look at verse 29.

There is also a symbolism below these lines, which relates back to verse 23: the land belongs to YHVH, the Jew will always be a stranger and a settler, but the Land of Yisra-El is nonetheless his tribal land, and the law of the go'el ensures that "he shall return to his inheritance". Zionism, five hundred years earlier even than Psalm 137, let alone the writings of George Eliot or Benjamin Disraeli or Theodor Herzl two thousand years after that!

MI MEKARO: Should it be MIM'KARO? See the note on this in the previous chapter. 



25:28 VE IM LO MATS'AH YADO DEY HASHIV LO VE HAYAH MI MEKARO BE YAD HA KONEH OTO AD SHENAT HA YOVEL VE YATSA BA YOVEL VE SHAV LA ACHUZATO


וְאִם לֹא מָצְאָה יָדוֹ דֵּי הָשִׁיב לוֹ וְהָיָה מִמְכָּרוֹ בְּיַד הַקֹּנֶה אֹתוֹ עַד שְׁנַת הַיּוֹבֵל וְיָצָא בַּיֹּבֵל וְשָׁב לַאֲחֻזָּתוֹ

KJ: But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it until the year of jubile: and in the jubile it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession.

BN: But if he does not have sufficient means to acquire it again for himself, then that which he has sold shall remain in the hands of the purchaser until the year of jubilee; and in the jubilee it shall go out, and he shall return to his inheritance.



What, for free? He doesn't even have the 100,000, let alone the 300,000 (see my note to verse 27). Apparently, yes, for free. 

The key difference is the man's lack of means, supplemented by the law in verse 17, supplemented by the fact that the go'el is family... but wait, no, verse 26 made a distinction: in this case the man had no money, still has no money, had no one in the family to redeem the land for him, so he has gone outside the family, found a banker, a neighbour, a rich merchant, and ... and the capitalist system as we know it would collapse if laws like this one were in place today; and yet most capitalists claim also to be good Jews and good Christians. And without this humanistic law, the man and his family would now be homeless.
   But see verses 29 and 30.

samech break



25:29 VE ISH KI YIMKOR BEIT MOSHAV IR CHOMAH VE HAYETAH GE'ULATO AD TOM SHENAT MI MEKARO YAMIM TIHEYEH GE'ULATO


וְאִישׁ כִּי יִמְכֹּר בֵּית מוֹשַׁב עִיר חוֹמָה וְהָיְתָה גְּאֻלָּתוֹ עַד תֹּם שְׁנַת מִמְכָּרוֹ יָמִים תִּהְיֶה גְאֻלָּתוֹ

KJ: And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it.

BN: And if a man sells a dwelling-house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; he shall have the right of redemption for a full year .



25:30 VE IM LO YIGA'EL AD MEL'OT LO SHANAH TEMIYMAH VE KAM HA BAYIT ASHER BA IR ASHER LO CHOMAH LATSMIYTUT LA KONEH OTO LE DOROTAV LO YETS'E BA YOVEL

וְאִם לֹא יִגָּאֵל עַד מְלֹאת לוֹ שָׁנָה תְמִימָה וְקָם הַבַּיִת אֲשֶׁר בָּעִיר אֲשֶׁר לא (לוֹ) חֹמָה לַצְּמִיתֻת לַקֹּנֶה אֹתוֹ לְדֹרֹתָיו לֹא יֵצֵא בַּיֹּבֵל

KJ: And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that isin the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubile.

BN: And if it is not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house in the walled city shall be guaranteed in perpetuity to he who purchased it, throughout his generations; it shall not be returned at the jubilee.


There are so many different styles of language in these law codes, it is simply not imaginable that Mosheh wrote them all, and at the same time. What we have here is the equivalent of a "whereas" document; and in fact it might be interesting to re-translate the whole of this chapter, as a "whereas" document, which it would be very easy to do, and then to try to do the same, say, for the incest chapters, where it would be virtually impossible to do so. But a man drawing up a complete set of laws does not use multiple methodologies for different sections, because that then leaves the law open to dispute when it comes to court.



