Rambam Avadim 2:

"מְכָרוּהוּ בֵּית דִּין עוֹבֵד שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים ... אֲבָל אִם פָּגְעָה בּוֹ שְׁנַת יוֹבֵל אֲפִלּוּ נִמְכַּר שָׁנָה אַחַת לִפְנֵי הַיּוֹבֵל הֲרֵי זֶה יֵצֵא לְחֵרוּת :

If the court has sold him, he serves six years ...
IF, however, the jubilee year intervenes, even though he was sold only one year before jubilee, he goes free..."

As I understand the 50th year WAS perfectly predicted, and everybody knew the counting. So Rambam should have used the language of "When the slave is sold less than 6 years before the Yovel" because his price will surely go down accordingly, and not "If Yovel intervenes". Rambam sounds like "if he was paid the full price but Yovel suddenly came, he breaks free".

"How this Rambam's"IF" of "the jubilee year intervention" can be explained?

  • 3
    Why can't something known intervene? I don't understand what needs explanation. Unbinding VTC as Unclear
    – Double AA
    Feb 5, 2019 at 23:53
  • Rambam holds that the Yovel’s 50-year cycle is independent of Shemittah’s 7-year cycle. What’s the problem of Yovel falling out in the middle of the cycle?
    – DonielF
    Feb 6, 2019 at 0:01
  • @DoubleAA I don't understand the logic - how the Yovel can intervene and not be planned. What does it mean "if", like saying "if there would be Shabbos you won't work". What does "if" allow?
    – Al Berko
    Feb 6, 2019 at 0:01
  • It means If the sale was in years 42-49 then X, otherwise in years 1-41 the regular rules apply. There is no indication anywhere the it was unplanned or a surprise
    – Double AA
    Feb 6, 2019 at 0:02
  • 1
    I had the same question, and came up with: 1. None of the sides were paying attention to the Yovel and Yovel cycle, as it's a rare occurrence. 2. Sanhedrin restated the Yovel, and maybe they don't start counting from zero, but from some other known point in time. No sources=no answer. Feb 6, 2019 at 10:49

2 Answers 2


שלשה דברים מעכבין ביובל (there are 3 things that, if not done, prevent the Yovel from taking effect), and one of them is Beis Din blowing the shofar (Rambam, Hilchos Shmittah Veyovel 10:13, from Rosh Hashanah 9b). So conceivably it might be up in the air whether Beis Din will do so, and thus whether the slave is going to go free. In fact, Mishnas Yaakov to Rambam ibid. 10:14 says as much, and also suggests that maybe this is why from Rosh Hashanah till Yom Kippur the slaves were in limbo, not working but not free either - because it would depend on whether Beis Din actually blows the shofar.

(In his commentary ibid. 10:1 he also quotes R. Chaim Brisker that another factor is whether Beis Din counts the years; if they don't, the years they skipped don't count towards the Yovel cycle. So that also makes the year of Yovel a bit unpredictable.)

  • A Very good move! You say "whether Beis Din will do so" meaning it is not sure, so if the BD don't blow there's no Yovel? And then what - wait another 50 years? Isn't it fixed as Shmitah years?
    – Al Berko
    Feb 6, 2019 at 19:39
  • @AlBerko Apparently the answer to your first two question is yes, and to the third is that it depends on R. Chaim's opinion.
    – Meir
    Feb 6, 2019 at 19:46
  • AFAIK Yovel comes after 7 Shmitos, and counting 7 years of a Shmitah is widely practiced, as it was one of the חקירות questions , so everybody knew the Shmita year. And you can't skip a full Shmita cycle. So it seems the whole nation can't "skip" 7 Shmitos, wondering whether Yovel could come in the middle of a Shmita cycle.
    – Al Berko
    Feb 6, 2019 at 19:52
  • I also thought the whole slavery and property owning is built on the yovel cycle, so there are too many things depending on it to "forget counting" or disregard it so much.
    – Al Berko
    Feb 6, 2019 at 19:54
  • @AlBerko Maybe, maybe not. We know that many Shmittos and Yovlos weren't observed, which is why there were 70 years of Galus Bavel (see the end of Divrei Hayamim, and Rashi to Vayikra 26:35). So not necessarily were they counting them, or even if they were, not necessarily was Beis Din doing so. (During periods when these mitzvos were being widely disregarded, Beis Din may have even decided to deliberately not count the years, in order to mitigate the aveirah; we don't say חטא כדי שיזכה חבירך, true, but here it's a שב ואל תעשה.)
    – Meir
    Feb 6, 2019 at 20:26

The Yovel stopped being instituted as soon as the tribes of Reuven and Gad were exiled before the destruction of the first temple. However, you are misunderstanding the usage of the word אם in the Ramban. The Rambam is explaining the way the halacha is determined. An analogous English sentence would be

If the secular year is divisible by 4 then there are 29 days in February.

This does not mean that the Rambam is saying that the master and the court were taken by surprise. It means that if it occurs that he was sold in the last years of the yovel period, the court would have to take into account the actual number of years that he would have to work when they determine the cost.

As I would consider it, the court would not set the price on a per year basis. They would set the total price and it would be regarded as having been met once the period of slavery is over, no matter how long it would be. The potential master, knowing how long it would be until Yovel, would have to consider if it was worth it.

  • First, thank you for trying to deal with this enormous problem. 1. Rambam says NOTHING that the price of an HS actually depends on the number of remaining years, as in selling the land. 2. The use of אפילו clearly shows they weren't aware of it. You can't say "when he's sold for a year, EVEN if he's sold for a year.
    – Al Berko
    Feb 7, 2019 at 17:07
  • Your last sentence: 3. A slave is sold for 6 years (?) or at least the price he needs to repay. So if the Yovel is coming why would we sell him for a year? How would they set the price?
    – Al Berko
    Feb 7, 2019 at 17:10
  • @AlBerko They would not set the price on a per year basis. They would set the total price and it would be regarded as having been met once the period of slavery is over, no matter how long it would be. The potential master, knowing how long it would be until Yovel, would have to consider if it was worth it. Feb 7, 2019 at 19:20
  • Again, THis does not address אפילו
    – Al Berko
    Feb 7, 2019 at 19:23
  • Also see judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/99317/…
    – Al Berko
    Feb 7, 2019 at 19:24

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