- Rabbi Josh (AKA "The Hoffer") Hoffman
- May 7, 2006
The Rabbis state that in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur of the Yovel year, the slaves “sit as kings with crowns on their heads,” while waiting for their release. Then, when the shofar is sounded on Yom Kippur, the slaves are freed from their masters’ possession. Why is there a need for this interim period?
The Sefer ha-Chinuch writes that the purpose behind the mitzvah of blowing the shofar during Yovel is to strengthen the spirit of the slave owners, who must endure a great loss when they release their slaves. In addition, the Chinuch writes that the sounding of the shofar is also a message to the slaves, to prepare them to leave their beloved masters. Through this message, concludes the Chinuch, everyone will thus return to God. This statement of the Chinuch helps explain the intrinsic connection between the sounding of the shofar on Yovel and on Rosh Hashanah, and also helps explain the necessity of the ten day period that the slave must endure before he attains complete freedom.
Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, of blessed memory, developed the idea of the Ramban (see commentary on Masseches Rosh Hashanah) that the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a form of prayer. The Rav explained that the shofar enables us to express that which cannot be articulated with words, as the inner essence of man is something that cannot be put into words. Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak ha-Kohen Kook explains (in Oros ha-Teshuvah) that the process of repentance begins with a return to oneself, to the unique soul implanted in each person by God. Before a person can renew his relationship with Hashem, he must have a sense of self with which he can begin that relationship. This is the function of Rosh Hashanah, as in order to get onto the path of repentance, one must first reawaken one’s inner self, which is initiated by the unspoken sound of the shofar. Only then can one rectify and renew one’s relationship with God through the process of repentance.
On Yovel everyone is called upon to return to Hashem. Even the slave is included in this process, but due to his years of servitude he is not able to be his own person and develop his inner-self. Therefore, before the slave can leave his master’s land and return to his own, he needs a period of readjustment to realize that he was also born with a unique soul and that has a contribution to make in life. Thus, he needs to spend ten days “with a crown on his head,” feeling like a king, before he can embark with the rest of the Jewish Nation on the ultimate goal of the Yovel year - a return to God.
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