Shemini—the Eighth Day

· Judaism, kabballah, Torah

The Parsha Shemini is about the completion of the inauguration of the Tabernacle. The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that there is a major distinction between the numbers seven and eight; which explains why the Torah features this eighth day of the Tabernacle is a separate Parsha rather than placing as the completion of the previous Parsha, Vayikro. The number seven represents all things occurring within the natural construct of this finite world, while the number eight represents all things beyond nature, or infinity. Thus during the first seven days of inauguration ceremonies, G-d required Moses to dismantle tabernacle at the end of each day and re-erect it the next morning symbolizing that life in this physical world has a time limit, during which we are required to reach our full potential and make our respective contributions to fulfill the purpose of creation by learning Torah, performing its Mitzvahs and passing it on to the next generation.

However, according to Rashi, the eighth day was the day of re-establishing the eternal connection with the Almighty that we had lost when we stumbled and fumbled with the golden calf. Here at the beginning of this portion, we are witness to the momentous occasion of our reconciliation with our Creator, who is beyond all things natural and supernatural. Once Aaron had achieved atonement with the final offerings of the eighth day, the Shechina descended into full view and all of the people fell on their faces. G-d resumed His place among His people.

Although Rashi gives us clear, concise explanations of things utilizing the nuances of Hebrew grammar, we need to go further to internalize such historical events to understand the relevance that Torah has in our current lives. We are grappling with terrorist attacks in Israel on a daily basis. The worldwide news organizations barely covered the brutal slaughter of Rabbi Udi Fogel, his wife Ruth, 11-year-old Yoav, four-year-old Elad and three-month-old Hadas, intimating that they are settlers in an illegally occupied land deserving of death. Now we are aghast at the bus bombing in Jerusalem killing one woman and injuring thirty others with the worldwide media reporting this as a legitimate retribution for military actions against terrorists in Gaza. Every time the IDF delivers justice against murderers of women and children another murderer kills more women and children. How do we make sense of this upside down world? The Hassidic masters tell us to look to the current Parsha for answers. What we can ascertain is that our existence as a nation is beyond nature because of the way that HaShem completed the inauguration process followed by the introduction of the laws of Kashrut.

Therefore, the message is clear; G-d gave us the mandate to be a Holy nation, separate and apart from the world with a special diet and specific duties to perform 24 hours per day seven days per week. We have rules for everything including when we sleep and how we conduct ourselves during our most private moments. Our existence as a nation is thus beyond nature, beyond human logic. When we try to deal with the rest of the world on their terms we suffer. The secular world does not want us to be a part of it because it knows that it’s survival depends on us being the Holy nation that G-d wants. When we deal with the world on G-d’s terms we succeed. The six day war of 1967 was a perfect example, because three well-armed Arab countries attacked us simultaneously on Sunday morning and their armies all surrendered unconditionally just before Shabbos candle lighting time on Friday night. The Israeli army was so outnumbered and outgunned, that the world expected the annihilation of all the Jews in Israel, who were seen dancing in the streets in celebration of their complete victory.

Consequently, we need to remember that the nation of Islam and the rest of the world will respect us only if we stand up and behave like the Holy Land really belongs to us. When the Arabs see the Israeli military destroying Jewish homes in Samaria, they view the Jews there as a flock of abandoned sheep to be slaughtered at their pleasure with impunity. Now the prime minister says that we will build more homes in response to the recent murders. That’s a step in the right direction, but what follows is the absolute obligation to protect those homes and the people in them. As we think of the eighth day on which G-d rested His Divine presence among His people, we need to remember that His presence is still with us even in exile. Contrary to what many people think, G-d is still the Guardian of Israel, not the United States.

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