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What is the Spiritual Significance of the Number Eight?

What is the Spiritual Significance of the Number Eight?


In kabbalistic teachings, the number seven symbolizes perfection – perfection that is achievable via natural means – while eight symbolizes that which is beyond nature and its (inherently limited) perfection.

Some examples:

a) G‑d created the world and its natural order in seven days.

b) Between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot we count seven weeks. During these weeks we work on perfecting our seven emotions (love, fear, compassion, ambition, humility, bonding and receptiveness)—one emotion per week. At the conclusion of these seven weeks we have sufficiently perfected ourselves to be worthy of receiving the Torah on Shavuot. A completed person has control over all seven emotions.

c) The Holy Temple's menorah, which served to illuminate the natural world with the holy glow of spirituality, had seven branches.

e) There are seven colors of the rainbow and seven musical notes. When something has seven parts, it symbolizes that that it has reached its state of completion: the seven notes of the diatonic scale make one complete octave, etc.

Eight, on the other hand, is symbolic of an entity that is one step above the natural order, higher than nature and its limitations. That's why Chanukah is eight days long—the greatly outnumbered Maccabees' resolve to battle the Greeks wasn't logical or natural. They drew on reservoirs of faith and courage that are not part of normative human nature. They therefore merited a miracle higher than nature – a miracle that lasted eight days – and to commemorate this, we light on Chanukah an eight-branched menorah (click here for the full story). In a similar vein, we circumcise our children when they are eight-day old babies, because the brit milah symbolizes our nation's supernatural and logic-defying covenant with G‑d.

Eliezer Posner is a former member of the Ask the Rabbi team.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Anonymous Fiji July 31, 2016

Wondering why there were eight ceiling beams inside the Temple in Jerusalem? Reply

Digita SG January 27, 2015

What other numbers mean In kabbalistic teachings? Reply

Anonymous Canada March 26, 2014

Human Thank you for this information, now everything makes a lot more sense. Reply

Mr. Mitchel Schapira June 27, 2011

7 colors in the spectrum I believe Sir Isaac (Yizchak?) Newton chose to divide the visible spectrum into 7 colors because he believed it was a mystical number. Be that as it may, the number of colors, i.e. the number of divisions of the visible spectrum, is basically arbitrary. However, one should not discount Newton's belief in mystical numbers, as he was familiar with a great deal of esoteric Jewish learning. Reply

Clayton Slutsky Holmdel, NJ June 14, 2011

bad workings I have bad experiance with this number. It is the number of chaos and instability in other circles. I thought it was divine, it wasn't Reply

Terry redlands, ca January 21, 2011

Circumcision Another reason circumscion is done on the 8th day is that Vitamin K, which clots and stops bleeding, is not present in the body until the 8th day. Only G-d knew, until He revealed that to man. Reply

Anonymous pj, malaysia January 3, 2010

luck & good fortune i live in malaysia and over here we have a large chinese population who also are crazy for the number 8 for car number plates, handphones, home numbers etc.. as they believe it signifies fatness & wealth. interesting. i'm not chinese btw. Reply

adrian oliver monterrey, mexico December 16, 2009

the number eight there are 88 keys on the piano and the chess board is 8 times 8 squares, most of the biggest and important skyscrapers in asia are 88 stories, some say eight is infinity, the month eight represents "leo" one of the most respective figures, and much more, if you were born in the year 1988 of august 8 your destiny is beyond your quality
of imagination, believe it. Reply

Anonymous jerusalem, israel December 16, 2009

An Octave An octave is a musical interval consisting of eight notes , not seven as mentioned in article. The first and eighth note are the same , only different in terms of either a higher or lower pitch. The word Octave comes from the word eight. A one octave scale consists of eight notes . How that's connected to the miracle of Chanukah , I don't know. Although one octave sounds complete and whole Reply

Samy poliwoda November 28, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Just wanted to correct your comment, an Octave is composed by 7 notes, it is only that the 8th is a repetition of the 1st one only that in a higher scale for example: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, your see, the eight note in an octave is not a NEW note, rather its a repetition, so technically and practically speaking an Octave (as ironically as it may sound) have 7 real notes. Reply

Anonymous coconut creek, fl December 16, 2009

oil I once heard that the high priest had to wait 8 days before making new oil because he was ritually unclean and had to go to the mikva after 7 days to purify himself. That's why it took 8 days to make new , pure, oil, please clarify Reply

Gisele Brooklyn, NY December 6, 2007

Eight here for Chanukah Besides the Miracle of the candles oil lasting 8 days, is that King Antiochus decreed that no Brit Milah can occur under Helenist rule.
So there is the importance of the nuber 8 here for Chanukah. Reply

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