In a nutshell:
- The Jubilee Year only applies to Israel, not the other nations.
- The Jubilee Year is only observed when all 12 Houses are living within Israel. Today there is only Benjamin and Judah united, living on only a small portion of our Homeland.
- The Jubilee Year is not currently observed or commemorated. As with many topics the reasons for this are complex with diverse rabbinic opinions.
Leviticus 25:10 decrees that the Jubilee is only to be observed when all twelve tribes of the Jewish nation are living in Israel:And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim freedom [for slaves] throughout the land for all who live on it. It shall be a Jubilee for you, and you shall return, each man to his property, and you shall return, each man to his family.Our sages explain that this means the Jubilee is only sanctified when “all who live on it” are present and able to "return, each man to his property... each man to his family." In other words, when all twelve tribes are living in the Land as decreed by HaShem.
According to the texts and the rabbis, the Jubilee is therefore only observed when every tribe is not only living in the land Israel, but dwelling within their biblically specified portion of the land as it was allotted to them when the Land of Israel was divided among them. Today most of our Land is still being occupied by other nations, tribal identifications remain uncertain, and most are unable to even visit portions of our Holy Land due to continuing antisemitism.Rashi notes:And you shall sanctify [the fiftieth year]: [How?] At its commencement, [this Jubilee year] is sanctified in the court, [at which time] they declare: “This year is holy!”
Since the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple and the disbandment of the Sanhedrin (i.e. the supreme rabbinical court) in 70 CE no court has existed with the authority to declare the Jubilee. For this reason we have ceased from observing it. When the Jubilee is restored, along with the Sanhedrin, its observance will resume.
When will the next Jubilee Year happen? Not until the coming of Mashiach ben David. We eagerly await the day when HaShem brings our entire nation back to our homeland and restores the Sanhedrin. We likewise eagerly await the restoration and identification of the ten “divorced” tribes or houses of Israel and the restoration to our aloted portions of the Land. Then the biblical observance of the Jubilee year will resume with joy and gladness of heart, along with numerous other mitzvot which we are currently incapable of performing.
May we merit that HaMashiach ben David should soon and in our generation.
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