Toward a Jubilee Economy & Ecology in the Modern World

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow

[This essay is a chapter in Rabbi Waskow's book Godwrestling -- Round 2 (Jewish Lights, 1996). The book is available as a free gift from The Shalom Center, personally inscribed by Rabbi Waskow as you choose, if you use the Donate banner on the left to make a tax-deductible contribution of $36 or more.

[At the end of this essay you will find citations on teachings from the Hebrew Bible & related materials toward a Jubilee Economics and Ecologics.]

The cycles of life are in danger. We humans have been acting as if we had outgrown them. We have become extraordinarily fruitful of new ideas and new products even of new humans. So much so that our fruitfulness threatens to blight all the fruit of our wombs, our minds, and our work.

We have wanted to become so fruitful that we could produce new fruit at every moment -- force ripening it rather than sharing in the pauses that grow the ripened fruit. So we have almost destroyed the great cycles of productivity and rest, seedtime and waiting and harvest, from which the fruit bursts forth. Denied their rhythm and their rest, the cycles threaten to take their revenge by destroying us.

What would it mean for us to act more in tune with them?

The Biblical tradition teaches that when God wanted to accomplish the most fruitful act of all the creation of the world God needed to not act in order to complete the creation. the seal of all creation was the final creative act of deliberately not creating: of resting, of God's pausing and catching a breath. (In Hebrew, in Exodus 31, shavat va yinafash. Shavat, "paused;" va yinafash, "took a breath" or even "became a breath.") This is what it meant to make Shabbat, the Sabbath. So this is an ultimate teaching about the limits of creativity even the best and holiest creativity.

What would have happened if God had not paused -- had become so joyful in the process of creating the Six Days that S/He had continued straight on, into a seventh and an eighth day of work? Surely, the world would have shattered under the weight of over creation. It was only the Sabbath that made the creation viable.

An artist will tell you: if you are painting a picture, there comes a moment when one more paint stroke will ruin it. You have to know when to stop, catch your breath, and be at peace with your painting. Then, on another canvas, you can start over. But always, in a rhythm, there most be a pause to not do. If you will not stop to rest, the work will stop anyway willy nilly. By ruination, if we refuse to rest.

This lesson applies to us. It was taught us in the Biblical command to make our own Sabbath the Sabbath of all of the seventh day, and also the Sabbath of the seventh month, the seventh year, and the year after the seventh seventh year the fiftieth, Jubilee year.

What was to happen on these Sabbaths?

On the seventh day, the community was to refrain from ordinary "work." In the Biblical text, it is specified that this included gathering food, kindling a fire, and gathering the wood to build a fire. As particular issues arose to be judged, concerning what was the "work" that was prohibited, the Israelite community, first in Biblical and then in rabbinic times, had to work out a lore and law of what refraining meant.

The tradition developed that all the acts of labor that were necessary to build the Sanctuary of God's Presence in the wilderness were prohibited on the Sabbath: that even the most holy of work intended to make ready the "house" of God on earth must bow before the holiness of Sabbath. The use of money, writing, planning business, riding in vehicles all came to a pause on Sabbath.

To some, it seemed clear that with these prohibitions came an awesome, frightening cast to the seventh day. But the main line of Jewish and Christian practice made the Sabbath into a joyful time. Gradually the day came to be celebrated as the focus of gathering in the family, prayer, meditation, song, Biblical study, sauntering warmly and calmly in the town and village.

In the seventh month the month of the autumn equinox, according to the Biblical count there were in the original Biblical pattern an extraordinary group of festivals. At each of the four phases of the moon in that lunar month, on the first and tenth and fifteenth and twenty third days came a festival. One of them lasted a full week.

Thus, alone of all the months, the seventh became a time of repeated rest, celebration, and meditation all focused on renewal of the individual and the community. Indeed, so powerful did the sense of renewal become in the seventh month that its first festival, on the day of the new moon, came to be understood as the beginning of a new year Rosh Hashanah and the last of the festivals became the time for starting over again the synagogue reading of the yearly cycle of Biblical passages.

