Parshat Tazria – Metzora
Seven Followed by Eight
In this week's parshiyot we have the concept of the number seven being surpassed by the number eight.
When a woman gives birth to a son we are told that: "she shall be unclean for seven
days…and on the eighth
day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised" (VaYikra 12:2-3).
Later on we are told that the person afflicted with tsaraat: "that on the seventh
day, he shall shave off all his hair... He shall then immerse his garments and immerse his flesh in water, thus becoming clean. On the eighth
day, he shall take two unblemished [male] lambs…(ibid 14:9-10).
The same concept applies to both men and women who have a discharge that renders them unclean: "He shall count seven
days for himself for his purification, and then immerse his garments and immerse his flesh in spring water, and he shall be clean. On the eighth
day, he shall take for himself two turtle doves or two young doves, and come before the Lord" (ibid 15:13-14) and "she shall count for herself seven
days, and after this, she may be cleansed. on the eighth
day, she shall take for herself two turtle doves or two young doves, and bring them to the kohen, to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting" (ibid 28-29).
This concept also appears in the previous parshiyot. Moshe taught Aharon and his sons how to perform the service of the Mishkan for seven
days. On the eighth
day, Aharon performed the service and only then did the spirit of the Lord rest on the Mishkan (See ibid Ch. 8-9).
The concept appears again in chapter 23 concerning Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret: "a seven
day period, you shall bring a fire offering to the Lord. On the eighth
day, it shall be a holy occasion for you, and you shall bring a fire offering to the Lord" (ibid 36).
And again concerning the Jubilee year: "You shall count for yourself seven
sabbatical years, seven years seven times…and you shall sanctify the fiftieth
year" (ibid 25:8:10) - the fiftieth year being the next year after the seven cycles. Finally the concept also appears with concept of the counting of the Omer, with Shavuot, the festival that falls after the seven weeks of counting that began in Pesach, implying that Shavuot is the "eight" day after Pesach, in the same way that Shemini Atzeret is the eight day after Sukkot. Indeed both festivals have same name: "Shmini Atzeret" and "Chag HaAtzeret" – both being festivals of "closing".
In order to understand this concept we need to examine the first seven and eight that appear in the Torah.
Firstly we have the seven days of creation (Bereshit Ch. 1) and then the Brit Milla, the circumcision of the eighth day (ibid 17:12).
God created the world and it continues in its natural state. However, in order to approach and have a relationship with God we need to find a spiritual dimension that goes beyond the natural. At the circumcision God promises Avraham that he "will be for you a God" (ibid 7). It represents a new beginning for humanity.
So too, the impure. During their state of impurity they cannot approach the Mishakan. However on the eight day, they are required to bring a sacrifice and approach Him. This represents a new dimension or a renewal of their relationship with God.
The holidays are natural harvest festivals; however, a proper celebration of them allows us to strengthen our relationship with God. While the Jubilee year is sanctified with all slaves becoming free and all land returning to their previous owners, once again allowing for re-birth.
The days of the omer are there part of the process of re-building our relationship with God and we should take that time to prepare for the festival of Shavuot.
Perhaps it is also appropriate the Yom Haatzmaut falls in this period as it is acts as the preparation for the final redemption.
Last years' Sedra Short on Parshat Tazria-Metzora, entitled: "The Sin-Offering of the Mother" appears at http://parshablog.blogspot.com/2006_04_01_archive.html
Labels: eight, seven relationship with God