Last week, in the portion of Tzav, Moshe commanded Aharon and his sons to ready the Sanctuary’s altar for G-d’s holy Presence.
These preparations took seven days to complete, and are referred to as the seven days of consecration, as it states, “From the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting you shall not go forth seven days… seven days shall your consecration last.”
At long last the much-anticipated day arrived. In the very first verse of this week’s reading, Shemini, Moshe informs the Jews that the Divine Presence is about to descend: “And it came to pass on the eighth day that Moshe called…and said…for this day G-d will appear to you.”
Indeed, it was a great day for the Jewish people, for it marked the commencement of an entirely new era in which G-d’s Presence would rest in the Sanctuary.
Nonetheless, although this was the first day of the new era, we see that it is called “the eighth.” Why? The term “eighth” expresses the day’s unique advantage. In fact, the number eight alludes to a distinct and important attribute.
As a general rule, in Jewish thought the number seven belongs to the realm of nature, whereas the number eight corresponds to the realm of holiness.
The physical world (and the entire natural order) is based on a cycle of seven: seven days of the week, seven years of the Sabbatical cycle of working the land, etc.
The number eight, by contrast, connotes a holiness that is super- natural, a level that transcends the natural order. Some examples: brit mila (circumcision) is performed on the eighth day after birth; the highest level of holiness occurs on the eighth day of Sukkot, on Shemini Atzeret; and the harp that will be played in the Third Holy Temple will consist of eight chords. Similarly, the Divine Presence descended upon the Sanctuary on the eighth day of consecration.
Yet the words “on the eighth day” indicate a relationship to the days that preceded it, for the level of “eight” can only be attained after the preparation of “seven.”
One mustn’t think that G-d will bestow these higher levels of holiness without effort. A Jew has to prepare himself properly before meriting this more exalted level of Divine revelation. Indeed, it was only after seven days of intense preparation that the Jewish people became worthy of the supernatural holiness that descended on the eighth day.
At present we are anticipating the building of the Third Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In the Messianic era we will experience the highest level of holiness, alluded to in the eight strings of Moshiach’s harp. At the same time we must realize that the attainment of this level is dependent on our actions now, during these last few minutes of exile. Moshiach NOW!!!