The seventh or sabbatical year became the year of "release" or "letting go," –- Today we might call it a year of "non-attachment." (Leviticus 25). In that year the land was to rest for a Sabbath of its own -- to be left fallow. The people -- land-owners and the landless, homeborn and foreigners -- were permitted to gather freely from the land's free produce, but not to organize a regular sowing, cultivation, or harvest. So the people were also released from hierarchy. Deuteronomy 15: 1-11, written in a time of intense social upheaval in Israelite society, added that in the sabbatical year, all debts shall be annulled.

The great climax of the cycle came in the year after the seventh sabbatical year the fiftieth year, the year of the Jubilee. As the Bible (Leviticus 25) describes it, in the Jubilee not only was the land to have a restful Sabbath for the second year in a row but ownership of all the land was to be redistributed, family by family, so that the rich would give up everything extra they had accumulated during the previous cycle, and the poor would get back the solid life competence they had lost.

And all servants and slaves, whether indentured for a period or for their lifetimes, were to become free. So for a year, equality not of "opportunity" but in actuality, in status, wealth, and power would be renewed in the whole society. And this would be accomplished not by a central government's taxation or police power, but by the direct action of each family, each clan, each tribe in its own region.

Scholars disagree whether the Jubilee part of the cycle, the most profound and radical, was ever fully carried out. But as an ideal, a goal, and a demand it lasted not only among the Prophets and in the teachings of Jesus, but even into the rhetoric of the Liberty Bell and the songs of emancipation at the end of American slavery in 1865.

The effect of this system of spirals of sevens was the periodic renewal of "repose" in both the physical and institutional spheres. The cycles affirmed the worth of labor and pointed beyond labor to the worth of celebration. The cycles affirmed the worth of efforts to control and use the earth and pointed beyond that effort to the worth of loving the earth. The cycles affirmed the worth of efforts to accumulate wealth and power and pointed beyond that accumulation to the worth of sharing.

In these ways, the spirals of renewal taught through constant practice that even the best acts of creation and production and accumulation were not the single goal of human effort. The Sabbath mattered.

But for the last 500 years or so, the human race has celebrated no Sabbath. We have become intoxicated with our own greatly increased powers of creation, of production and consumption; and in our intoxication we have not paused. What we have with these powers been able to create has been good tools to feed the poor, clothe the naked, heal the sick. The work has been more than good; it has been vital, life giving. So for 500 years, we have thought that it would be a waste of time indeed a waste of time for us to pause, to contemplate, meditate, share, reevaluate. Far better to do our work.

Many of us thought indeed that our new ability to do such vital work was so life giving that we had become what God once was: the giver of life, the creator of worlds. And perhaps we thought that since we had become practically Divine, the commands that we should pause from our earthly work no longer applied to us. We paid no attention to the meaning of the Bible's teaching that not only human beings, but even God, had had to pause and make a Sabbath. Instead, we worked away.

And therefore, our creativity is on the verge of decreating the world. On the verge of drowning it in a Flood of Fire, returning it to the primordial void and chaos.

We need the Sabbath. It is the acceptance of a Mystery, the celebration of a Mystery rather than of Mastery. It is the acceptance of the mysterious truth that our own Mastery cancels itself out, is most self destructive when it is most complete.

So one great word the religious traditions have to say to the human race is : MAKE SABBATH! Pause. Rest. Reflect. Catch your breath. Meditate. Reevaluate what you have done. Life for a moment at peace with the rest of the created world. Renew society by redistributing wealth and power so that people can start out again as equals. Celebrate.

This does not mean cursing technology, work, production, consumption, accumulation. It means putting them in their proper place: within the framework of the Sabbath.

Let it be clear that when I say the Sabbath, I do not mean only the literal Sabbath of the seventh day, nor even the extended Sabbaths of the seventh month, the seventh year, the fiftieth year. I mean a whole approach of mind and practice, a path of life that would affirm the worth of dawdling on the path.

