Hebrew Voices #71 – When is Shemitah (Sabbatical Year) [Rebroadcast]

Hebrew Voices - When is Shemitah (Sabbatical Year) with Nehemia GordonIn this episode of Hebrew Voices, When is Shemitah (Sabbatical Year), Nehemia Gordon discusses why we don’t know when the Shemitah (Sabbatical) and Yovel (Jubilee) years are today, whether Shemitah should be observed outside of Israel, and the problem with the Rabbinical observance of Shemitah in modern Israel.

I look forward to reading your comments!

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Torah Pearls - Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)
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Show Notes:
2 Chronicles 15:3
Ezra 2:63
Babylonian Talmud, Arakhin 11b

A Jewish tombstone from Zoar at the southern end of the Dead Sea on display at the Israel Museum. The tombstone calls into question the current Rabbinical counting of the Shemitah cycle. The tombstone says in Aramaic:
הדה נפש [ברה] דמלוס דמית יום שובתה בעסרין וחמשה יומין בירח טיבת בשתה קדמיתה דשאבועה שנת תלת מא ותמנין ושת שנין לחרבן בית מקדשה שלום על ישראל
"This is the tombstone of the Son of Melos, who died on the Sabbath Day, on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Tevet, in the first year of the Sabbatical cycle, in the year three hundred eighty-six of the destruction of the Temple. Shalom upon Israel."
Jewish sources date the destruction of the Temple to 68 CE, which would mean the tombstone probably dates to Saturday December 12, 453 CE. According to the modern Rabbinical counting of the Shemitah (Sabbatical years), that should have been the 7th year in the Shemitah cycle i.e. a Sabbatical year, whereas the tombstone clearly identifies it as the 1st year of the Shemitah cycle. Based on this tombstone, the (Rabbinical) year ending Sept. 13, 2015 was NOT the end of a Shemitah-Sabbatical year. Rather, the Shemitah year would have been August 2013 through September 2014, making the current year the 2nd year of the Shemitah cycle.
The current Rabbinical counting of the Shemitah cycle goes back to Maimonides in the 12th century who claimed that his system was the sole tradition of the Land of Israel. This tombstone from Zoar predates Maimonides by 700 years and proves that he was wrong.

  • Walter Schwenk says:

    Thanks. As old age increases the need for fresh home grown produce, after 40+ years of attempted compliance, am re-considering.

  • Thomas says:

    The wonderful reality created by Nehemiah’s, “ we just don’t know”, is that it puts all of us on a level playing field. It’s in that field where we should learn to love each other and keep Torah with very precious few, prejudices.

  • Gregory Irby says:

    I have bad news for you Nehemia! The Bible Answer Man joined the Eastern Orthodox Church and since he wouldn’t preach Pre-Tribulation Rapture they banned him from the Christian Media Networks. I used to listen to him on AM radio way back during his Catholic Bashing days. They made him knock it off! What ever happened to ole Hank Hannigram? So, was the Temple Destroyed in 68 or 70 AD? I say 69AD and why? Because 9 is the # for judgment & wrath. 6 is the # for man. Look at Ezekiel 9;6 / coincidence? I don’t think so! Now among the old tymer farmers who want to observe the Shemita…. Wouldn’t God Bless their crops with 3 times as much in the 6th year, as God has said? It might be worthwhile to check with some of those old withered hands. Whatchu think? ??? I think it could be a grape way to figure out what the truth is! Just some food for thought. Who knows, you might find an old ? Jew out there some where as well! Sand Man’s calling, Chow!

  • Alan Naude says:

    Surely knowing the sabbatical year is easily known because Yehovah proclaims it by giving 3 times the harvest on the 6th year to cover the 7th year of rest.

    • Gregory Irby says:

      Good point! And if one is right with God I suppose he would reveal it to you in that way. But, who would believe the truth? Especially if it didn’t agree with the Rabbis!

  • keith says:

    I would like to know if the sabbatical year as it is now understood is accurate. Are we to suppose the JUBILEE is around 2027 to 2028

  • Lars Tunkrnas says:

    Josephus writes in the “Antiquties of the Jews” in Book 14 , Chapter 16:2 that when Herod conquered Jerusalem with Roman help in the autumn ( third month “kislev” ) in the year that Marcus Agrippa and Caninus Gallus were Roman consuls in the 185:olympiad, , which was year -37. That this was a sabbatical year. So that is one reference point.

