The reverse of the Franklin half dollar displays the image of the Liberty Bell, complete with its iconic inscription.
Proclaim LIBERTY throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof Lev XXV X
- Inscription on the Liberty Bell
Traditional Jewish practice requires that the Torah - the Five Books of Moses - be read in public not only on Sabbaths and holidays, but on Mondays and Thursdays as well. To make this task manageable, the Scripture is broken up into fifty-four portions, one for each week of the year. (That’d be by the Hebrew calendar, of course). The Monday-Thursday readings are abbreviated versions of the ones that take place on Saturdays... a sort of teaser.
As we work our way through the Torah week by week, from the front end of Genesis to the back end of Deuteronomy, we will inevitably land on a memorable verse. This week it was the famous section of Leviticus that instructs the Israelites to proclaim a Jubilee year every fifty years, a year during which debts would be forgiven, land would revert to its original owner, and slaves would be set free.
Part of Leviticus 25:10 is inscribed on the Liberty Bell, as noted above. Here’s the original:
Uk’ratem d’ror ba-aretz l’khol yoshveiha
Anyone who wonders why Jews traditionally have leaned toward the socially liberal side need not look farther than the Torah, our major Source Code. The Jews are a people that escaped oppression and slavery, a people that is commanded to “...love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18) and warned that “...thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). Furthermore, the verse above makes it crystal clear that enslavement - for whatever reason - was not to be a permanent status for anyone. Setting free the slaves? A jubilee? That was a pretty radical concept back in the days of the Bible.
Proclaim LIBERTY! Powerful stuff then. Powerful stuff now.