The Torah portion Shemini concludes:1 “To distinguish between the unclean and the clean….” Rashi explains2 this to mean: to distinguish between a kosher animal that had only half its windpipe severed during ritual slaughter, (thus rendering it non-kosher, or ritually unclean), and an animal that had the majority of its windpipe severed (thus rendering it kosher, or ritually clean).

Thus, the conclusion of Shemini informs us that such an infinitesimal difference more than suffices to bring about a distinction between tameh and tahor , unclean and clean.

The title of a Torah portion applies to all its verses.3 In fact, because “The beginning is embedded in the end and the end in the beginning,”4 the title is particularly reflected in a portion’s conclusion.

This being so, we must understand the connection between the conclusion of the portion which deals with the concept of clean and unclean and the title Shemini , “Eighth” — the day that followed the seven days of the Tabernacle’s consecration.

Especially so since “eight” signifies a concept that far transcends the numbers one through seven, for as the Keli Yakar explains,5 all aspects of creation fall within the cycle of “seven” — the “Seven Days of Creation” — while “eight” is “unique to G‑d Himself.” Indeed, this is why this eighth day “received ten crowns.”6

As further elucidated by our Sages,7 the cycle of “seven” includes not only those things encompassed by creation, but also the degree of G‑dliness vested within creation. “Eight,” however, alludes to a level of G‑dliness that transcends creation.

Since Shemini relates to so lofty a level, concerning which the verse states:8 “Evil does not dwell with You,” how does the “unclean” enter the picture?

The difference between unclean and clean dealt with at the conclusion of Shemini is minuscule: sever exactly half the windpipe and the animal is non-kosher; anything more than that and the animal is kosher.

In such a situation it is easy to err and think that unclean is clean. In order to be able to determine an unclean state and cast it aside one needs the ability which emanates from the exalted level of Shemini :

When an individual is aware of only the limited degree of G‑dliness that descends within creation, then when in doubt concerning a fine point he may easily err. The person’s evil inclination may say to him that since he has the opportunity of elevating the divine spark found in the doubtfully kosher object, what right does he have to cast it aside?

The evil inclination may well go on to say there is no need to worry about the object or animal being non-kosher in such an instance, for usually when an animal is slaughtered the slaughter is properly performed and the animal is kosher. Is it right that such a minute doubt should cause one to cast aside an animal and miss elevating the divine spark found within it?

However, when a Jew is sensitive to the G‑dliness that transcends creation, he will be loath to deviate from the Divine Will in even the slightest way. Moreover, this desire to be holy is so powerful that it will transcend the intellect. It enables a Jew to rise above all blandishments of the evil inclination, for a Jew’s essential desire to be one with G‑d is far stronger than any doubts generated by his evil inclination.

Thus it is specifically the qualities of Shemini that enable a person “to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. VII, pp. 65-73.