25:31 U VATEY HA CHATSERIM ASHER EYN LAHEM CHOMAH SAVIV AL SEDEH HA ARETS YECHASHEV GE'ULAH TIHEYEH LO U VA YOVEL YETS'E



וּבָתֵּי הַחֲצֵרִים אֲשֶׁר אֵין לָהֶם חֹמָה סָבִיב עַל שְׂדֵה הָאָרֶץ יֵחָשֵׁב גְּאֻלָּה תִּהְיֶה לּוֹ וּבַיֹּבֵל יֵצֵא

KJ: But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubile.

BN: But the houses in villages which are not walled shall be reckoned with the fields in the countryside; they may be redeemed, and they shall be returned in the jubilee.


Feudal laws in Biblical times. The distinction being made in these last verses is between tribal land and places where anyone can live; but also between rural and urban conditions. The latter especially: after all, having as one's inheritance a house in a walled city, or building one on common land in the countryside, is all very nice, but ultimately a house is a house is a house; whereas having land which you farm is both the land and the produce, and it may have taken generations to nurture and husband and sustain it - those oaks which your grandfather planted can't go with you, whereas your grandma's best china can. 
   At the same time, the value of the house in the walled city or on common land, varying as it does in the first or third or fifth year of the Jubilee cycle, can have a very different sort of impact, and through it on personal circumstances. I suspect that it also had an impact on city decisions about whether and where to designate common land or build walls, and who should have the right to which houses (in the book of Nehemiah it is made very explicit that only the Kohanim and the most princely could obtain houses in the wall or on the street facing it). I suspect that this latter would need little explanation or justification to the residents of the Seminole reservation along Alligator Alley in south Florida, or the Mississauga of Toronto, or the singers of the song-lines of hinterland Australia.

 

25:32 VE AREY HA LEVIYIM BATEY AREY ACHUZATAM GE'ULAT OLAM TIHEYEH LA LEVIYIM

וְעָרֵי הַלְוִיִּם בָּתֵּי עָרֵי אֲחֻזָּתָם גְּאֻלַּת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה לַלְוִיִּם

KJ: Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, and the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time.

BN: But as for the cities of the Leviyim, the houses that they possess in their refuge-cities, the Leviyim shall have a perpetual right of redemption.


This modifies the above, but does not change it; simply it recognises that there will never again be any tribal lands for the Leviyim, and so it makes a concession to them within the walled towns to which they are now committed (see Numbers 18:20 and Deuteronomy 10:9). One question though: the laws pertaining to the refuge cities, and to the Levitical inheritance, grant them certain pieces of land for agricultural purposes close to the town
. Are those included in this? The answer is yes: see verse 34.



25:33 VA ASHER YIG'AL MIN HA LEVIYIM VE YATSA MI MEKAR BAYIT VE IR ACHUZATO BA YOVEL KI VATEY AREY HA LEVIYIM HI ACHUZATAM BETOCH BENEY YISRA-EL



וַאֲשֶׁר יִגְאַל מִן הַלְוִיִּם וְיָצָא מִמְכַּר בַּיִת וְעִיר אֲחֻזָּתוֹ בַּיֹּבֵל כִּי בָתֵּי עָרֵי הַלְוִיִּם הִוא אֲחֻזָּתָם בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

KJ: And if a man purchase of the Levites, then the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, shall go out in the year of jubile: for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel.

BN: And if a man purchase from the Leviyim, then the house that was sold in the city of his inheritance shall be returned at the jubilee; for the houses of the cities of the Leviyim are their possession among the Beney Yisra-El.


VE IR: With a VAV, but should it not it be a VET - Va ir, meaning "in the city" where this gives "and the city", which is meaningless?
 

25:34 U SEDEH MIGRASH AREYHEM LO YIMACHER KI ACHUZAT OLAM HU LAHEM

וּשְׂדֵה מִגְרַשׁ עָרֵיהֶם לֹא יִמָּכֵר כִּי אֲחֻזַּת עוֹלָם הוּא לָהֶם

KJ: But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.

