In the 5773 podcast at 21:38m Behar, Bechukotai: An Economic Vision of Justice from the Pardes Institute, Dr. Meesh Hammer-Kossoy says that there is no historical evidence that the Yovel year was ever observed. What does the Talmud and/or our sages say - was it ever actually observed? I consider a Yovel count listing for this question of actual practice inconclusive evidence.

Edit: By historical evidence (which she does not specify), I would include a farmer's account of the trouble of getting overgrown land up to speed after Yoel, a land ownership transfer dispute recorded in the Talmud or some other such written evidence which strongly implies that it was actually observed.

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    What evidence what you expect to find? Like an archaeological find? A Pasuk in Tanakh?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 14:03
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    The Talmud (Erkhin 12) understands Ezekiel 40:1 to be a reference to the Yovel year.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 14:09
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    There wouldn't be a land ownership dispute in the Talmud, since the Yovel stopped being obligatory and observed after the first temple was destroyed, centuries before the Mishna was written.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 14:38
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    You may have some luck looking into judaism.stackexchange.com/q/54029/759
    – Double AA
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 14:42

3 Answers 3


The Talmud, in Arachin 12b, quotes a baraita saying that Yovel was observed seventeen times:

שבעה עשר יובלות מנו ישראל משנכנסו לארץ ועד שיצאו

Seventeen jubilee [cycles] did Israel count from the time they entered the Land [of Israel] until they left it.

English translation from Soncino.

Note that the context there seems to be back-determining how many Yovels must have been observed, rather than a tradition derived from a contemporaneous account. See, for example, Rashi there:

י"ז יובלות - נפקי מקראי דכתיב (מלכים א ו) ויהי בשמונים שנה וארבע מאות שנה וגו' דל ארבעים דמדבר אשתכח דנכנסו לארץ קודם בנין הבית ארבע מאות וארבעים ובית ראשון עמד ת"י הרי תת"נ הרי י"ז יובלות של חמשים:‏

"17 jubilees" - Derived from Scripture, as is written (I Kings 6) "And it was in the 480th year ..." Subtract the forty of the desert, and it comes out that they entered the Land 440 years before the building of the Temple, and the First Temple stood for 410 years, so there are 850, which are seventeen jubilees of fifty."

My tranlsation

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    Not sure if that counts as "observed" since there's no indication from that count that the people actually kept the laws, and indeed the first churban was in response to such a lack of observance within that timeframe.
    – Loewian
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 17:33
  • @Loewian Are you not referring to shmittah? Maybe Yovel (only every 50) was observed? Maybe the shmittah aspects were not but the freedom and return of land was? Commented May 17, 2017 at 23:47
  • @DavidKenner That may have been the case. But it's also still not indicated by the OP's citation.
    – Loewian
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 16:36

Ezekiel (7:13), speaking of the impending exile of the Jewish people, says:

כִּי הַמּוֹכֵר אֶל הַמִּמְכָּר לֹא יָשׁוּב

For the seller shall not return to what he sold...

The Talmud (Megillah 14b / Arachin 33a; cited in Radak ad loc) notes that this implies that the Yovel - at which time "the seller returns" to his land - will cease to be in effect, and deduces from this that it was still observed in Yechezkel's times.

Another relevant Gemara, although maybe not as strong a proof, is Gittin 48a, which draws a distinction between "the first Yovel" and "the second Yovel" as far as people's reliance on it actually taking place. Rashi explains that this refers to the first and second Yovelos observed after the Jewish people settled in Eretz Yisrael, and writes:

שכבר הורגלו להחזיר קרקעות... דסמכא דעתיה דמוכר דודאי הדרא ליה וזה בטוח שיחזירנה:

They were already accustomed to returning real estate... the seller therefore can rely on it actually coming back to him, and [the buyer] is certain that he'll be returning it.

This seems to be describing an actual state of mind at the time, rather than a theoretical discussion of how people might have thought.

(The Rambam, Hilchos Bikkurim 4:7, explains "first Yovel" and "second Yovel" differently - according to him they refer to someone who sold his land before (any) Yovel, got it back during Yovel, then sold it again after that. The implication is the same as according to Rashi's explanation, though: at least the second time around, both the buyer and the seller know that it's just a temporary sale.)


How are you going to prove a negative, you can't!

I) freeing of slaves, would have happened in the seventh year and even normally you could stay with your master past the seventh year you're going free the next year so nobody would do that

  1. not working the land, how you going to prove that you didn't work the land because of yovel

  2. loan forgiveness already took place in the 49th year

  3. returning of ancestral land, they can just say they always had it, in fact they might have considering the only reason to sell it would be you need money, it's embarrassing

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