The Commandment to Maintain Good Family Ties

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by R. Eliezer Simcha Weisz

The Deeper Meaning of “Deror” in the Jubilee Year [Yovel]  – The Commandment to Maintain Good Family Ties


התורה היא נצחית ומוחלטת, וכל פסוק בתורה יש בו משמעות ולקחים עבורנו גם בימינו, גם אם לכאורה מצווה ספציפית אינה ניתנת ליישום במובנה המקורי כפי שמובא בפסוקים

The Torah is eternal and absolute, and every verse in the Torah contains meaning and lessons for us even today, even if a specific commandment cannot be implemented in its original sense as brought in the verses.

מצוות היובל מוזכרת בפסוק (ויקרא כ”ה,י’): “וְקִדַּשְׁתֶּם אֵת שְׁנַת הַחֲמִשִּׁים שָׁנָה וּקְרָאתֶם דְּרוֹר בָּאָרֶץ לְכָל-יֹשְׁבֶיהָ, יוֹבֵל הִוא תִהְיֶה לָכֶם, וְשַׁבְתֶּם אִישׁ אֶל-אֲחֻזָּתוֹ וְאִישׁ אֶל-מִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ תָּשֻׁבוּ

The commandment of the Jubilee year is mentioned in the verse (Vayikra 25:10): “And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty [deror] throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee [Yovel]  unto you; and you shall return every man unto his possession, and you shall return every man unto his family.

Rabbi Meir Simcha in his book “Meshech Chochmah” suggests that on the simple level, the purpose of this commandment is to reunite families that have become distanced from one another.

וּשְׁבַתֶּם אִישׁ אֶל-אֲחֻזָּתוֹ וְאִישׁ אֶל-מִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ תָּשֻׁבוּ. פְּשָׁטָא דִקְרָא דְּמוֹרֶה לָנוּ הַתּוֹעֲלִיּוֹת, שֶׁאָז כַּאֲשֶׁר יָשֻׁבוּ אִישׁ אֶל-אֲחֻזָּתוֹ, הֲרֵי הַפִּזּוּר בֵּין חַיֵּי הַמִּשְׁפָּחָה בָּא מִסִּבּוֹת הַזְּמַן, אֲשֶׁר מֶרְחַק אַחִים זֶה פּוֹנֶה צָפוֹנָה וְזֶה דְּרוֹמָה לְבַקֵּשׁ טָרְפוֹ וּמְזוֹנוֹ, אֲבָל אִם יָשֻׁבוּ אִישׁ אֶל-אֲחֻזָּתוֹ, יָשֻׁבוּ בָּתֵּי הָאָבוֹת לָדוּר בִּמְקוֹם הוֹרִישׁוּם אֲבוֹתָם, וְיִתְלַקְּטוּ אַנְשֵׁי הַמִּשְׁפָּחָה אֲשֶׁר מָכְרוּ אֲחֻזּוֹתֵיהֶם וְנִתְרַחֲקוּ זֶה מִזֶּה

And you shall return every man unto his possession, and you shall return every man unto his family. The simple meaning of the verse indicates the benefits, that when they return every man to his possession, the scattering between family life comes from circumstances of time, which distance one brother going northward and one southward to seek his sustenance and food. But if they return every man to his possession, the ancestral homes will dwell in the place their forefathers bequeathed them, and the members of the family who sold their possessions and became distanced from one another will gather together.

The recognition that the family will ultimately reunite, even if only in the Yovel year, apparently encouraged people to maintain good and proper relationships with their family during the intervening years, since they knew they could not avoid reuniting with their family in the Yovel year.

The commentator Ibn Ezra interprets the meaning of the word “deror” in this verse. He says:

דְּרוֹר. יְדוּעָה שֶׁהוּא כְּמוֹ חָפְשִׁי, וְכִדְרוֹר לָעוּף עוֹף קָטָן מְנַגֵּן כְּשֶׁהוּא בִּרְשׁוּתוֹ, וְאִם הוּא בִּרְשׁוּת אָדָם לֹא יֹאכַל עַד שֶׁיָּמוּת

Deror – it is known that it means free, like ‘as a bird wandering from her nest’ (Proverbs 26:2) – a little bird that sings when it is free, but if it is captive with a person, it will not eat until it dies.

Even today, when there is no Yovel, we must fulfill the commandment of maintaining good and strong family ties, and make  an effort to maintain good family relations and resolve tensions, so that the essence of the commandment remains relevant today. This is especially important in this period of attacks on the Jewish people around the world – we must remember that we are one family, and while we are being attacked from the outside, we must especially  be committed to the aspect of the Mitzvah of Yovel of maintaining unity among ourselves as one family.

About Eliezer Simcha Weisz

Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz is a member of The Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel

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