BN: But the fields of the open land about their cities may not be sold; for that is their perpetual inheritance.


samech break


25:35 VE CHI YAMUCH ACHIYCHA U MATAH YADO IMACH VE HECHEZAKTA BO GER VE TOSHAV VA CHAI IMACH



וְכִי יָמוּךְ אָחִיךָ וּמָטָה יָדוֹ עִמָּךְ וְהֶחֱזַקְתָּ בּוֹ גֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב וָחַי עִמָּךְ

KJ: And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.

BN: And if your brother has become poor, and his means fail with you; then you shall uphold him; as a stranger and a settler he shall live with you.


This takes us back to the first case, when the man did have someone in the family to purchase his house and save him thereby from destitution. Clan values which become in today's world family values. Though the followers of Margaret "there is no such thing as society" Thatcher, and the Libertarians and Objectivists of the USA, would reject the idea as stemming from those "falsehoods" altruism and philanthropy.

But what does it actually mean, that he will live as a GER VE TOSHAV - does not all law apply equally KA EZRACH KA GER? See the next verse, where there is an exception to that general principle.


25:36 AL TIKACH ME ITO NESHECH VE TARBIT VE YAR'E'TA ME ELOHEYCHA VE CHEY ACHIYCHA IMACH



אַל תִּקַּח מֵאִתּוֹ נֶשֶׁךְ וְתַרְבִּית וְיָרֵאתָ מֵאֱלֹהֶיךָ וְחֵי אָחִיךָ עִמָּךְ

KJ: Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee.

BN: You shall not take any interest from him nor make a profit out of him; but fear your god, that your brother may live with you.


This is reflected in several passages (click here)There is an interesting essay waiting to be written on the subject of usury in relation to Jews in Christendom in the Middle Ages.


25:37 ET KASPECHA LO TITEN LO BE NESHECH U VE MARBIT LO TITEN ACHLECHA



אֶת כַּסְפְּךָ לֹא תִתֵּן לוֹ בְּנֶשֶׁךְ וּבְמַרְבִּית לֹא תִתֵּן אָכְלֶךָ

KJ: Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.

BN: You shall not give him your money on interest, nor give him your food at profit.



25:38 ANI YHVH ELOHEYCHEM ASHER HOTSE'TI ET'CHEM ME ERETS MITSRAYIM LATET LACHEM ET ERETS KENA'AN LIHEYOT LACHEM LE ELOHIM

אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם לָתֵת לָכֶם אֶת אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן לִהְיוֹת לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים

KJ: am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

BN: I am YHVH your god, who brought you out of the land of Mitsrayim, to give you the land of Kena'an, to be your god.


samech break


25:39 VE CHI YAMUCH ACHICHA IMACH VE NIMKAR LACH LO TA'AVOD BO AVODAT AVED


וְכִי יָמוּךְ אָחִיךָ עִמָּךְ וְנִמְכַּר לָךְ לֹא תַעֲבֹד בּוֹ עֲבֹדַת עָבֶד

KJ: And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant:

BN: And if your brother should grow poor with you, and sell himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a bondservant.


The voice of Egyptian slavery speaking loud; but even more than that, the voice of Yoseph, crying from the pit.


25:40 KE SACHIR KE TOSHAV YIHEYEH IMACH AD SHENAT HA YOVEL YA'AVOD IMACH



כְּשָׂכִיר כְּתוֹשָׁב יִהְיֶה עִמָּךְ עַד שְׁנַת הַיֹּבֵל יַעֲבֹד עִמָּךְ

KJ: But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile:

BN: He shall stay with you as a hired servant, and as a settler; he shall serve you until the year of jubilee.


And also the voice of Ya'akov, speaking to his uncle Lavan, seven years for Le'ah, seven more for Rachel.

The concept that we have responsibilities towards others, as well as the rights that give entitlements to ourselves.



