In Judaism, every number carries a specific energy and meaning. This week’s parshah, Shemini, “eight” (referring to the eighth day following the seven days of the inauguration of the Tabernacle), is a chance to think about the spiritual symbolism of the numbers seven and eight.

The number seven appears throughout the Torah quite often: there are seven days of creation,Seven represents the natural order with the seventh day being the day of rest; the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, Tishrei, is the month of the festivals; and there are seven-year cycles, culminating in the Sabbatical year of Shemittah. The Kabbalists explain that since the natural world was created in seven days through the seven Divine emotional attributes, the number seven represents the natural order.1

The number eight, however, is the power of holiness that is greater than nature. When we encounter the number eight in the Torah, the Torah is alerting us that the topic we are discussing is one that transcends the natural expectation. It is the power of infinity.

Upon fulfillment of G‑d’s commandment “And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst,”2 there was a seven-day inaugural celebration. During each of the seven days, the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was erected and sacrifices were offered. Yet, throughout the seven days of inauguration, there was no sign of the Divine Presence. For it is beyond the natural ability of a human being to draw down a Divine revelation into this world of spiritual concealment.

Only on the eighth day, the day representing the infinity of G‑d, did the Divine Presence reveal itself in the Mishkan. As the Torah describes:

And it was on the eighth day . . . and the glory of the L‑rd appeared to all the people . . . And fire went forth from before the L‑rd and consumed the burnt offering and the fats upon the altar, and all the people saw, sang praises, and fell upon their faces.3

The number eight seems to contain two conflicting elements. On the one hand, the number eight is in a class of its own, separate from the cycle of nature. Yet on the other hand, the number eight is a direct continuation of the number seven. This seeming paradox, explain the mystics, captures the mystery of the number eight. While the supernatural Divine energy cannot be drawn down by the human being and can only be gifted to us by G‑d Himself, G‑d chooses to reveal the energy of the number eight only after people invest themselves in achieving the number seven. Thus, only after the people celebrated the seven days of inauguration, representing the culmination of human achievement, did G‑d reveal the eighth dimension—that which transcends nature and could be expressed by the will of G‑d alone.

There are times when we are called upon toThe goal may seem elusive accomplish feats that we may think are beyond our natural capacity, whether in our personal life, our professional life, in our role as spouse, child, parent, friend or community member. The goal may seem elusive, far beyond anything we can imagine ourselves accomplishing. We are sometimes called upon to perform what is no less than a miracle: to bring spirituality, inspiration, goodness and kindness to a spiritually desolate environment. We tell ourselves that we don’t possess the ability to create transformation. We tell ourselves that only a miracle can help. We tell ourselves that the job is not for us.

The answer to our despondency lies within the number eight.

Indeed, to break free of our natural limitation is beyond our ability, for the infinity of the number eight is gifted from above. Yet, eight follows seven. When we do all that is within our capacity, when we commit to the full “seven days of inauguration,” then we are assured that on “the eighth day,” G‑d will bless our efforts with His infinite ability.4