The Infinity of Eight - שמיני

Thursday, 24 March, 2022 - 9:36 pm


The Infinity of Eight 

Finally, after many months of construction and seven days of preparation, the children of Israel reached the climactic eighth day. Finally, after months of effort and anticipation, the Divine presence rested in the Tabernacle. As the Torah tells us:  

And Moses and Aaron went into the Tent of Meeting. Then they came out and blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.

And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fats upon the altar, and all the people saw, sang praises, and fell upon their faces. (Leviticus 9:23-24)

If G-d is everywhere, why did he command us to build a home for him in a specific place? If G-d is spiritual, why does he ask for a physical home? A similar but broader question: If G-d is spiritual and transcendent, why do we need concrete and physical acts, the Torah's 613 commandments, to connect to him? 

The answer is that spirituality or infinity do not capture the essence of G-d, who is undefinable. The only thing we know about G-d is that he cannot be defined. G-d cannot be confined to the spiritual realm, for G-d defies all definitions. As the Kabbalists write: "the Infinite light is completely perfect, just like Hecan express himself in the realm of the finite, so too He can express himself in the realm of the infinite." G-d can be grasped only in the interface between physical and spiritual, which indicates that he transcends them both. Therefore, when G-d chooses to express himself within finite space and within a physical act, when G-d invests his infinity within a defined space, that is when we touch the essence of G-d.

This is expressed in the name of the Parsha "Eighth." The number seven represents the natural cycle and includes the six days of creation, which represent the physical domain, and the seventh day of Shabbat, which represents holiness and spirituality. The number eight, by contrast, transcends the division between material and spiritual, holy and mundane, and represents the fusion of the two, where the infinite G-d enters the finite space. 

"Know G-d in all your ways." Judaism teaches us to connect to G-d not only by praying and studying but also by infusing our daily physical acts with spiritual meaning. Because only within the synthesis of the physical and spiritual can we touch the essence of G-d, which transcends them both. 

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Shmini 5762

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