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And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom in the land for of its inhabitants. It shall be for you a jubilee and each man shall return to his ancestral land and each man shall return to his family (Vayikra 25:10).
The commentators note that the posukim prior to these with regard to the laws of shemitah speaks in the singular, whereas here with regard to the laws of yovel the Torah speaks in the plural. Why is the Torah changing its syntax from singular to plural? Why are only the laws of yovel expressed in plural?
The commentators explain the first yovel in our history occurred during the first five days of creation. (see Sefer Nachals Binyamin, Mitzvah 85, Recorded in Hadrash Ve-Haiyun Parshas Behar 266). Chazal teach us that the world was created on the twenty-fifth day of Elul. Six days later on the first day of Tishrei a new year began. On this day man was created and a new yovel cycle commenced. If the first day of Tishrei was the beginning of a new cycle then the previous five days of the past year must have been yovel, for a new cycle commences only after the yovel year. It is noteworthy that after the first five days of creation, the world was complete with the exception of man. The commentators teach us that any first time occurrence of any particular event in the Torah is significant because by analyzing the matter in that location we can discover its essence. Thus, we may suggest that if the first yovel was a time where the world existed without man, then yovel is symbolic of a world without man.
The posuk relates that mans years on this earth are seventy (Tehilim 90). What is the significance of seventy years? Likewise, the Torah says with regard to man His days shall be one hundred and twenty (Bereishis 6:3). What is the significance of a life of exactly one hundred and twenty years?
By changing its expression from singular to plural, the Torah may be conveying the notion that there are two different types of yovel. The first yovel is the standard yovel that is counted for the land in conjunction with the shemitah years. This count is the same for the entire world. However, there is also a private yovel count. Each individual must count the years of his life. The climax of the count is year fifty when the individual reaches his private yovel. Yovel is symbolic of a world without man. When the individual reaches his personal yovel he must contemplate a world that exists and goes on without him. In other words, at this juncture man must contemplate the possibility of his own demise. Yovel is written in plural, for there is no single count that is the same for all. Each individual counts the years of his own life, which varies from individual to individual.
The Torah is teaching us how to live our lives. We must keep in mind where we are heading. Every year of our life must be productive and counted toward the yovel year when we prepare to return to our eternal existence.
The posuk says that in yovel a man shall return to his achuza. Homiletically, we may interpret this as, man must be prepared to return to the world from where he came and receive his true portion in the world to come. The posuk also says each man shall return to his family. This may be interpreted to mean that, man will be reunited with his forefathers who have since passed from this world.
We may ask, when does this counting begin? Chazal teach us that an individual is not held accountable for his actions until the age of twenty. Although one is obligated to perform mitzvos at the age of thirteen, nonetheless one is not held responsible until twenty. We derive from this that adult life begins at age twenty. Thus we may suggest that the count for ones personal yovel begins at age twenty. We may now understand the aforementioned posuk that specifies seventy years as the minimum lifespan one can expect. This is exactly one personal yovel after the time man reaches full adulthood.
Chazal relate that if only all Jews would observe two shabbosim we would be redeemed immediately. The commentators emphasize that one shabbos is not enough. The simple interpretation is that after one shabbos we have only have gained experience but still need another shabbos to gain the full benefit of what shabbos has to offer.
The Torah describes shemitah as a shabbos of rest (Vayikra 24:4). Yovel, which is the climax of seven shabbosos of rest can certainly be referred to as the ultimate shabbos. Physically it is a time when the earth rests. Personally, is the time that one prepares to rest in the eternal world. Ideally, we need two shabbosim. Perhaps this is why the Torah says that the ideal number of years of human existence is one hundred and twenty. This number allows for exactly two yovels after reaching full adulthood.
There is a dispute among the authorities if it is proper for one to celebrate a birthday. Chazal teach us that with regard to the counting yovel cycle there is a mitzvah for the beis din to count each year of the yovel cycle just as we count each day between peshach and shavuos. We may suggest that the celebration of a birthday is a fulfillment of the personal counting of yovel. Just as beis din has a mitzvah to count each year of the land yovel, likewise we fulfill this concept with regard to our personal yovel by celebrating a birthday and focusing on the fact that the past year as well as the next is counted in preparation for our ultimate return.
The commentators teach us that the blowing of the shofar is symbolic of the creation of man. Hashem created man by blowing breath into his nostrils. The Targum explains us that the uniqueness of man lies in his ability to speak. We reenact mans creation by blowing breath into an object that produces sound. The blowing of the breath corresponds to Hashems blowing and the sound that is produced corresponds to man who has the power of speech. Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of mans creation; it is therefore appropriate that we reenact mans creation with the blowing of the shofar. However, do we blow shofar at the onset of yovel? Also, the literal translation of yovel is horn. Why is the concept of yovel capsulated in a word which carries the connotation of blowing a horn?
Perhaps, the answer is that Yovel is the day when we acknowledge that the world will one day exist without our presence. We recognize that we are only here temporarily, and that we live our lives in preparation for the ultimate return. Yovel is the day when we commemorate the complete fulfillment of human life not just its beginning. It is thus very appropriate that the shofar is blown and that its name is synonymous with this concept.
May we merit to hear the shofar of our second yovel.
© Efraim Levine 5761/2001