25:41 VE YATSA ME IMACH HU U VANAV IMO VE SHAV EL MISHPACHTO VE EL ACHUZAT AVOTAV YASHUV

וְיָצָא מֵעִמָּךְ הוּא וּבָנָיו עִמּוֹ וְשָׁב אֶל מִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ וְאֶל אֲחֻזַּת אֲבֹתָיו יָשׁוּב

KJ: And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return.

BN: Then he shall leave you, he and his children with him, and shall return to his own family, and to the possession of his fathers shall he return.


Exactly as Ya'akov eventually left Lavan, though it took three jubilees before he was ready to (and broke the law in verse 17 through the last several of them!)


So he has been the equivalent of an indentured labourer? But if he has grown poor in the meanwhile, as the previous verse indicates, how does he afford to return? Is there an expectation that you, the brother, will continue to provide? Or is the assumption that his wages over the past years have been sufficient, because you were feeding him and housing him, and so he has had the means and the capacity to save? If the latter, then the Maimonidean principles of tzedakah are also, indeed already, in place here (click here).

BUT - and this requires more thought. He is your brother, so he is already with his family. To whom then is he going to return? This must cover an abundance of circumstances that could be imagined, and should be regarded as a "moral imperative", an "ethical expectation", rather more than a "specific judicial requirment".


25:42 KI AVADAI HEM ASHER HOTSE'TI OTAM ME ERETS MITSRAYIM LO YIMACHRU MI MECHERET AVED


כִּי עֲבָדַי הֵם אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם לֹא יִמָּכְרוּ מִמְכֶּרֶת עָבֶד

KJ: For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen.

BN: For they are my servants, who I brought out of the land of Mitsrayim; they shall not be sold as bondmen.


A strange form of freedom though, to be the bondsmen of a god. A strange construct of liberty too, which refuses it for one people, yet permits that same people to impose it on others (see verse 46 below).


25:43 LO TIRDEH VO BE PHARECH VE YAR'E'TA ME ELOHEYCHA


לֹא תִרְדֶּה בוֹ בְּפָרֶךְ וְיָרֵאתָ מֵאֱלֹהֶיךָ

KJ: Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.

BN: You shall not rule over him tyrannically; but you shall fear your god.


PHARECH: The root, which is Chaldean, is PHARACH, and has the sense of "breaking" or even "crushing" something. It is never used as such in the Tanach however, and probably acquired the Yehudit meaning metaphorically, from the "tyranny" and "oppression" faced by the Yehudim during the exile in Babylon (and yes, the Beney Yisra-El faced tyranny on many previous occasions, but the word is Chaldean, not Egyptian, not Assyrian, not Phoenician); from which we can regard this verse as Ezraic, in its language even if it is Mosaic in its purpose.


25:44 VE AVDECHA VA AMAT'CHA ASHER YIHEYU LACH ME ET HA GOYIM ASHER SEVIYVOTEYCHEM ME HEM TIKNU EVED VE AMAH

וְעַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתְךָ אֲשֶׁר יִהְיוּ לָךְ מֵאֵת הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבֹתֵיכֶם מֵהֶם תִּקְנוּ עֶבֶד וְאָמָה

KJ: Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.

BN: And as for any bondsmen, or bondswomen, that you may have: you shall buy those bondsmen and bondswomen from the nations that live around you.


The question is: do we read AVED as a slave, or as a worker? In modern Israel the word Po'al is used to clarify the issue, though the tasks themselves are still Avodah (I was myself Sadran Avodah, the work organiser, on my kibbutz at one time; organising the foreign volunteers and those who had chosen this for their lives: neither bondsmen nor slaves nor religious worshippers, but free people)


This conflicts with the previously given instruction that all people should be treated equally, including the GER and the TOSHAV.

Ah, loopholes, loopholes, what kind of a legal document would it be if it didn't have loopholes?!