  • Chris Whitaker says:

    On September 11 2001 the World Trade Centre was destroyed causing a stock market crash. Seven years later in 2008 the sub-prime mortgage market caused another stock market crash. In 2015 the Oil prices dropped and another crash causing many oil producing countries to become insolvent. Is this gust a coincidence or should we consider this to be the Shemitah.

    Our biggest problem is we are not using God’s calendar starting the year in the spring with the first month 14 days before the Passover. So why is the effect of the Shemitah in the middle of the year instead of the beginning or end of it? To understand the reason one has to know the true chronology of the Bible and therefore the real history of the world.

    According to the chronological research I have done Yeshua (Jesus) was crucified in 27AD, a Shemitah year and the same year the millennium changed from the forth to the fifth, making the end of the sixth in 2027. 2027 also is the sixtieths anniversary of the six day war that saw the Jews regain Jerusalem. Noah’s Flood occurred in the year 1656 counting the year of creation as year 1. Now do the math Passover 27AD would be the creation year 4001 – 1656 = 2345 / 7 = 335. The year of the Flood was a Shemitah year when God eliminated everyone’s debts and All the Land (Earth) rested. As the Flood occurred in the middle of the millennium the Day of Release would be in the middle of the year.

    The next Shemitah will be in 2022, 4.5 years before the Passover in 2027.

    • JW Brakebill says:

      Chris, while your logic is understandable, and it is GREAT ghat you are studying.contemplating, the World Trade Center, stock market crashes,oil prices dropping, really are more to do with the U.S.A. The Word of Yehovah tends to FOCUS heavily on the land of Israel and God’s people. Other nations are only mentioned as they came in contact with HIS PEOPLE.

      Market crashes, oil prices, destruction of trade centers, thse are HUMAN, possibly controllable events. Look up tetrad of blood moons (4 during spring & fall Holy Days I believe) in Israel. I think 2014 & 2015. Destructive weather occurrences, or earthquakes, volcanoes, droughts, famines, etc.. Those are God events.

      Though I am confident that we are all expected to OBEY Him, prophecies and occurrences, signs in the heavens, etc…, are generally in reference to the Holy Land and the present day Jews, the chosen people of God.

      I AM NOT saying you are WRONG in your calculations, as I DO NOT KNOW myself. I once tried to calculate using common sense and knowledge, by three different methods the approximate YEAR Messiah would come. I kept coming up with +/- 2029-2033, NUT, no man KNOWS.

  • Gregg Walker says:

    Thanks for this information. I like the way you put it that we just “work things out in fear and trembling” as best we can – based on how we understand things. I also agree with the idea that the Shemitah is for “when you come in to the Land”. Unfortunately, I’ve known several people who look at the whole Torah as only applying “in the Land”. They use verses which imply that, but I/we try to keep the Torah as best as we can (even though we are outside the land). That’s not an argument for keeping the Shemitah, but like the feast days, it would be good to observe it – if possible where you live.

    Now, a few years ago, I kept the Shemitah year with my backyard garden. It was the year that Jonathan Cahn was calling the Shemitah – Sept. 2014 thru Sept. 2015. By then I had been observing the Biblical Calendar based on the Aviv barley and the sighted new moon. I considered Sept. 2014 as the time to “announce” that the Shemitah would begin with the 1st month in the Spring. I did not plant, and did not reap – just doing nothing to the garden and watching. I continued until the 1st month of 2016 (Aviv).

    Call it an experiment, but it was interesting to do, and fun in a way. I saw that things still grew in the garden without any work from me. Potatoes and other vegetables that I had not harvested, either re-seeded themselves, or sprouted on their own in the Spring. I learned some interesting things. It also helped me to see in a small way, how YHVH could cause crops to grow in year with no planting. Of course, I know now that was NOT the Shemitah year, but I had a taste of what it might be like in the Lord’s kingdom. It was actually kind of nice not having to do anything with the garden for the whole year!

    Just thought I’d share that tidbit. Shalom.

  • Just Someone says:

    Thanks Nehemia for the information concerning 2 Chronicles 15. Unfortunately, my beloved “exact” German translation of the Masoretic Text (by Leopold Zunz) also uses the past tense, not the present. Of course, this leaves me wondering as to what extent I can “trust” this translation since the meaning is heavily altered in this case.

    Do you have any idea why this passage often was translated in the past tense? Like is there any “scribal tradition” to it or so?

    Thanks again for this great pearl 🙂


  • BJ Jordison says:

    Nehemia, could you tell us about the manner of prophesying? What did the prophets and high priest(s) use to do this?