Many people out there could easily do a better job at this, but here is a simple conceptual idea about how much production you would accomplish if you were an Israelite in the land, obeying Torah instructions at a simple surface level. Note that I DONT include sacrifices, tithing, or any special events etc… this is just a function of potential productivity vs. actual.
Lets say I am an Israelite with a wonderful allotment in the most fertile land of Israel. I have 10 Acres of perfectly tilled farmland. My ability to produce food is considered 100%. This would mean as much as I possibly can, all the time, every square foot of the workable farmland is putting out maximum harvest. We will work from this baseline, and reduce the actual output by a percentage based on the instructions of Torah.
Weekly Sabbath -14.29%
Because I cannot work the land 7 days, I am only able to DO anything 85%. I can only work during harvest time for 85% example. Or I can only sow 85% of the week. While not a measure of literal output, Im using it as a function. Im limited in my ability to sow, reap, or otherwise interact by 14%.
There are an additional 7 Sabbaths most years for the festivals. This means 59 days a year are going to often be the amount of days resting in a given year.
The Shmita year means that I may not sow or reap 1 out of 7 years. Essentially then I lose and additional 14.29% on every 7 years. Because of the fact that the 7th year is 100% out of play, I had to think of a way to calculate the loss for 6 years, then plus the 7th.
So in a 365 day year. there is 59 days for weekly Sabbath and festivals. This means 16.16% is the real annual impact
|Total Days in average 365 day year||59||16.16%|
In a 7 year period, we have a whole 365 days “off line”
|Sabbath Year||365||out of||2555||14.29%|
In a given 7 year period (2555 days) we have 719 days off line
59 days a year * 6 = 354
365 days on the 7th year = 365
719 out of 2555 = 28.14%.
At this point we are only working at 71% of potential capacity. Obviously we dont harvest 365 days a year, but there are multiple harvests, and Im simply trying to imagine the concept.
So in a 50 year cycle, we now have a second Shmita on the 50th year. This means an additional 365 days out of the 50 years added on to the previous concept.
|50 Year cycle|
|42 years of sabbaths||2478|
|7 Sabbath years||2555|
|Total Days in 50 years||18250|
|% of down time||29.58%|
Having Fun yet?
We have 3 rules about harvesting itself in the 6 years we are allowed. You may not go through the land teice, you may not pick up anything you drop, and you must not harvest the edges of your fields. I read some article suggesting Rabbis considered 1/16th as the minimum acceptable amount around the edge. Lets go with that. That means that of the current potential harvest, we have to reduce the amount of land by 6.25%. Because this is a simple concept, that is basically lost productivity in the form of less land.
Lets reduce the available remaining potential productivity of 71% (100% – 29.58%) by an additional 6%. I get 66%.
This is a hard one to conceptualize. Part of it is because some of the tithe was for us to enjoy on the festivals. Additionally tithing is really on the increase, not the base. The tithe is based on not what you have, but what you earned, or what you harvested. So it doesnt reduce available capacity, but it affects what you carry over inot the next year. So I cant figure out a way to include this.
However, there is at least 2 “tithes” a year according to many people who study and teach. There is also an indicator there is an extra tithe on the 3rd year for the poor. I dont know if there is tithes on Shmita or Jubilee years! There is no harvest, so Im doubting that.
So in every 6 year cycle there is potentially 14 tithes. In every 50 years, there is potentially 98 Tithes.
In a basic concept, every year, your “increase” is reduced by 20%. Every 3 years you “net” 77%.
Offerings, Care for the Poor, Kinsman Redeemer
As an Israelite you also have some obligations as well as freewill offerings.
You are to sell food to someone who is poor without profit and lend without interest (or excessive interest depending on your interpretation). If you are able to redeem a family member from slavery, or their land from debt, you are required to do this and then hand it back to your family member. Throughout Leviticus, these instructions are clear.
Any offerings you wish to give at the Temple, come out of your net income obviously. Any special things God asks, you are to give as your heart desires. Do you want to be a stingy believer, or a passionate full throat-ed Joshua?
A Basic Summary
I would LOVE to have a real economist go through this with me and determine real values, but the heart of it is this. In Torah, you are basically given land, yet COMMANDED to only really use about 66% of its capacity. All your household is required to rest, you are too. You are to provide for the poor directly with respect to how you harvest. At this point, all the nations surrounding you are stunned. No one does this. Survival means sweating,w orking, frustrating work. Yet the Israelites have a God DEMANDING them to only do this 66% of potential.
Then on the net profits, they pay out close to 23% of all their increase to support a whole tribe (Levi) and the poor.
In addition, they must bring sacrifices out of their own pockets to have fellowship. Curiously, at some point if they want to eat meat at all, it must be a ritual sacrifice at the Temple. Lots of freewill offerings there if you are a carnivore and can afford it.
On top of that, you are obligated to support the poor and your immediate family.
Anything else is SIN.
And here is the promises for obedience.
[Deu 28:1-14 HCSB] 1 “Now if you faithfully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all His commands I am giving you today, the LORD your God will put you far above all the nations of the earth. 2 All these blessings will come and overtake you, because you obey the LORD your God: 3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. 4 Your descendants will be blessed, and your land’s produce, and the offspring of your livestock, including the young of your herds and the newborn of your flocks. 5 Your basket and kneading bowl will be blessed. 6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. 7 “The LORD will cause the enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you. They will march out against you from one direction but flee from you in seven directions. 8 The LORD will grant you a blessing on your storehouses and on everything you do; He will bless you in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 9 The LORD will establish you as His holy people, as He swore to you, if you obey the commands of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. 10 Then all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by Yahweh’s name, and they will stand in awe of you. 11 The LORD will make you prosper abundantly with children, the offspring of your livestock, and your land’s produce in the land the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. 12 The LORD will open for you His abundant storehouse, the sky, to give your land rain in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow. 13 The LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you will only move upward and never downward if you listen to the LORD your God’s commands I am giving you today and are careful to follow them. 14 Do not turn aside to the right or the left from all the things I am commanding you today, and do not go after other gods to worship them.
The Power Curve
Competing against the surrounding peoples, working at 66% of capacity, you are basically poor. You dont have as much food, nor as much economic power. Unless your God blesses you, and does it according to this passage above, you are screwed.
If you DO obey, and God DOES bless you, you are the dominant people group in the region. You are lending to all, borrowing from none for example. You get rain, great harvest, prolific fertility in every form.
There is an inherent dependence in this. You would have to trust Yah in order to obey these commands. If you disobeyed, you would get 100% capacity, and then a whole series of curses which would nullify your work. But if you dared to obey, especially with regard to rest and caring for the poor, you would be incapable of keeping up with the increase. You would be a resource. You would have to make room, go find the poor, you would be forced to share the abundance.
The power curve of God is set up to bless you almost disproportionately. Clearly, Yahweh is interested in blessing and increase. We give up 34% (in thoery) and yet get FAR MORE than our original 100% potential. We rest an absurd amount of time, us and our whole house, yet have MORE than we would if we didnt.