Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Birth and Bar Mitzvah
"And G-d spoke to Moses saying: Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to a boy..." (Leviticus 12:2).
Several verses earlier, at the close of the previous Torah reading (Shemini) the Torah exhorts, "And you shall sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy" (ibid. 11:44). One of the Torah commentators explains that the juxtaposition of these two verses suggests that a husband and wife must sanctify themselves prior to conception, for their preparation may have a lasting effect upon the nature of the child to be born. This effect continues throughout the child's life. The parents' conduct is a major factor in molding the character of the child for the good -- or for the bad.
Dwarves on Giants' Shoulders
This week's Parshah, Shemini, describes events of the eighth day following the seven days of inauguration of the Tabernacle. It was also a day, our sages tell us, which possessed many "firsts": it was a Sunday, the first day of the week; it was the 1st of the month of Nissan, marking the beginning of a new year, it was the first day that the Divine Presence came to dwell in the Sanctuary, the first day of the Priesthood, the first day of the service in the Sanctuary, and so on. With so many "firsts" why does the Torah refer to it –- and by extension, to the entire Parshah –- as "the eighth day"?
The answer is that the number "eight" defines certain qualities. Seven is the order of nature –- represented in the seven days of the week; eight is "higher than nature." On the other hand, the Torah is connecting this day to the seven days that preceded it –- it is not just a day in its own right, but the "eighth day" following a cycle of seven. This teaches us that an event or concept does not just exist in its own right, but has a link to the preceding events.
Have you ever closed a deal, celebrated your marriage (or its anniversary), or simply spent time with a good friend -- without eating something together? When you think of home, is it not in your taste buds that the most elemental memories reside? And what about the food itself -- can you get any closer to something than by ingesting it into yourself and turning it into your own flesh, bone and blood?