It is not only the formal, literal Sabbaths of Judaism and Christianity, the Sabbaths in the literal sense, that have been devastated by the modern world. It is all the days of holiness the saints' days and the festivals, the civic holy times like July Fourth and Memorial Day and Labor Day, even Christmas and Easter, Passover and Yom Kippur, that have been weakened. It is the whole sense of holiness in time that has been weakened, the sense that time is not just an endless concrete block to be chopped up as a factor in production.

What might it mean for us to restore the Sabbath to our lives in this broad sense? Let us explore some possibilities.

Three intertwined social illnesses are eating at the heart of America and of the earth as a whole:

o An extreme, and worsening, maldistribution of wealth and income.

o An overwhelming, and worsening, threat to the environment;

o A collapse of love, compassion, social solidarity -- what has been called both fraternite and sisterhood -- at the levels of family, neighborhood, workplace, and society as a whole.

If we took seriously the Jubilee program of Leviticus 25, we would see these not as three separate ills but as one, to be dealt with precisely by applying the approach of Leviticus: The one illness of unceasing acquisition, exploitation, and mastery. Let us look at how this approach might apply in our own generation to each of the three aspects of the one disease.


First, in regard to the earth's need for rest, for Sabbath:

This is, of course, the issue that we nowadays call "protecting the environment." Most official "environmental" programs have focused on clean up and recycling. There has been very little reexamination of the production end of the process where destruction is actually likely to begin. The Biblical teaching of the Sabbatical/Jubilee cycle is that issues of production must be faced if the earth is to be protected. In an agricultural/pastoral society, this was to be accomplished by pausing from production altogether, one year out of every seven. In a technological scientific society, what would it mean?

For us today, it is hard to imagine shutting down the whole apparatus of production for one year of every seven. Maybe we are now so rich that if we shared our surplus for that year, we could do it. But it is hard to imagine. So let us imagine something easier. In the world of scientific industrialism, the speed of change is itself constantly accelerative. The engine of that acceleration is technological "research and development" "R & D."

So suppose we were to stop all Research & Development for one year in every seven. Suppose we were to keep paying the engineers and scientists, but we were to ask them to spend the year in a real "sabbatical." We would ask them to meet with each other and with the rest of us to ask some questions: Where is it all heading? What kind of technological development is life giving and necessary, what kind is destructive and should stop? What unexpected consequences are we discovering, with regard to this piece of technology or that one? And suppose that in addition to examining with each other such issues of value, we encouraged our technologists to simply sit and listen? Catch their breaths at an ocean shore, in a swamp, on a desert trail, in a cornfield. Dancing, drawing, whistling.

Not doing R & D.

Could such a year of release and repose make a difference, afterward, when R & D workers went back to their work? Would they have new ways of thinking about technology? Would they and the rest of us decide to pursue some different lines of R & D in different areas from those we had pursued before? Would we drop some old lines of exploration even though they were paying off because we saw disaster in those pay offs?

Or let us imagine a more limited kind of "sabbatical year." In American society, major changes in land use are now usually subject to "environmental impact" assessments. If these assessments show that the proposed changes endanger a species of life or a web of habitats, they may be prohibited. But we do not apply such environmental impact safeguards to the introduction of major new products in the economy. What if any corporation or agency that was planning to invest more than one billion dollars in a new product a new automobile, a new computer, a new weapon were required to wait for a "sabbatical" year while its impact on the earth was assessed by independent examiners and any dangers weighed before it could go forward?

Both kinds of sabbatical "pause" to catch our breath would have both physical effects on the environment, and profound cultural effects. Physically, they would slow down the process of invasion of the web of planetary life, and might encourage reevaluations deep enough to make renewal of the web as important as invading it. Culturally, these pauses would teach the society and of course the campaign to get them adopted would already have gone far toward teaching the society that there are values other than producing, making, doing; and indeed that the "producing" values need to be governed by larger issues of long term effects on human beings, the earth, community.


