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The title of this week’s parsha takes its name from the description of the events that took place on the eighth day after the dedication and opening of the services of the Mishkan in the desert. The term “eighth day” means more than just the count of the number of days that elapsed since the Mishkan came to life and to service. It signifies the moment that euphoria ends and reality sets in. It marks the beginning of facing problems and finding solutions for them. It also marks the hardships of life, its disappointments and tragedies.

The “seven days” of consecration are a joyful time; the seven days of sheva brachot for chatan and kallah, tiring as they may be, are nevertheless days of exhilaration and happiness. The “eighth day” is the beginning of the intrusion of life’s events into our dream world. It is the “eighth day” therefore that is the true measure of a human being’s mettle and accomplishments.

The challenges of the “seven days” are usually more easily met and overcome by the added adrenalin that infuses us in times of joy. The test of the “eighth day” is one of a lifelong struggle to prevail over the pitfalls and vicissitudes of life and its constant problems. A new-born male Jewish infant is circumcised on the eighth day of his life, signifying the beginning of his struggle to be a good person and a believer in accordance with Jewish tradition, no matter what difficulties that life will raise against those efforts and beliefs.

The great High Priest Aharon is leveled by terrible personal tragedy in this week’s parsha. A sudden and mysterious heavenly fire kills his two eldest sons, apparently engaged in holy service in the Mishkan. Aharon is faced with the ultimate tragedy of life and its fragility. The “eighth day” descends upon him with a thunderous clap.

Even more than all of the other tests of life that he faced in leading the Jewish community yet in slavery in Egypt, or at the fateful moment of the creation of the Golden Calf, the events of the eighth day of the Mishkan’s dedication are truly his “eighth day” – the ultimate test of life and faith and belief.

Aharon’s reaction to this is silent acceptance of the realities that now face him. He does not rail against perceived injustice, as does Iyov. Nor does he withdraw from the fray of life and go into seclusion, as did many others when faced with similar tragic situations. Aharon becomes the paradigm for how humans are to deal with the “eighth day” – with life and its ups and downs.

Resilience and silent inner strength engendered by faith and acceptance of God’s will are the weapons of living on in spite of all that the “eighth day” imposes upon one’s life. These words are much easier to write and to read than to actually implement. Yet the Torah expects no less from us than it did from Aharon. Life and our contributions and meaningful behavior towards making it better and stronger are always played out on the background of the “eighth day.”

Shabat shalom.

Rabbi Berel Wein

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