1. This Shabbos is distinguished by the fact that those who study three chapters of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah complete the study of that text in its totality today.1 This completes the seventh cycle of the study of the Mishneh Torah and directly afterwards, we begin the eighth cycle of study.

Whenever the study of a Torah text is concluded — even by a single individual, it is proper to make a celebration2 to be attended by others. Surely this applies when many Jews have joined together in studying a text like the Mishneh Torah which includes the entire Oral Torah.

Even those who, at present, do not study three chapters a day themselves should also join in this celebration. The Talmud relates that Abaye would hold a celebration when he saw another sage finish a Talmudic tractate. Thus even those who themselves did not study that tractate shared the happiness of the individual who did, to the point where the celebration became “theirs.”

The rationale for the above is that since all are participating in a single study — although one is studying one tractate and the other a different one — all have a share in the celebration.3 Thus, in regard to the study of the Rambam’s works, even those who study one chapter a day or who study Sefer HaMitzvos have a share in the celebration of those who study three chapters a day.4

Furthermore, since the study of the Mishneh Torah has spread throughout the international Jewish community — and thus, is considered as an established custom — the celebration of the conclusion of its study relates to the entire Jewish people. To draw a parallel to the Written Torah: Since the Torah is “the inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov,” the heritage of every Jew, even those Jews who are presently not involved with Torah study celebrate on Simchas Torah. Similarly, since the study of the Mishneh Torah has become an accepted Jewish custom, every Jew has a connection with it.

In particular, there is a unique significance to the fact that we are concluding the seventh cycle of study and beginning the eighth. In general, each time we start a new cycle of study we must follow the principle, “Always ascend higher in holy matters,” and reach a higher level of study. Furthermore, each increase must be greater and more inclusive than the increase which preceded it. Beyond this, however, there is a unique significance to the numbers seven and eight.

Seven represents a complete cycle. Thus, in the realm of time — which together with space defines the basic condition of our material world — we find that the week is divided into seven days and similarly, there will be seven millennia of creation.5 Similarly, the Jewish people are divided into seven groups as reflected in the use of the Menorah with its seven branches as a metaphor for the Jewish people. Each branch represents a different path of service which, in turn, has its source in one of G‑d’s seven emotional qualities. Thus, completing the seventh cycle of the study of the Mishneh Torah reflects a state of completion within the natural order.

In contrast, the number eight reflects an ascent above all limits for the number eight is above the cycle of the natural order and draws down an encompassing light which “protects the cycle.” Thus, eight is connected with the concept of redemption as reflected by our Sages’ statement that the harp of the Messianic age will have eight strands. Similarly, cheirus, the Hebrew word for “freedom” begins with the letter ches which is numerically equivalent to eight.6

There is an allusion to this concept in the conclusion of the Mishneh Torah which quotes the verse, “And the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the water covers up the ocean bed.” “The earth” refers to the natural order. It will be “filled with the knowledge of G‑d,” i.e., reach a state of fulfill­ment. This reflects the level of the number seven.7 The phrase, “as the water covers up the ocean bed,” implies a state of ful­fillment that transcends the natural order in which the earth is covered up by the waters [— “the waters of pure knowledge” —] until all that is perceived is the water itself. This reflects the level of the number eight.

The significance of the completion of the study of the Mishneh Torah is enhanced by the day on which its study is completed, the eighth of Cheshvan. The seventh of Cheshvan is the day when “the last person in Israel (who took part in the pilgrimage to the Beis HaMikdash) returned to (his home on) the Euphrates.” Thus, on the day after the direct influence of Simchas Torah — the celebration of the conclusion of the reading of the Written Law — is concluded, we complete the study of the Oral Law, the Mishneh Torah.

The connection between the numbers seven and eight is also reflected in that the Mishneh Torah’s study is concluded on the eighth day of the month. It is also Shabbos, the seventh day of the week. The above is also connected to the present year, 5751, a year when, “I will show you wonders.” The latter phrase refers to the Messianic age which, as explained above, is connected with the number eight.

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2. This week’s Torah portion, Parshas Lech Lecha, shares a connection to the above concepts: This portion begins with the command, “Go out of your land, your native country, and your father’s house,” which is interpreted by Chassidic thought as a directive to leave one’s habits and regular pattern of daily life.

