After seven days of hard work installing the Tabernacle, on the eighth day the Jewish people merited that G‑d's presence was revealed there. What can we learn from this that will improve our relationship with G‑d?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that the number 7 corresponds to the world in its fullest sense, comparable to the repeating order of the seven days of the week. Consequently, the number 8, one more than 7, relates to the transcendent - higher than the order of nature.

There can be no value of 8 without the preceding 7…

Taking another step, 7 also relates to G‑d limiting His revelation in this world so that physicality can exist. (If G‑d did not do so, the natural reality would be overwhelmed with such a great spiritual inundation, and therefore be utterly nullified before it.) On the other hand, 8 is seen as G‑dly revelation unlimited by natural laws, as when miracles occur. But just as there can be no value of 8 without the preceding 7, so too, the level of 8 is, in fact, connected to reality.

This is similar to our own relationship to G‑d. Even though our efforts are limited by our natural strengths, nevertheless, when we invest ourselves completely in our effort (related to the concept of "seven"), we will cause to shine down on us a level of holiness without limitation and higher than nature (related to "eight"). This is apparent with the Tabernacle in the desert; the efforts made during the seven days of construction were the required preparation for the revelation on the eighth day. What is the bottom line? We have to know that our effort in this dark exile is actually the preparation for the coming redemption. It is only through our effort now, that the divine light will be able to shine then.

Eight is unbounded by the reality of the world…

In a similar way, "Shabbat Shemini" hints at two levels in G‑dly service. Shabbat is the seventh day and completion of the creation process. However, despite being the pinnacle, Shabbat is still part of this natural process. "Shemini", from the Hebrew word meaning "eight", hints at a level superceding nature and creation. Eight is unbounded by the reality of the world. Shabbat Shemini is thus a combination of these two levels. The lesson for us is that even after serving G‑d through all natural means (a feat in itself), one must strive to serve G‑d above the natural reality, not letting the world's limitations affect us.

The Shelah reminds us of the famous Talmudic axiom based on a verse in this week's portion, "Make yourselves holy and you will be holy." (Lev. 11:44) The Talmud writes that a person who tries to sanctify him or herself below, even a little, is helped to be sanctified very much more from Above - both in this world and the world to come. (Yoma 39a) "Sanctify a little from below", refers to the relatively insignificant activities of the body. "Sanctify much more" from Above refers to the gift of eternity to the soul.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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