By: Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
In less than 24 hours, Jewish communities throughout the world will come together to read Parshat Shemini. The portion stands as the climax of a long story that began in Exodus, chapter 25. In our portion, the Jewish nation celebrates the day that they began using the Mishkan, or the Tabernacle. We are told that the sanctuary was ready to be used seven days earlier but instead of beginning to use it immediately, the Kohanim, the priests, needed to wait and sit at its entrance, only commencing their serving on the eighth. The question I want to ask is why is it so significant to begin using the Mishkan, the sanctuary, on the eighth day? I believe an answer to this question can be found in connection to the laws of circumcision. The circumcision of a baby boy takes place on the eighth day but no sooner. The fact that a human was made in the image of G-D, and yet we are told that we have to make our own change to the body is puzzling. Still why the 8th day?
The Torah spells out the grandest creation: G-D’s formation of the world in seven days. We may have thought that after those seven days, humans cannot adjust or make any changes to his creation. The laws of circumcision and the insistence on waiting until the eighth day teach us that G-D does not want us to sit back; instead, he wants and demands of us to improve on this world in physical ways, for example by finding cures to cancer and other major diseases or by improving on our interpersonal relations. We should never give up on relationships and on trying to better our communities.