"And it was on the eighth day"
Imagine if you had an eighth day? One extra day in the week. Imagine all the things you could accomplish on that day, things that you can just never get to during the seven day week. In this week's Torah reading we read about the eighth day, and G-d, (and Israel), were, indeed, able to affect many incredible reality changing accomplishments: On this, the eighth day, Moses erected the Tabernacle, the Divine Service began, ten crowns descended upon the day itself, G-d's Presence, the Divine Shechinah, rested on Earth, and Israel's offerings were accepted by Heaven! Wow!
It's no coincidence that this day was also the first day of the month of Nisan, the day that G-d told Israel, while still in Egypt, "This month shall be to you the head of the months; to you it shall be the first of the months of the year." (Exodus 12:2) It was exactly one year following this commandment, (the first that Israel received as a nation), that the eighth day took place, and all the above mentioned events were accomplished.
Of course, the eighth day that Torah refers to isn't literally an additional day to our seven day week, but it was the day that followed the seven days of "miluim," the days of inauguration, in which Moses, according to Midrash, each day assembled and disassembled the Tabernacle. The great kabbalist Yitzchak Luria points out that this seven day process of establishing and then removing the Tabernacle, is an echo of an identical process which took place on the highest, most supernal level of Divine consciousness before the created world was finally established, like the Tabernacle, for keeps. This is in keeping with our understanding that the establishment of the Tabernacle and the resting of the Divine Shechinah was, in effect. a "re-creation" of the world. Twenty six generations and seven months after Adam harishon - Adam, the first man - was expelled from the Garden of Eden, and, in effect, G-d's presence was expelled from the world that He created, man and G-d have been reconciled, and again share the same space, in the Holy Tabernacle, and beyond.
Now Nadav and Avihu, the two eldest sons of Aharon the High Priest, were swept up in the moment. The beauty and import of the far-reaching upgrades in reality that were simultaneously occurring on this eighth day so inspired them, that these two righteous souls sought, literally, to take matters into their own hands. "And Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before HaShem foreign fire, which He had not commanded them. And fire went forth from before HaShem and consumed them, and they died before HaShem." (Leviticus 10:1-2)
The two men offered up the finest and most beloved to G-d of all offerings, the incense offering. It was "foreign" to G-d, not in the sense that it was an idolatrous offering, G-d forbid, but simply because, unlike the other offerings of the day, this offering was not commanded by G-d. Their death should not be seen as a punishment, but rather as an attainment of closeness to G-d that is simply unsustainable on this earth. This may be what Moses is hinting at when he says, "This is what HaShem spoke, [when He said], 'I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.'" (ibid 10:3)
Our Torah portion later goes on to describe the laws concerning which animals are pure, and may be eaten, and which are not. These laws of kashrut which apply to every man, woman and child of Israel, each and every day, our sages teach us, are placed here, following the untimely deaths of Nadav and Avihu, to teach us that that which Nadav and Avihu sought to achieve, on a moment's notice, can indeed be achieved, not just for the moment, but for the entirety of our days on earth. The beauty of the eighth day, the day in which man and G-d re-embraced, can and should be relived and re-experienced, and we can do this, Torah teaches us, through the fulfillment of the commandments which effect our lives each and every day.
The next time we daydream about an eighth day, and all the things that we could accomplish, if only such a day existed, we need to remind ourselves that this eighth day really does exist. This is the day of our lives, and by embracing the Divine Shechinah, the presence of G-d through our daily deeds, we can bring together heaven and earth.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the finishing touches to creation, which take place in this week's Torah reading of Shmini, which begins with the words "And it was on the eighth day..." And this day was none other than Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the first day of the month of Nisan, soon to be upon us. What is so special about this day, that led our sages to declare that it was "decorated with ten crowns?" What is the connection between the dedication of the Tabernacle and the creation of the world?
Purim is past and Passover is just around the corner. This Shabbat, "parshat Parah," is the third "Special Shabbat" in the sequence that leads up to Passover and is dedicated to the Red Heifer. TEMPLE TALK focuses on this mysterious precept, the light it sheds on political correctness, modesty and limitations, and explores the essence of purity in an impure world.