THE POWER OF EIGHT – Sedrah Shmini, Lev.9 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon
It happened on the eighth day. Following the seven days of consecration for Aaron and his sons the priests, they had to bring an offering into the newly dedicated Tabernacle in the desert. What’s so special about the eighth day?
We tend to think of 7 as a sacred number. Seven Biblical days of creation, seven days of the week, seven heavens, etc. But 8 has its own power. Remember the one-day jar of sacred oil that miraculously burned for eight days for the Maccabees, giving us the 8 days of Hanukkah. Of course Succoth is a seven-day holiday, but the 8th day is an occasion of its own called Shmini Atzeret – the Eighth Day Assembly, when we observe the change of seasons and pray for rain and mark our memories of loved ones. And it is on the eighth day of a Jewish boy’s life that he enters the Covenant of Abraham. In fact, the Kli Yokorcommentary points out that if that boy’s 8th day happens to coincide with a Sabbath (each week’s number 7), the Bris takes precedence.
You might say other numbers have their own power. They do. Seated around the Seder table we sang “Who Knows One – Echad Mee Yodeya?” –singling out each number for its own significance. This week let’s acknowledge number 8. The commentary stresses that only on the 8th day of dedication of the Tabernacle were our ancestors expecting to witness the glory of G-d. Why on this particular day? Because the 8th day has special sanctity. Quoting the Midrash, the Kli Yokor commentator points out that the Torah repeatedly praises Moses with the word “az – then.” Az is spelled with the letter Aleph (numerical value of 1) and Zayin (numerically 7), referring to verses like “Then I came to speak in Your name,” or “Then Moses sang,” etc. So he continues: “The 1 habitually rides on the other 7, and confirms Divine sovereignty over the 7 traveling stars (a classic name for the 7 luminaries that were presumed to orbit the earth) and over all that existed after the 7 days of creation. Therefore G-d’s presence appeared to them exactly on this day because it was the 8th. That is why the offering would be accepted only from this day on. This number is His alone.”
If you happen to be the 8th child in your family , as my father was, or if this week you celebrate your 8th wedding anniversary, an extra Mazel Tov to you for Sedrah Shmini! Appreciate number 8.
Comments can also be sent to Rabbi Baruch Cohon at: firstname.lastname@example.org.