Climax at Eight

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Sender Rozesz. Sender Rozesz is a practicing attorney with a background in Jewish pluralistic education for adults. Sender Rozesz is Jewrotica’s resident Double Mitzvah columnist. The views reflected in his writing represent his own personal views, and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations, institutes or associations with whom he may be affiliated.

“And it was on the eighth day, that Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel . . . And Moses and Aaron went into the Tent of Meeting. Then they came out and blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.”[1]

Why the eighth day?

There were specifically seven days of practice in setting up the Tabernacle, and then on the eighth day, it was formally erected and consecrated with all the ritual sacrifices that G-d commanded be brought on that day.

Don’t forget: Chanukah is an eight-day holiday, and is also connected with the rededication of the Second Temple (the word “Chanukah” itself meaning dedication). On that holiday, we explain the number eight because the it took eight days to get freshly-pressed oil — but there’s that number eight again.

And how about the holiday of Sh’mini Atzeret, which immediately follows Sukkot? “The eighth day shall be a time of restriction for you; you shall not perform any mundane work.”[2]

Finally, the eighth day of life is the day on which newborn Jewish males are circumcised, entering G-d’s covenant.

What’s with the number eight?

Of course, it all has to do with the orgasm.

When you talk about the number eight in these contexts, you’re really talking about 7+1. There is seven, representing the natural cycle of things, such as seven days of the week, seven colors of the rainbow, etc. After Saturday comes Sunday, and the week begins anew. Seven is a number that represents a closed and complete universe.

But then there is the one that goes beyond: breaking routine, breaking barriers; transcending the natural order. That is eight.

Why did G-d choose to have His covenant reflected in the removal of the male foreskin? Because He wanted our sexuality to be more than simply instinctive, an animal coupling, solely about the physical sensation. He wanted to our sex to be something transcendent, something that has the power to lift us into another reality.

And so He commanded that circumcision be performed on the eighth day. After a baby boy has experienced his first full week of life, instead of simply moving on to a second weekly cycle, G-d commanded that His covenant of sexual transcendence be imprinted in his flesh on a day symbolizing transcendence.

The erection of the Tabernacle (pardon the pun) was similarly intended as a transcendent union between G-d and His people. Indeed, as we discussed here, there many distinctly erotic features in the Tabernacle, as our coupling with the Divine was intended to be no less intense and intimate than our most intimate and intense human unions. This is why, when G-d first commanded the construction of the Tabernacle, He announced that its purpose was — not for Him to dwell in it, but rather —   so that “I will dwell in them.”[3]

One week — a single natural cycle — was spent practicing the erection of the Tabernacle. That was foreplay.

But then, on the eighth day, the day of transcendence, we burst through the natural order, we graduated the seven days of practice, and G-d entered us by openly resting in the Tabernacle that we had built.

The feeling that the Jews must have felt then reminds me of a scene in the 1992 film, The Cutting Edge. In it, the American Olympic figure-skating team is being interviewed by the press, and asked how they feel working as a team. One of the female skater begins to get carried away in her enthusiasm, her breathing growing increasingly heavier as she searches for the perfect word to describe their mutual feeling — until the word is sardonically supplied by the lead actress:

“It’s orgasmic!”

It is written that, whereas King David played music on a harp of seven strings, the righteous Moshiach will play on a harp of eight strings.

The number eight is a constant reminder to us that in this world — in G-d’s world — tomorrow need not be the next day in a tedious, routine and unchanging cycle. Rather, tomorrow — or even the next moments — have the potential to be miraculous and transformative, leaving Mother Nature and her many rules and limitations behind us, as we soar to new and loftier realities.

Shabbat Shalom!

[1] Leviticus, 9:1, 23.

[2] Numbers, 29:35.

[3] Exodus, 25:8.