The Significance Of The 8th Day
II Kings 7:3-20.
he Torah declares that the
consecration of a newborn
male as a member of the
Jewish people, is to take place on the
eighth day after the baby's birth; of
this, we are commanded in this week's
Torah portion. Why on the eighth
Last week, we were told "On the
eighth day, Moses called Aaron and
his sons ..." This was after Aaron and
his sons had spent seven days conse-
crating themselves to serve as the
priests of the people of Israel. On the
eighth day, Moses calls to them, and
they appear before the whole assembly ,
of the people to be publicly consecrat-
ed as priests. Why on the eighth day?
It might be supposed that such cer-
emonies should take place on the sev-
Irwin Groner is rabbi emeritus of
Congregation Shaarey Zedek.
enth day? Seven is such a typical num-
of Sukkot. The holiday of Chanukah
ber in the Bible, and seems to be the
is famous for its eight days. Jewish tra-
natural number of cyclical occur-
dition tells of the pure oil which
rences. Sabbath is the seventh day and
burned for eight days instead of one.
signifies the end of a week. Seven
All this shows that we have two
weeks are counted in order to have
special numbers in Jewish tradition:
the Sabbatical year of rest for the land,
seven and eight. Seven days, or years,
for in the seventh year, no working of
constitute a seemingly natural cycle.
the land is allowed. So, if seven is
But the eighth day is the day of tran-
such a meaningful number, why is the
sition, the day when new roles are
eighth day the one set aside
assumed. The newborn is
for acts of consecration?
just a baby, not formally ini-
Let us consider other
tiated to any nation, until
events that occur on the
the brit mitah on the eighth
eighth day. All cleansing rit-
day. He then becomes a
uals in the Torah, whether it
member of the Jewish peo-
is a leper or someone with
ple, a partner in the
emissions, are done on the
covenant of Abraham.
eighth day. That is, the
Aaron and his sons under-
unclean person must wait
went preparation to be
seven days observing rituals
priests for seven days; but
of cleansing; and on the
on the eighth day, they
eighth day, that person
assumed the role of priests
a I to the
brings a sacrifice and leaves
in front of all Israel.
the state of uncleanliness.
Rabbi Pinchas Peli
The holiday of Sukkot
offered this interpretation.
ends with a holy day, which is the
The eighth day is special because it
eighth day, Shemini Atzeret.
adds another dimension to God's cre-
Solomon's dedication of the Temple
ation. If seven is the number conse-
was for eight days, during the festival
crated by God, it is eight that man,
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the partner of God in the world, can
add to the sanctity of the world. On
the eighth day, we sanctify God's cre-
ation and thus bring about consecra-
Yet, the seventh day remains the
holy day. Indeed, the reason that the
eighth day is chosen is because the
newborn must have lived through a
Shabbat before he can be consecrated
to the people Israel. A Jew must expe-
rience Shabbat as the potential to
become a member of the nation is
actualized only after the holiness of
one Shabbat has passed. After experi-
encing God's holy Sabbath, man can
then participate in the task of increas-
inc, holiness in the world, fulfillinc, his
b as the partner of the Lord.
What is there about the experi-
ence of Shabbat that is so vital to
one's being able to "fulfill his
task as the partner of the Lord"?
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