To the Eighth Degree

Categories: Parsha, Shemini

Art by Rivka Korf Studio


This week we read the Parsha, Shemini, which literally means “Eighth.” There are some laws of kosher animals and various laws surrounding purity, but I’m going to focus on the name of the Parsha. The Eighth refers to the day on which, after the seven days of inauguration, Aaron, the high priest of his day, was able to begin performing the service in the Tabernacle. The eighth day was the day it became “official.” What is the significance of the eighth day? Seven is known within Judaism as the natural number, signified by the days of the week, through thick or thin, seven days. Some longer, some shorter but always seven days—it’s the natural order of things. And then there is eight. When we think of the number 8, we think of the eight days leading to circumcision/Bris, or eight days of Chanukah or the eight days of our upcoming Passover. These are not “natural” events. The Bris is the symbol of something beyond logic because it’s performed on a child before he can understand, Chanukah celebrates a miracle that overrode the natural order, and Passover commemorates a host of otherworldly occurrences that allowed a nation of slaves to overcome a superpower. So what does eight signify? It means that yes, we need to put in the work in this world. The Jewish people needed to search for the oil, and parents must make that commitment to perform a Bris on their son, but, the end of the day, we are a miraculous people. And we must always remember that. Whether the miracles are overt or concealed within nature, they are integral to our story. As the line goes (I’ve heard it attributed to the Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir), “as Jews, we don’t believe in miracles, we rely on them!” We all need to put in the work, then we need to believe that a higher, G-dly power will allow for whatever work we put in to come to fruition. So let us work the week, let us make the most of the seven and let us trust that G-d will give us a wonderful, productive week ahead. Good Shabbos!

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