25:45 VE GAM MI BENEY HA TOSHAVIM HA GARIM IMACHEM ME HEM TIKNU U MI MISHPACHTAM ASHER IMACHEM ASHER HOLIYDU BE ARTSECHEM VE HAYU LACHEM LA ACHUZAH



וְגַם מִבְּנֵי הַתּוֹשָׁבִים הַגָּרִים עִמָּכֶם מֵהֶם תִּקְנוּ וּמִמִּשְׁפַּחְתָּם אֲשֶׁר עִמָּכֶם אֲשֶׁר הוֹלִידוּ בְּאַרְצְכֶם וְהָיוּ לָכֶם לַאֲחֻזָּה

KJ: Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.

BN: And in addition you may buy [bondsmen and bondswomen]  from the foreign tribes who are living among you, including any children born to them while they have been living in your land; and they may become your possession.



ACHUZAH: used here to mean "possession", not "inheritance" - do we need to re-think this one? No, see the next verse. They become part of the family, so they become both inheritance, and possession; and this is also why the jubilee laws do not seem to apply.



25:46 VE HITNACHALTEM OTAM LIVNEYCHEM ACHAREYCHEM LARESHET ACHUZAH LE OLAM BA HEM TA'AVODU U VE ACHEYCHEM BENEY YISRA-EL ISH BE ACHIV LO TIRDEH VO BE PHARECH


וְהִתְנַחַלְתֶּם אֹתָם לִבְנֵיכֶם אַחֲרֵיכֶם לָרֶשֶׁת אֲחֻזָּה לְעֹלָם בָּהֶם תַּעֲבֹדוּ וּבְאַחֵיכֶם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אִישׁ בְּאָחִיו לֹא תִרְדֶּה בוֹ בְּפָרֶךְ

KJ: And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.

BN: And you may bequeath them as an inheritance to your children after you, to keep as their possession: from them you may take your bondsmen for ever; but you shall not have such authority over your brethren the Beney Yisra-El, one over another, tyrranically.


And however much it pains me to have to write this, never was there written down a clearer, a more coherent, a more precisely luci and articulate definition of apartheid; and yet... it is in complete conflict with the... no, it isn't: the laws must be the same for the Beney Yisra-El and for all other "free" people: traders, tourists, wandering nomads as they pass through, aboriginal tribes still living there. Because these ae free people. But if you buy someone, as a bondman or bondswoman, they become your possession, passed on in your will with the dining-room furniture and the antique dog-kennel, and as such they are exempted from the equality laws, they are zug betnikim, a lower caste of human being.
samech break



25:47 VE CHI TASIG YAD GER VE TOSHAV IMACH U MACH ACHICHA IMO VE NIMKAR LE GER TOSHAV IMACH O LE EKER MISHPACHAT GER

וְכִי תַשִּׂיג יַד גֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב עִמָּךְ וּמָךְ אָחִיךָ עִמּוֹ וְנִמְכַּר לְגֵר תּוֹשָׁב עִמָּךְ אוֹ לְעֵקֶר מִשְׁפַּחַת גֵּר

KJ: And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwellethby him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger's family:

BN: And if a foreigner who has settled among you becomes rich, and your brother grows poor beside him, and sells himself to the foreigner who has settled among you , or to the offshoot of a foreginer's family...


25:48 ACHAREY NIMKAR GE'ULAH TIHEYEH LO ECHAD ME ECHAV YIG'ALENU



אַחֲרֵי נִמְכַּר גְּאֻלָּה תִּהְיֶה לּוֹ אֶחָד מֵאֶחָיו יִגְאָלֶנּוּ

KJ: After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:

BN: Once he has been sold he may be redeemed; one of his brothers may redeem him.



I am reading brethren here as specifically "brothers", rather than the more general "clansmen" or "kinsmen", as per the verses that follow.



25:49 O DODO O VEN DODO YIG'ALENU O MI SHE'ER BESARO MI MISHPACHTO YIG'ALENU O HISIYGAH YADO VE NIG'AL

אוֹ דֹדוֹ אוֹ בֶן דֹּדוֹ יִגְאָלֶנּוּ אוֹ מִשְּׁאֵר בְּשָׂרוֹ מִמִּשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ יִגְאָלֶנּוּ אוֹ הִשִּׂיגָה יָדוֹ וְנִגְאָל

KJ: Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself.

