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Yom Kippur All Year Round

By: Rabbi Eitan Mayer

Parshar Behar tells us that on Yom Kippur of Yovel, the 50th year, we are to bring shofarot throughout the land, blasting the news that Yovel has arrived. 


We can understand why Yovel, with all of the big changes it brings – all previously sold land returns to its ancestral owners; all Jewish servants go free; all fields lie fallow for the year – requires announcing.  We can even understand why the announcement needs to be such a production, rather than just a reminder in the shul bulletin.  After all, these big changes are dramatic!  (And besides, we don’t want anyone who’s having second thoughts to try to claim that he didn’t realize Yovel had arrived.)


But why does all of this take place on Yom Kippur, of all days?  We could understand if the trumpeting happened on Rosh Ha-Shanah, which, besides already being a day of trumpeting, is actually the very beginning of Yovel.  It just makes sense!  So why Yom Kippur?


If we look closely at the way the Torah describes Yovel, it becomes clearer.  The phrase “Shabbat shabbaton” is used in the Torah to describe just three things: Shabbat itself; the seventh, Sabbatical year; and, you guessed it, Yom Kippur.  Shemitah, the Torah tells us, is called a “Shabbat”; both are the kind of “Sabbath” which arrives in the normal course of everyday events.  Yovel, which crowns seven cycles of Shabbatot, is the Sabbatical Year of Sabbatical Years, like a double “Shabbat shabbaton,” making it a match for Yom Kippur, which is a special Shabbat which comes just once a year.  In addition, the Torah describes the status of the 50th year as “ve-kidashtem,” “you shall sanctify [it],” which certainly points more to Yom Kippur than to Rosh Ha-Shanah.


The deeper reason, however, lies not in any external characteristics which Yovel and Yom Kippur share, but rather in the essential nature which unites them.  Yom Kippur is a day of seeking forgiveness and atonement, of putting right everything that’s wrong in our lives.  It is a day of personal and national redemption on the spiritual plane.  Yovel accomplishes precisely the same thing – but on the physical plane.  Land which had been lost to its owners now returns to them; people who had irrevocably lost their freedom, regain it and return to their families.  We all know that the theme of Yom Kippur is “teshuvah,” but in fact, that is the theme of Yovel as well: “Ve-shavtem ish el achuzato ve-ish el mishpachto tashuvu”; “You shall return; each man to his land and each man to his family shall you return.” On Yom Kippur, we return spiritually; on Yovel, we do so physically.




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