Secondly, in regard to the structure of wealth and power in social institutions, what would it mean to learn from the redistribution of all control over land and the release of all indentured servants in the Jubilee Year? In a sense, these acts would give rest and repose to social institutions.

The Bible seems to be teaching that over a generation's time, in order to get done the work of politics and economics, it is desirable to build social institutions that accumulate some wealth and power. Some structures will emerge that have a few bosses and many employees, that control large amounts of capital. But these very useful institutions must be periodically dissolved. Not only the physical work of tilling the land must pause, but the political and social work of building the institutions and concentrating capital.

Living in an industrial economy, can any of this make sense to us? Again, it is hard to imagine the radical dissolution of all our institutions, the radical distribution of all our wealth to every family equally. But perhaps we can see from the standpoint of a modern economics and political science why something like the Jubilee would be a vital pattern.

Look for a moment at our economic rhythms. Hypothesis: that once every 50 years or so, the economy comes to a halt a grinding halt, or a joyful one. Once every 50 years or so, if there is no redistribution of wealth and power there is a Great Depression. Why should this be so? Because over an entire generation, if the poor get poorer and the rich get richer there are more and more troublesome frictional effects. The poor become less able to buy what the institutions are producing and there emerges a glut of unused productive capacity. The poor become more and more hopeless, apathetic, and sullen less and less efficient and imaginative workers. And the rich too become less efficient and imaginative, because the sheer power of their institutions insulates them against the many, many changes in a changing world. When people want small cars instead of large, GM pays no attention. When people want fewer H bombs instead of more, Boeing pays no attention.

The rich get stuck in their ways, the poor get stuck with the bill, the society gets stuck in its tracks.

Result: an economic depression. A depression that has some general social usefulness because it opens up new avenues of creativity and productivity. Some conservatives applaud this as a "shakeout." They are right as far as they go.

Now in an odd way the Jubilee Year would itself be an economic "depression": everybody is unemployed, the whole social apparatus stops. The difference is in the sharing. In a modern depression, the poor suffer terribly, most of the middle class a great deal, and some of the rich may lose their shirts. The burdens are unequal, and the pain of the "resting" that benefits the whole society is imposed on only some of its members. The Jubilee shares the "pain" of resting for in the short run, there might have been less to eat if for two years in a row no one had sown, cultivated, or reaped and turns the pain into a communal celebration.

In the spirit of the Jubilee, one way to prevent a log jam of social and economic creativity would be to shift massive amounts of investment capital from the control of giant, longstanding corporations to decentralized grass roots businesses especially those that are worker owned, consumer coops, family operated, and neighborhood operated.

How to do this? By very high taxes on the wealth (not merely the income) of very large, very highly concentrated, and very old businesses like Dupont Chemical Company, the great global oil companies, and the Chase Manhattan Bank.

The proceeds of this "capital recycling tax" would go not to the general treasury but directly to a number of publicly controlled banks that would make loans available to help workers buy their factories, farms, insurance companies, etc. and to help neighborhood associations, churches and synagogues, and similar grass roots groups start co op food stores, restaurants, pharmacies, bicycle factories, fish hatcheries, and solar power stations.

Such loans would be especially important in "runaway" situations, where the parent company is seeking cheaper labor in other regions or countries. And they could help family members who actually make up most of the workforce of a small family owned enterprise get enough capital to operate effectively.

To prevent liquidity problems, it might be made possible for corporations to pay the recycling tax not in money but by turning over to a Community Ownership Trust the proper portion of ownership rights (for example, stock certificates). Ownership could then be transferred to workers or communities via the Trust.

The primary requirement for receipt of such venture capital loans or ownership rights would be that the recipients be a face to face community whether of co workers at a single workplace, students and faculty at a school, or members of a neighborhood association, a religious congregation, or a family.

