Nov 22 / Terra McDaniel
This is a year of renewal and release according to the Jewish calendar. It began on September 7, the Jewish year 5782.[1] A year of Jubilee was mandated every fiftieth year in the Law. Moses handed down the instructions he received on Sinai: “Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month…And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.” (Leviticus 25:9a;10a).

Jubilee is intended as a year of rest, return, and liberty. A time of debts forgiven, slaves freed, and radical trust in God to provide. It was meant to give everything, including creation itself, a respite from production. Because everything benefits from a chance to reset. We need to experience the reality that we are not automatons, but beings made in God’s image.

We need to remember that we belong to God. God didn’t forget his promises during the years of Israel’s oppression and captivity. He orchestrated their freedom and gave them a homeland because he was their God, and they were his people (see Leviticus 25:38). He intended that goodness to overflow into mercy for the poor, kindness for the land, and true justice. “You shall not cheat one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 25:17).

Jubilee feels particularly significant as I prepare to celebrate my fiftieth birthday in January. Approaching that milestone has me thinking about how precious and fragile life is. I’m considering what I want to leave behind for my grandchildren and their children and theirs. But Jubilee hasn’t been observed for almost two millennia. Its celebration ended “with the destruction of the Second Temple and the disbandment of the Sanhedrin (supreme rabbinical court).”[2] Some U.S. laws, including those around bankruptcy no longer impacting credit after seven years, draw inspiration from Hebrew Law, but an entire year of rest and proactive restoration of lives and land couldn’t be more countercultural here or elsewhere.

Cultivating Shalom

Our culture favors capitalist systems that incentivize workaholism and disregard for the health of the environment. But Jubilee is important. It can be used to create rhythms of restoration and liberation that are essential for cultivating more shalom.

Shalom is far more than the absence of war. It is profound wholeness and the healing of that which is broken. The Hebrew word means “whole, entire” whether of physical soundness or health; in number; in tranquility or security; or with respect to a friend; it is “wholeness, safety, soundness, health.”[3] Shalom is the full expression of “on earth as it is in heaven” as Jesus taught his friends to pray (Matthew 6). Randy Woodley writes, “if we want to live our lives together in abundance and harmony, and if we want future generations to live their lives together in this way, we must realize we are all on a journey together with Christ to heal our world.”[4]

Pursuing (and receiving) more wholeness while faced with realities of violence, division, corruption, and unspeakable losses among us is a tall order. It can be paralyzing to know how to begin. Our invitation is to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good as we tune our eyes toward the truth, beauty, and goodness in and around us.

We can practice welcoming strangers and allowing ourselves to receive their kindness. That can be as simple as sharing a smile with a neighbor and as complex as helping refugees.[5] We can make choices to protect and heal the environment, learning from the wisdom of our Iroquois siblings among whom “every chief is expected to take into account seven generations forward with every decision he makes.”[6] It is past time to work together to avert climate disaster for our grandchildren’s grandchildren because “we humans have a God-given responsibility to care for our home, and for our sisters and our brothers and every living thing that shares it with us.”[7]

A jubilee-informed vision has the power to cultivate thriving for our descendants and to overflow in flourishing for the whole world. This honors the future we look forward to when “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17).

Reflection Questions:
Where is God offering you healing or freedom?
What are you already doing that considers our human family’s well-being even after you are gone?
What is one shalom-centered practice that could help you honor jubilee?

[1] “What Is Shmita, the Sabbatical Year?,” Accessed November 7, 2021, https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/what-is-shemita-the-sabbatical-year/
[2] Davidson, Baruch S., “When is the next Jubilee Year?,” Chabad.org, Accessed November 7, 2021, https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/513212/jewish/When-Is-the-Next-Jubilee-Year.htm#comment
[3] Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 825.
[4] Woodley, Randy, in Keeping the Faith edited by Walton, Lahoud, and Hoekstra, (Middletown: KTF Press (2020)), Kindle Location 2779 of 4910.
[5] Two organizations doing good work for refugees are: http://womenofwelcome.com/ & http://fellowshipsouthwest.org/.
[6] Taub, Julian, “The Iroquois Are Not Giving Up” in The Atlantic (8-17-13), https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/08/the-iroquois-are-not-giving-up/278787/.
[7] Hayhoe, Katharine, Saving Us, (New York: One Signal Publishers (2021)), 20.

Terra McDaniel

Terra is a spiritual director, pastor, teacher, and writer who loves making space for people of all ages to tune into their own souls. Terra is convinced that the Spirit is working both within the church and outside it and feels particularly called to host those who feel spiritually homeless. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and terramcdaniel.com.