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Question 11.9.12:
Symbols: What is the significance of the number 8?


8 is 7 plus 1. If 7 is completion, and the 7th is Shabbos, the sanctity inherent in the world, 8 is "beyond nature" and going beyond the world.

The following was inserted by Dr Isaac Levy to his translation of R' Samson Refael Hirsch's commentary on the Pentatuech (Numbers 16:41):

The origin of this meaning is to be found in the work of the Creation. The visible material world created in six days received with the seventh day a day of remembrance of, and bond with its invisible L-rd and Creator, and thereby its completed consummation. Similarly the symbolism of the number seven in the Menora, in the Temple, in the Mussaf offerings, in the sprinklings of the blood on Yom Kippur, in the Festivals of Pessach and Succoth, in Sabbath, Schmita, Tumma etc. etc. The symbolism of the number eight: starting afresh on a higher level, an octave higher. The eighth day for Mila, Schmini Atzereth and Israel as the eighth of G-d.s Creations. With the creation of Israel G-d laid the groundwork for a fresh, higher mankind and a fresh higher world, for that shamayim chadashim [new heavens] and the aretz chadashah [new earth] for which Israel and its mission is to be the beginning and instrument. [The Hebrew is a reference to Isaiah 65:17.]

So that there are three elements in us. (a) our material sensuous bodies, like the rest of the created visible world = 6; (b) the breath of free will, invisible, coming from the Invisible One = 7; (c) the calling of Jew, coming from the historical choice of Israel = 8.

The highest drive Rav Samson Rephael Hirsch calls the drive to be beyond human. To go beyond the seven days of creation and into the eighth day of the bris. This is the neshamah, which lives in a higher realm, constantly seeking communion with Hashem. The idea that eight represents "an octave higher" can be seen in the form of the letter ches. Its shape as written in the Ashkenazi variant of Assyrian Script, the script used in Sifrei Torah, is that of two zayin's connected by a bridge. Zayin is seven in gematria. Ches is eight. Ches shows the bridge between one seven, one complete world, and the next.

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