What makes you and I special? Often we look for external evidence for the answer. We each know how special our child, our significant other, our friend, are. But is the specialness we recognize in them truly due to the talents, the deeds, and or the physical or other characteristics that we like to point out? I would suggest not.
The specialness we recognize stems from our intimate access to a deeper spiritual quality inside ourselves and others. We call that quality holiness. The word holy, Kadosh, קדוש, in Jewish tradition means “special”, “unique”, “different”. God is sacred, a place is holy, or a person is Kadosh because we experience them as special, stand alone or somehow off-limits.
Most of us think of the seventh day, or Shabbat, as the holy/special day in the Jewish week. But in fact there is a special virtual day, as it were, holier than Shabbat. It is known as the Eighth Day, Yom HaShemini, יום השמיני (Leviticus 9: 1). It is so special that it doesn’t appear on the normal seven day calendar cycle. The Eighth Day, Yom HaShemini, יום השמיני, is conceptual, creative, and reserved for special milestones.
For example, the circumcision ceremony, Bris, is always performed on the eight day after birth. The holiday of Sukkot concludes with Shemini Atzeret, the “Eighth Day gathering”, and Hanukkah ends on the eight day. The Mishkan, משכן, the original desert version of the Holy Temple, that housed the tablets of the Ten Commandments, was inaugurated on the Eighth Day (ibid.).
According to the “Beit Avraham”, Rabbi Avraham Winberg (Early 20th century Bernowitch, Russia), “the number eight represents the paradigm of detachment from the physical world, as eight surpasses the seven days of creation. It is the unifying principle that, at once, permeates and supersedes the structures of physical reality”. In fact, the number eight stretched horizontally is the mathematical symbol for infinity, “lemniscate”. Furthermore, the Hebrew word for eight, Shemonah, שמונה, conceals within it, in scrambled form, the Hebrew word for soul, Neshama, נשמה.
Therefore, the special eighth day that is reserved for unique milestones along the life cycle and calendar cycle, such as circumcision and Shmini Atzeret, represents a spiritual quality that stands outside of ordinary existence. Eight is the numerical expression of specialness. It represents a corner of reality that is deeper and exists beyond the visible. “Eight” is the specialness in each one of us as per each our most inner soul-print. It is a reminder of the sacredness, that hides beneath the greatest as well as lowest of tangibles. The Eight Day, Yom HaShemini, יום השמיני could be considered as the “Jewish day of the soul”, our soul and that of others, the special interior we are charged to cherish and nourish. Eight for holy, eight for special, as special and unique as you truly really are.
Rabbi Reuben Modek