BN: Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or anyone who is a close relative in his family may redeem him; or if he becomes rich, then he may redeem himself.



Which infers the more general "clansmen" or "kinsmen", but we only know that after reading the second verse.

It is not obvious how a man who has sold himself into slavery in this manner can become rich, before he has won his freedom back through the go'el (redemption). I am trying to imagine a scenario, but the only one that comes to mind is that of Itzchak Stern, the man who ran Oscar Schindler's slave-factory in Plaszow for him, and I don't recall, at least not from the movie, that Schindler allowed Stern to buy shares, or ever gave him a million-dollar Christmas bonus.


25:50 VE CHISHAV IM KONEHU MI SHENAT HIMACHRO AD SHENAT HA YOVEL VE HAYAH KESEPH MI MEKARO BE MISPAR SHANIM KI YEMEY SACHIR YIHEYEH IMO

וְחִשַּׁב עִם קֹנֵהוּ מִשְּׁנַת הִמָּכְרוֹ לוֹ עַד שְׁנַת הַיֹּבֵל וְהָיָה כֶּסֶף מִמְכָּרוֹ בְּמִסְפַּר שָׁנִים כִּימֵי שָׂכִיר יִהְיֶה עִמּוֹ

KJ: And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubile: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him.

BN: And he shall calculate the price of his sale with the man who bought him, from the year that he sold himself to him, until the year of jubilee; and the price shall reflect the period of time, so that it is equivalent to the time for which he would have paid a hired servant to work for him.


Once again I have elaborated my translation for the sake of clarity. 


As with all the Jubilee laws, this is an extraordinarily humanistic requirement - some might even call it "socialist", and then be taken by surprise as they realise that this is what the word "socialism" was invented to describe. The equivalent of severance pay today; and a clear inference that the practice of furloughing in order to evade paying severance is a breach of the ethical imperative. 


25:51 IM OD RABOT BA SHANIM LEPHIYHEN YASHIV GE'ULATO MI KESEPH MIKNATO


אִם עוֹד רַבּוֹת בַּשָּׁנִים לְפִיהֶן יָשִׁיב גְּאֻלָּתוֹ מִכֶּסֶף מִקְנָתוֹ

KJ: If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for.

BN: If there are still many years remaining, according to them shall he give back the price of his redemption from the money with which he was purchased.


IM OD RABOT: This infers that some sort of a contract was agreed at the time that he sold himself into bondsmanship ("bondage?"), and that a time-period was stipulated - with Ya'akov and Lavan it was seven years, the Jubilee period, and then again, and then a third time: can we assume that the Jubilee laws made seven-year contracts the norm?

YASHIV: The redeemer is buying-out the contract, and the calculation is exactly the same as the one for the produce of the fields and trees in verses 15-17 above.


25:52 VE IM ME'AT NISH'AR BA SHANIM AD SHENAT HA YOVEL VE CHISHAV LO KEPHI SHANAV YASHIV ET GE'ULATO

וְאִם מְעַט נִשְׁאַר בַּשָּׁנִים עַד שְׁנַת הַיֹּבֵל וְחִשַּׁב לוֹ כְּפִי שָׁנָיו יָשִׁיב אֶת גְּאֻלָּתוֹ

KJ: And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubilee, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption.

BN: And if only a few years remain until the year of jubilee, then he shall make that calculation with him; he shall give back the price of his redemption according to the number of years.


The word GO'EL has a very different connotation here than in the blood-vengeance elsewhere; both involve the redemption of a soul, but...


25:53 KI SECHIR SHANAH BE SHANAH YIHEYEH IMO LO YIRDENU BE PHERECH LE EYNEYCHA


כִּשְׂכִיר שָׁנָה בְּשָׁנָה יִהְיֶה עִמּוֹ לֹא יִרְדֶּנּוּ בְּפֶרֶךְ לְעֵינֶיךָ

KJ: And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight.

