The opening words of the Torah portion Shemini — “It was on the eighth day…”1 — are related to the first seven days of dedication, when the Mizbeach, the Altar was inaugurated.

The Klei Yakar asks:2 Why does the verse refer to this day as the eighth day, seemingly indicating that it is one of the “days of inauguration,” when in reality there were only seven days of inauguration, for the verse states that “the inauguration shall last seven days.”3 The eighth day, however, was the time of inaugurating Aharon and his children.

He explains that the Torah deems it the “eighth” day so as to emphasize its special quality, for it was on that day that G‑d would reveal Himself in the Mishkan.4 The verse therefore explains that G‑d will be revealed on this day because of the uniqueness of the day, it being the “eighth day,” for as our Sages say: “All numbered ‘seven ‘are mundane while ‘eight’ is sacred.”5 or as the Klei Yakar puts it:6 “Eight is unique to G‑d Himself.”

The adjective “mundane” with regard to “seven” is not to be taken literally, for Shabbos — the seventh day — is a sacred day; it simply means that Shabbos, too, is one of the Seven Days of Creation, and thus relates to the world as a whole. In contrast, the “eighth day” transcends creation and is “unique to G‑d Himself.” In comparison to such a day, even Shabbos is deemed “mundane.”

The Klei Yakar’s explanation, however, does not seem to answer the question; quite the contrary, the question now becomes even more powerful: Since the “eighth” is completely higher than creation and is “unique to G‑d Himself,” it can have no connection at all to the first seven days of dedication, corresponding as they do to the seven days of creation. Why, then, is it termed the eighth day, implying that it is related to the first seven?

All spiritual revelations in time to come depend on our present spiritual service.7 This is so, notwithstanding the fact that in comparison to our present service, the future revelations are similar to the “eighth,” as indicated by the saying of our Sages that the “harp of Messianic times will have eight strings.”8 — a level that cannot be reached through the service of mortals.

Although the future revelations will result from an arousal from above, our present degree of service is vital nonetheless. For one must first draw down those levels that are within man’s grasp, and then, when we have done as much as we can, we are granted those revelations from above that transcend our service.

The day of Shabbos serves as an example of this. In general, Shabbos consists of two levels: It is one of the seven days of creation, although when likened to the first six days it is termed holy. However, since it is part of the days of creation, its very sanctity is related to the creative process, and is thus drawn down through the spiritual service of the Jewish people. Thus the verse states:9 “The Jewish people will observe Shabbos, [thereby] establishing the Shabbos.”10

Shabbos, however, is also a semblance of the time to come, the time when it will be continuously Shabbos. This supersedes creation, and cannot be reached through our spiritual service — it comes as a gift from above. It is with regard to this level of Shabbos that G‑d says:11 “I have a wonderful gift in My treasurehouse; its name is Shabbos.”

Nevertheless, this loftier level of Shabbos, too, is only granted after man toils and attains the less lofty degree, in accordance with the saying:12 “He who toils prior to Shabbos eats on Shabbos.” For though the loftier level of Shabbos is granted as a gift, nevertheless, “were he [man] not to have caused him [G‑d] satisfaction, He would not have granted him a gift”13 — were it not for the fact that we toiled to attain the lesser degree of Shabbos, we would not have received the higher level as a gift.

The same is true with regard to the revelations on the eighth day of dedication. Although they emanated from a level that could not be attained through man’s spiritual service, they were drawn down only as a result of the service of the first seven days. Consequently, this day is deemed the “eighth” day.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, pp. 973-976.