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Seven or Eight?

Friday, 21 April, 2017 - 1:29 pm

What happens when days and nights are blurred into one? I remember the difficulty of sleeping in S. Petersburg, Russia in the summertime when it doesn’t get dark at night. The White Nights cause a surreal feeling that challenges one’s natural rhythm of time and order.

***

In this week’s parsha Shemini, which means “eighth,” we read about the eighth day of inauguration for the Mishkan, the holy Sanctuary.  For seven days, Ahron and his priestly sons were initiated into the service by Moshe.  On the eighth day they finally were allowed to perform the rituals on their own.

What is the significance of the seven days and the eighth day? And, why are the first seven days in one Torah portion and the last day in another? Shouldn’t the entire process be together?

***

Matzah, matzah and more matzah. Eight days of liberation therapy. 

Pesach has come and gone. Hopefully, it’s not just a thing of the past, but deeply ingrained within us.

In fact, it isn’t really gone. According to the Torah, the conclusion of Pesach is actually some 50 days later on Shavuot. Shavuot is the festival that commemorates the Giving of the Torah at Sinai – the culmination and purpose of the Exodus from Egypt.

The Torah commands us to count seven weeks from the second day of Passover until Shavuot. It also tells us to count 49 days and proclaim the fiftieth day as a festival – Shavuot!

My son, Zali, will be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah on Shavuot.  He’s pretty stoked that the Torah set up a worldwide campaign to count down to his big day! Seriously, it’s a big deal to receive the word of G-d. So, we count down (or up) to this momentous day.

But, why does the Torah tell us to count both days and weeks? Can’t we do the math ourselves and figure it out?

The mystics explain that both the daily and weekly cycles represents nature. Each day is defined by the natural cycle of light and darkness.  Shabbat, the culmination of our week, is the holiest day. It commemorates perfection within nature, creation of the universe.

However, there is a clear difference between the two. Days are clearly demarcated. The abyss between each day allows for sleep and renewal.

Weeks, on the other hand, require human endeavor to differentiate between one another. We are accustomed to the break of one workweek or school-week to the next, but it is a product of society rather than natural occurring reminders.

The daily routine represents a more personalized endeavor. My own body clock understands this cycle.

The weekly cycle is more generalized. It exists, but I might be oblivious to it.

Spiritually speaking, they represent the general efforts at refining ourselves and the world around us versus the very personal endeavor of addressing each individual character trait.

Since there are seven character traits in the human psyche, we are given seven weeks to perfect each of our emotional attributes (each attribute contains a mixture of the others; 7x7=49).

When we have thoroughly perfected every attribute, we are truly free. Then we are ready to receive the Torah.

***

The Torah is a gift from G-d. No human can ever achieve the degree of perfection offered by the Torah – unless G-d chooses to share it with us. Luckily, that happened and we are the fortunate beneficiaries.

That supernatural gift is compared to the number eight – above nature. Or, in the scheme of 49 days, it is referred to as the Fiftieth Gate of Understanding.

***

When I achieve all I can, gradually putting together the pieces of my soul, I am now a suitable vessel to receive the supernatural gifts from G-d.  One day at a time and one week at a time, we can indeed become supernatural.

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