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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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Discussion (11)
July 31, 2016
Wondering why there were eight ceiling beams inside the Temple in Jerusalem?
January 27, 2015
What other numbers mean In kabbalistic teachings?
March 26, 2014
Thank you for this information, now everything makes a lot more sense.
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.
Mr. Mitchel Schapira
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
Clayton Slutsky
Holmdel, NJ
January 21, 2011
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.
redlands, ca
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.
pj, malaysia
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.
adrian oliver
monterrey, mexico
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
jerusalem, israel
December 16, 2009
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
coconut creek, fl