Specially favorable interest rates would be built in for firms that were using renewable energy sources, using recyclable materials in production, recycling their waste products, and otherwise respecting the environment.

Special interest rates could also be made available to face to face groups whose average income and wealth fell below some cut off point. In this way, the white poor would not be excluded in order to benefit such previously disadvantaged groups as women, African Americans, and Hispanics. Disadvantage would be seen in economic rather than ethnic or gender terms, but by requiring face to face communities as recipients, the program would empower rather than shatter ethnic, racial, and similar communities.

Such a wealth recycling program would deal with one of the major problems posed by conventional tax reform proposals and conventional welfare programs. That problem is the need for investment capital. Many people are caught between two fears. They fear that taxing large corporations too heavily will keep them from investing, and thus precipitate depression. And they fear that national "investment," whether through projects like TVA, or massive employment projects in public works, or outright welfare grants, creates a larger unresponsive bureaucracy and a disempowered, irresponsible underclass.

If investment capital were to be taxed away from the corporations to be recycled not to giant bureaucracies but into the hands of grass roots community controlled enterprises, that would be a way out of this dilemma. It would encourage investment indeed, stimulate creative forms of investment by shifting capital to new hands and empower, rather than subjugate, the recipients. It would strengthen community, rather than isolated individualism.

The Jubilee tradition shows a special care for restoring land to every family. For land to work and live on is the basic grounding for personal and community freedom. The exploitative use of land and catastrophic inflation in the costs of homes have been among the most destructive aspects of the economic crisis of the past several years. The housing industry and the financial institutions, with government support and incentives, have acted in a way directly the reverse of the Jubilee's vision of well rooted communities; they have forced mobility, shattered neighborhoods, decreased the proportion of owner occupied homes, and left inner cities and older suburbs to rot.

We need to explore new approaches that would restore community covenants for the decent use of land, such as extraordinary taxes on the profits of land speculation; incentives to rehabilitate old housing and renew the cities and older suburbs; periodic restoration to common ownership of land held not by families for their own work and residence but by large corporations for profit; the creation at the neighborhood, city, and county levels of publicly owned housing industries; and perhaps the conversion of military industry into housing production (among other peacetime uses).

In order for decentralized community control over land to become possible, it may be necessary to create democratic neighborhood level governments. Most religious congregations are based in neighborhoods, and thus congregations that were applying the Jubilee tradition would be especially useful in helping organize such neighborhood governments.

The Jubilee process tries to prevent famine by husbandry of the land and sharing of land and food. In our post modern society, that would point toward making the production and distribution of food socially responsive and encouraging communities to become capable of feeding themselves. In that spirit, urban neighborhoods could be encouraged to develop "farms," fisheries, hatcheries, and other undertakings to decrease their dependence on the corporate food chain. Cities, neighborhoods, religious institutions, schools, and colleges could develop nonprofit worker/community controlled canneries, food stores, and restaurants. National and international food policy could be reoriented to enlarging, rather than reducing, the ability of Third World nations to feed themselves.

How does all this concern for recycling power and wealth connect with our concern for the rehallowing of time? The carrying throuch of such a project for recycling wealth would mark a major redirection of our history, a great renewal of our roots and our creativity. No doubt it would take a great political struggle to accomplish such a redirection since those who hold great power rarely give it up or share it without a struggle, even if their daily lives and incomes remain undiminished. To reaffirm and fulfill the spiritual meaning of such a political and economic struggle, the beginning of the actual process of recycling should be marked explicitly, publicly, with a celebration of renewal.

It might, for example, take the form of a week long celebration of communal roots, neighborhood, and playfulness. Not a week of frantic travel to tourist centers where another version of commerce applies, but a week in which gas stations, airplanes, and trains as well as factories and offices close; in which walking, neighborhoods, families, and festivals become the central facts of life. In any such effort, not simply a cessation of work but the creation of alternatives that restore a sense of roots and creativity would be important. Folklife festivals of ethnic, craft, and labor union music, stories, food, and crafts may speak to the same need for "family" that the Jubilee does in restoring each clan not just to some land chosen at random, but to "its own."

