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Rabbi Robinson’s Sermon May 24, 2024

Behar: Proclaim Release

Plaut p. 850

Source Sheet by Yair Robinson



Leviticus 25:10-13

(10) and you shall hallow the fiftieth year. You shall proclaim release throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: each of you shall return to your holding and each of you shall return to your family. (11) That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, neither shall you reap the aftergrowth or harvest the untrimmed vines, (12) for it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you: you may only eat the growth direct from the field. (13) In this year of jubilee, each of you shall return to your holding.


ויקרא כ״ה:י׳-י״ג

(י) וְקִדַּשְׁתֶּ֗ם אֵ֣ת שְׁנַ֤ת הַחֲמִשִּׁים֙ שָׁנָ֔ה וּקְרָאתֶ֥ם דְּר֛וֹר בָּאָ֖רֶץ לְכׇל־יֹשְׁבֶ֑יהָ יוֹבֵ֥ל הִוא֙ תִּהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֔ם וְשַׁבְתֶּ֗ם אִ֚ישׁ אֶל־אֲחֻזָּת֔וֹ וְאִ֥ישׁ אֶל־מִשְׁפַּחְתּ֖וֹ תָּשֻֽׁבוּ׃ (יא) יוֹבֵ֣ל הִ֗וא שְׁנַ֛ת הַחֲמִשִּׁ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה תִּהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֑ם לֹ֣א תִזְרָ֔עוּ וְלֹ֤א תִקְצְרוּ֙ אֶת־סְפִיחֶ֔יהָ וְלֹ֥א תִבְצְר֖וּ אֶת־נְזִרֶֽיהָ׃ (יב) כִּ֚י יוֹבֵ֣ל הִ֔וא קֹ֖דֶשׁ תִּהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֑ם מִ֨ן־הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה תֹּאכְל֖וּ אֶת־תְּבוּאָתָֽהּ׃ (יג) בִּשְׁנַ֥ת הַיּוֹבֵ֖ל הַזֹּ֑את תָּשֻׁ֕בוּ אִ֖ישׁ אֶל־אֲחֻזָּתֽוֹ׃


Perhaps one of the most famous texts in Tanakh, the text that found itself on the Liberty Bell, and therefore an appropriate text for this Memorial Day weekend, but not for why you would think. The Biblical text does not say anything necessarily about political liberty as the founding fathers imagined it. Rather, it talks about the Jubilee year. Like the Sabbatical Year, the land is required to go fallow. But additionally, everyone returns to their original family holdings, and more importantly, all slaves and indentured servants are to be released. We are reminded that Memorial Day grew out of the Civil War often before official commemoration, and in many communities throughout the South started as a project of Freed Black men and women, former slaves, who wanted to honor Union Soldiers who died in pursuit of a kind of liberty and justice for all. May we, too, be inspired by these words to continue that fight for real release from the burdens of oppression and bigoty, and as we remember those who died for this country, remember also what we hope and aspire that country to be. Amen.