...the number 7 is a reference to this world….

There is an interesting counterpoint in the name of this week's Torah Portion, called "Shabbat Shemini". Shabbat is the seventh day, and "shemini" means "eighth". The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that there is a lesson here as to how to serve G‑d: On the one hand, we have the 6 days of the week with Shabbat, the weekly repetition of the completion of the entire Creation again by G‑d. On the other hand, the 7 days of the week are also called "the 7 days of tikun/repair" and refer to our efforts to change and uplift this world. Either way, from G‑d's perspective or from mankind's perspective, the context of the number 7 is a reference to this world, within the spiritual and physical confines of the Creation itself.

Conversely, the number 8 hints at a level that is higher than the existence of the created world, a level that is not confined by it. On Shabbat Shemini both aspects are combined together. Even the person who has struggled and reached an appropriate level of fulfillment of the "seven" is required to make the effort to raise him or herself above the limitations of the world, to do even more.

How do you do it? How does one push and even exceed the limits to reach the transcendent eight? The most obvious way would be to take on more and more to demonstrate our attachment to G‑d.

Unfortunately this is not always the case. The Rebbe Rayatz (quoted from Otzar Pisgamai Chabad) wrote in a letter to one of his disciples something that his father said once at a Chassidic gathering:

...the simple naiveté of being G‑d fearing are the keys that open all...the doors of the supernal chambers….

"The supernal chambers of spiritual reality, where a soul goes after life in This World (or where certain lofty souls can travel even during their lifetimes) only allow entrance to those who are fitting. Someone who is not fitting, even if he is a baal nefesh, i.e. someone who works on himself, or a great Torah scholar, or even one who can intellectually grasp very high levels of spiritual consciousness, is not given access. Accepting the yoke of heaven, i.e. doing what is required of us, not what we want to do - the simple naiveté of being G‑d fearing - are the keys that open all the locks of all of the doors of the supernal chambers." This is also one explanation of what happened to the sons of Aaron, who were killed because they offered to G‑d "a strange fire", that they were not commanded to.

This is why the Torah portion begins by speaking about things that are very lofty - the 8th day of the dedication of the Tabernacle that initiated the dwelling of the Divine Presence upon it. While at the other extreme, the portion ends with the divine prohibitions of eating creepers and crawlers, things that are anyway naturally disgusting to a person. Being on a high spiritual level, knowing a lot, even doing a lot, is not necessarily a key to true spiritual success. The very best advice to protect oneself from mistakes is to relate to Judaism in a simple and total way - do what the Torah demands of us because G‑d said so - just like a simple person. Do not make excuses for yourself, even if the excuse is because you want to do something even more holy, something loftier. Once we have the basics covered, there is always room to grow - and safely.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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