BN: As a servant hired year by year shall he be with him; he shall not rule with rigour over him in your sight.


There are now three people referred to as "he" in these verses: the one who sold himself, the purchaser, and the one who redeemed the one who sold himself. Which he is being described in this verse? The first he (YIHEYEH IMO) is self-evidently the one who sold himself, but is the second he (LO YIRDENU) the redeemer, and the redeemed man has now become his hired servant, or the original purchaser, and the redeemed man has now changed status from bondsmen to hired servant? King James ducks the issue by translating the second "he" as "the other".
   Either way, apartheid and Magna Carta applies: he is now a free man, and so he must be treated KA GER ASHER BE SHE'ARECHA.


25:54 VE IM LO YIGA'EL BE ELEH VE YATSA BI SHENAT HA YOVEL HU U VANAV IMO



וְאִם לֹא יִגָּאֵל בְּאֵלֶּה וְיָצָא בִּשְׁנַת הַיֹּבֵל הוּא וּבָנָיו עִמּוֹ

KJ: And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubile, both he, and his children with him.

BN: And if he is not redeemed by any of these means, then he shall go out in the year of jubilee, he, and his children with him.


Confirming what we suspected earlier: that a bondsman may only be a bondsman for seven years, after which the contract is terminated, and the man or woman goes free - and you, who bought them, no longer own them: the same system as car-leasing, it occurs to me, right down to the contemporary details for buying-out the car-lease early if you wish to.


One outstanding issue, to which we shall return when it comes up in the text: those children. "He" shall go out, and "his children with him". But if he is a she, and the children were fathered by the "owner", then she shall go out, but the children shall remain with him. (Or click here, for an extremely thorough essay on the subject, of slavery in general, but also, specifically, this element of it).

25:55 KI LI VENEY YISRA-EL AVADIM AVADAI HEM ASHER HOTSE'TI OTAM ME ERETS MITSRAYIM ANI YHVH ELOHEYCHEM



כִּי לִי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲבָדִים עֲבָדַי הֵם אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אוֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

KJ: For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

BN: For to me the Beney Yisra-El are servants; they are my servants, who I brought out of the land of Mitsrayim: I am YHVH your god.



Chapter 26:1 LO TA'ASU LACHEM ELIYLIM U PHESEL U MATSEVAH LO TAKIYMU LACHEM VE EVEN MASKIT LO TITNU BE ARTSECHEM LEHISHTACHAVOT ALEYHA KI ANI YHVH ELOHEYCHEM

לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ לָכֶם אֱלִילִם וּפֶסֶל וּמַצֵּבָה לֹא תָקִימוּ לָכֶם וְאֶבֶן מַשְׂכִּית לֹא תִתְּנוּ בְּאַרְצְכֶם לְהִשְׁתַּחֲוֹת עָלֶיהָ כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

KJ: Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.

BN: You shall not make idols for yourselves, nor shall you raise you up a graven image, or a pillar, nor place any carved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am YHVH your god.



ELILIM, PHESEL, LATSEVAH... graven image is wrong here; these are dolmens and menhirs by the sound of it, the furniture of the megalithic allignments.


26:2 ET SHABTOTAI TISHMERU U MIKDASHI TIRA'U ANI YHVH

אֶת שַׁבְּתֹתַי תִּשְׁמֹרוּ וּמִקְדָּשִׁי תִּירָאוּ אֲנִי יְהוָה

KJ: Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.

BN: You shall keep my Sabbaths, and show reverence to my sanctuary. I am YHVH.


TIRA'U: "Reverence" is a nice word, and a nice concept, but not what is intended here. Fear is intended, and as we have seen from NICHRETAH on many occasions, fear should be understood to mean fear.

The sedra ends here, though why is far from obvious, as the verses that follow are a continuation; we can only assume that, at the time that the sidrot were decided, there was a need for a shorter sedra at this point of the calendar, and that expediency rather than theology made the determination.



Leviticus 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27


Copyright © 2017 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

No comments:

Post a Comment