Aharon Ariel Lavi: Jeremiah, Shmita and the Quest for Liberty

Jeremiah, Shmita and the quest for Liberty: Was it real or only a dream?

Shmita is probably one of the most challenging commandments in the Bible, and not observing it properly can actually lead to exile. Of all its components, the Jubilee is the most challenging one. The Jubilee commandment instructs us to “reset” the entire economic system by returning all lands to their original owners and freeing all slaves. There is no firm evidence that the Jubilee was ever fully observed, but we do find something similar in Jeremiah’s act to free all the slaves, not long before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. However, this attempt did not last long, apparently because most people that time were villains and could not live up to the standard set by the saint, the prophet. But can this standard of liberty be met at all? How did it play out in later times and how can it be realized in a relevant manner in the future?

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Aharon Ariel Lavi is the founder and director of the Nettiot Network, reengaging Haredi Ba’aley Teshuva (Returnees) into Israeli society, and of the Hitzim social business. He is also founder of Garin Shuva next to the Gaza border and co-founder of the National Council of Mission-Driven Communities. Aharon is writing a PhD on Jewish Economic Thought and published a book on this issue, along with articles on many other social issues and Jewish thought. During 2013-14 Aharon was a Tikvah Fun fellow in NYC, and is now leading the Jewish Intentional Communities Incubator in partnership with Hazon. He lives with his wife and three children in Shuva.