Before receiving this command, Avraham had reached a high spiritual level. At the age of three, he “recognized his Creator,” and from then onward, he advanced in the service of G‑d. Nevertheless, at the age of seventy five, he was given this command to leave his previous rung of service, a rung that was connected with service within the limits of the world, and told to proceed to a higher level, “the land which I (G‑d) will show you,”8 a level above the world’s limits.

This relates to the difference between the service of emotion and intellect mentioned previously. Seventy five represents the ultimate in emotional service for seventy is seven times ten, i.e., a complete expression of all seven emotional qualities and five represents the five expressions of chessed which are the source for our emotional qualities. After reaching this level, Avraham was instructed to ascend higher, to leave Charan (which represents the throat, the intermediary between intellect and emotion) and reach the level of the intellect itself.9

For this reason, the covenant promising Avraham the lands of the Keni, Knizi and the Kadmoni (who represent the three intellectual qualities) was made at that time. This higher level is also reflected at the conclusion of the Torah portion which describes the covenant of circumcision. A circumcision is made on the eighth day of a child’s life, a level of completion that transcends the level of seven.10

This leads to a transcendent revelation of G‑dliness as described in Parshas Vayeira. Before the circumcision, only those levels of G‑dliness which related to creation could be revealed to Avraham. After the circumcision, he could appreciate even those levels which transcend creation.

3. The conclusion of the Mishneh Torah gives us the potential to increase our study of the Mishneh Torah beyond its previous levels. We should publicize the study of the Mishneh Torah and interest more Jews in joining one of the study cycles (preferably, the cycle of three chapters a day; if not, one chapter a day or the study of Sefer HaMitzvos). In this manner, more Jews will become involved in the study of this text which includes the entire Oral Law.

Even a person who has himself completed seven cycles of study of the Mishneh Torah should involve himself in the efforts to spread this study to others. He might think that, rather than try to influence another person to study, he should do something in which he knows he will be successful, study the Mishneh Torah himself. Nevertheless, it is appropriate for him to go out and try to influence another person who has never studied the text.

The same applies to our efforts to spread the wellsprings of Yiddishkeit and Chassidus outward. One might think that, rather than involve himself in these activities, it is preferable for him to devote his time to studying Chassidus himself. He must realize that this is an incorrect approach. Today, spreading Yiddishkeit is a matter of pikuach nefesh, i.e., the very existence of many members of our people are threatened and can be saved by these activities. As such, everyone even a person who has already reached a high level of study should involve himself in these activities. Indeed, in regard to pikuach nefesh, our Sages have taught that, a gadol, a person who has already reached an advanced level should set an example and show others how important it is to be involved in these activities.

There is an allusion to such efforts in the beginning of Parshas Vayeira. There, the Torah relates how G‑d saw that Avraham desired guests and, therefore, sent him angels who appeared to him as guests.

There is a difficulty in this explanation. Why did G‑d send angels who did not eat and have them appear to eat? On the surface, by showing hospitality to such angels Avraham would not have fulfilled the mitzvah of hachnassas orchim (showing hospitality to guests). Why would G‑d fool Avraham and have him think that he is fulfilling the mitzvah of hachnassas orchim when he is not? Furthermore, from this passage, our Sages derive the principle, “Hachnassas orchim is greater than receiving the Divine Presence.” How can such a concept be derived from an activity which was really not hachnassas orchim?

These questions force us to say that, in fact, Avraham’s activity was an expression of hachnassas orchim. When the angels descended to this world, they took on the characteristics of men. Although their own level was above that of our material world, they descended into this world and, for the time being, acted like men of this world. Therefore, in tending to them, Avraham actually fulfilled the mitzvah of hachnassas orchim.

The angels’ behavior teaches us an important lesson regarding our activities with others. When involving ourselves with people on a lower level, we must be willing to descend temporarily, for a time, to enter their frame of reference and way of thinking. Only in this manner will our efforts have a real effect upon them.

May our activities in spreading Yiddishkeit and Chassidus, and in particular, spreading the Rambam’s teachings, hasten the coming of the time when G‑d will lead the entire Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael,11 as it exists in a complete manner, “from the land of Egypt until the Euphrates River,” including the lands of the Keni, Knizi, and the Kadmoni with the coming of Mashiach. Then, we will merit the ultimate revelation of G‑dliness as the Rambam writes:

The occupation of the entire world will be only to know G‑d. The Jews will be great Sages and know hidden matters, attaining knowledge of their Creator to [the full extent of human potential as it is written, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover up the ocean bed.”