Perhaps there should have been a great national celebration of this kind when the great civil rights and voting rights acts of the mid 1960s were passed and had actually begun to operate recognizing consciously that an old period of American history had ended, and lifting the necessary political battles to a spiritual level. Perhaps such a celebration would have helped heal the previous enmities and created a healthier openness in the struggles that immediately followed.

*** ***

Indeed, these proposals for celebration point toward the empowerment of local face to face communities, the third aspect of the Biblical Jubilee and the third need of American and world wide society.

The provisions of Leviticus 25 look toward the strengthening of local grass roots communities at that time, chiefly clans within a tribal region. For us, that probably means a neighborhood. All too few are now "neighborly" as the assumptions of compassion have broken down in the face of both the content and the form of the mass media, despair over permanent impoverishment juxtaposed to quick riches from illegal drugs, the collapse of face to face education.

And public policy has not been shaped with an eye to strengthening community or compassion. Just one example: All the effort to cut down demand for drugs has focused on creating more fear despite (or because of?) the likelihood that more fear and more despair are quite likely to lead straight to more drug use. What would it mean for public policy to focus on creating more depth of community, rather than more fear?

A Jubilee proposal: empower neighborhoods to choose and carry out one day a month, one week a year, in which they hold a neighborly celebration. Give seed grants to neighborhood institutions to plan such events. Make the Folk Festival a decentralized but universal event.

On at least two occasions a year July 4 and New Year's Day? or newer, more globally and environmentally conscious times of Hiroshima Day and Martin Luther King's Birthday? or a revitalized Earth Day? impose a universal national "Sabbath" on all but life preserving emergency services. Close down highways, trains, hotels, television stations, newspapers, along with factories and offices. Let us rediscover walking and talking, singing and cooking. Let us rediscover our nearby neighbors. And not just for one day, but for a week to let the experience and the meaning of rest and celebration sink in.

Such a festival would give our society in a regular, chosen rhythm what only a few cities now experience only in a random, unchosen way. For such "festivals" now occur only when a great blizzard clogs the whole town with snow. Observers report that the first reaction is panic, an hysterical attempt to get to work. When it becomes clear that no one can work, a mood of joy and festive calm spreads across the city. Everyone shares: food, stories, emergency assistance. People play in the snow. It is a day of unemployment but in a mood of holiday, holy day. Much more a holy day, in fact, than most of the commercialized holidays that have been made occasions not of rest but of turning on the "consumption economy."


The principle of political action that I am suggesting is that the rhythmic and spiral nature of time should be affirmed not only in the recycling content of a political program, but also in the forms with which it is carried out. And although I have been focusing up till now on the goal of such a struggle on the program that should be enacted and the way its enactment should be greeted it is important also to embody the sense of rhythmic, spiral time in the very process of the struggle to achieve that result.

What would be a fitting way to infuse the means with the end, the process with the goal? We might begin by creating in miniature what we envision, and using these miniatures to organize toward some version of the broader Jubilee.

How could we do a "miniature" Jubilee? We could bring together, under the auspices of synagogues and churches, the weave of spiritual, political, environmental, and economic renewal that is the Jubilee.

Suppose that in a particular city for nine days, from a Jewish Sabbath through a Christian Sabbath (from Friday night through Sunday), a group of synagogues and churches held a Jubilee Festival. Such a Jubilee Festival would address the economic renewal of the city and its neighborhoods by inviting co ops and worker managed firms, innovative small businesses, etc., to explain their work; by demonstrating equipment for energy conservation and the local generation of solar/renewable energy; by turning empty lots or part of the church or synagogue grounds into communal vegetable gardens; by holding workshops on how tenants can buy apartment houses and turn them into co ops; by setting up a temporary food co op and helping people organize a more permanent one, etc.

