By: Rabbi Dovid Markel
The beginning of this week’s Torah portion begins with the following verses. “And it was on the eighth day, that Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel. And he said to Aaron: Take for yourself a young bull as a sin-offering, and a ram as an elevation-offering—unblemished, and bring [them] before the HaShem. And to the Children of Israel, you shall speak, as follows: Take a he-goat as a sin offering, and a calf and a sheep, in their first year—unblemished, as an elevation-offering, and a bull and a ram as peace-offerings, to slaughter before HaShem, and a meal-offering mixed with oil; for today HaShem is appearing to you. They took what Moses had commanded, to the front of the Tent of Meeting; and the entire community approached and stood before HaShem. Moses said: This is the thing HaShem has commanded; do [it], and the glory of the HaShem will appear to you.”
In the above verses, the Torah describes the service of the the day that Aaron began serving in the Mishkan and the time when the Glory of HaShem finally returned to reside amongst the Jewish people. Previously, the Jewish people had sinned with the golden calf and G-d’s Glory had left them. On the tenth of Tishrei (Yom Kippur) however, Hashem finally forgave the Jewish people, and on this day, Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the Jews brought a calf sacrifice, signifying that G-d had forgiven them and that they were once again worthy of having His Glory amongst them. For seven days prior, Moshe alone had served in the Mishkan. On the eighth day, the actual service of the Mishkan commences with the revelation of Hashem’s Presence and the service of Aaron as the high priest.
The verse describes this special event as happening on “the eighth day.” Commentators though are bothered by this description, and question the reason for this title. The day of this commencement should have been counted as day one and not day eight, as there is seemingly no continuum to the days that precede it. Furthermore, the seven days previous are known as the “shiv-as yimei ha-miluim” – the seven days of inauguration, during which Moshe assembled the Mishkan each morning, and offered korobanos on the mizbeiach. The eighth day therefore, was not an additional day of the inauguration, but the first day of the actual service in the Mishkan. Why then does the Torah say, “and it was on the eighth day?”
Rabbi Ephraim Luntschitz explains the reason for this in his commentary, the Keli Yakar. He relates that the Torah’s description of “the eighth day” hints to the reason that the Glory of G-d specifically appeared only then, as opposed to the seven days prior, when Moshe had performed the service.
The significance of this day, which held the key to the revelation of G-dliness, was that it was day number eight. He explains that the number seven represents the mundane, while the number eight is one that expresses holiness.
We see this idea expressed in the Medrash during the time that Moshe began the song of “Az Yashir” at the splitting of the sea. The beginning word “az-אז”, explains the Medrash, holds a special meaning. The word is a composite of the two letters, Aleph (א) and Zayin (ז). Alef has the numerical value of one and Zayin the value of seven. The fact that the Aleph is the first letter of the word signifies that the it rules over the Zayin, the number seven.
As mentioned, seven represents all that is mundane and worldly. The universe was created in seven days and there are seven moving heavenly bodies. The world is essentially bound with the number seven.
The number eight however, signifies overcoming nature and revealing the G-dliness that is above nature. For this reason, a Bris Mila – signifying the Jewish people’s holy covenant with the Almighty – is on the eighth day, and the harp of the Messianic times – which will usher in an era when G-d’s Presence will be openly revealed – will also have eight strings.
It is for this reason, says the Keli Yakar, that the verse stresses that the day that G-d’s Glory was revealed was the eighth day. During the first seven days, the G-dliness that was able to permeate the Mishkan was one that was attached to nature. Only on the eighth day, when the worldly boundaries were broken, was G-d’s Glory finally able to be revealed in the Mishkan.