It would address the psychological and cultural renewal of the neighborhood through song, dance, story telling, sharing food, etc.

It would address the basic political empowerment of the neighborhood by gathering people to discuss in open town meetings some of the major issues of our society energy, jobs, environment, prices, families, etc. and how to apply the Jubilee approach to them in national and international as well as local and neighborhood ways.

It would encourage all the people of the neighborhood to pool and exchange their talents, skills, and memories.

Obviously this would not be a one to one transcription of the Biblical Jubilee, even for nine days; but it would be an experiment in translating the Jubilee into modern terms. Approaches that began or were stimulated by the Jubilee Festival would continue and grow through the year. Their work would intertwine the day to day problems of people in the neighborhood with study of both the Biblically rooted religious traditions and the modern analytical knowledge of social relations. In this way, the Jubilee Festival would create the context for a North American equivalent of the "communidades de base" that have revivified and renewed the church in Brazil and other parts of Latin America.

People who experienced just a glimpse of the Jubilee could us that moment to begin imagining how to translate the Jubilee into post modern practice. And they could start building the political power that could bring about the kinds of change that they imagine.

How to get the Jubilee Festival process going? In a given city, some of the rabbis, ministers, priests and also the lay members of synagogues, havurot, churches, mosques probably know who in the various religious communities share the vision. If they created a local Jubilee Committee and got a few congregations to agree to host or to sponsor the Jubilee Festival, the project would grow through outreach to co ops, labor unions, innovative businesses, etc., and to singers, dancers, story tellers, and cooks of the local traditions.

In all these practical proposals, there is an underlying thread of belief: that "ritual" and "politics" should not be separated from each other, but rather intertwined. This may seem fuzzy minded to the practical politician and irreverent to the ritually observant; but those responses are both symptoms of the modern age. What the Jubilee passages in the Bible teach is that the most effective politics has a powerful ritual element in it, engaging not only material interests but deep emotional, intellectual, and spiritual energies; and that when ritual is made fully communal and focused on reality, it becomes precisely politics.

Readings from the Hebrew Bible & Related Materials toward a Jubilee Economics::

Strand on Shabbat (the Sabbath), Eden, and Eden for Grown-Ups

Gen 2: 1-4
Gen. 2: 14-19
Ex 16: 13- 36
Ex. 20: 8-11
Deut 5: 12-15
Song of Songs (if possible, translations by Marcia Falk or Chana & Ariel Bloch)

Strand on the Sabbatical Year and the Jubilee

Ex. 23: 9-12
Lev 25: 1-55
Lev. 26: 33-35, 43-45
Deut. 15: 1-18
Isaiah 58: 1-14
Isaiah 61: 1-11
Jeremiah 32: 6-44
Jeremiah 34: 8-22
II Chron. 36: 20-21

Strand on “Corners,” Gleaning, etc.

Ex 23: 20 to 24: 9
Lev. 19: 9-10, 23: 22
Deut 24: 10- 20
Book of Ruth

Abraham J. Heschel, The Sabbath (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1951).
Erich Fromm, The Forgotten Language (1951), Appendix on the Sabbath; You Shall Be as Gods (1966).
Arthur Waskow, Down-to-Earth Judaism: Food, Money, Sex, and the Rest of Life (Morrow, 1995), pp. 148-152, 162-165, 353-381.
Arthur Waskow, Godwrestling — Round 2 (Jewish Lights Publishing of Woodstock, VT, 1996), pp. *245-258, 259-272, 282-286, 301-313.

See also Luke 4 in the Christian Gospels and John Howard Yoder, The Politics pf Jesus, on Jesus' call for a Jubilee.

For a guide to study and action in response to the Torah of shmitah, see
For an intensely text-focused analysis of the Biblical tradition of shmitah, Jubilee, and the Eden story, see Rabbi David Seidenberg’s writing at


Jewish and Interfaith Topics: 

Torah Portions: