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Shemini: Completing Creation

ויהי ביום השמיני קרא משה לאהרן ולבניו ולזקני ישראל.

“And it was on the eighth day that Moshe called Aharon and his sons and the elders of Israel.” (Vayikra 9:1)

Rashi comments that the eighth day of the inauguration of the Sanctuary was Rosh Chodesh Nissan, “and the day was adorned with ten crowns.” Rashi continues by listing the crowns that adorned this special day. One of the specialties of the day, says Rashi, is that it is considered “the first day of the work of creation.” This seems somewhat difficult to understand. Why would the inauguration day of the Mishkan be considered the first day of creation? The Mishkan was inaugurated on the first day of Nissan, while the world was created in Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah 10b).

One way to explain this is by concluding that the first of Nissan of that year was on Sunday, making it the “first day of creation.” But this answer seems insufficient, because if so, every Sunday would be considered the first day of creation, and this would not be counted among the ten crowns with which the inauguration day was adorned.

The commentators (Toras Kohanim; Megillah 10b) interpret the words: “ויהי ביום השמיני – and it was on the eighth day” by saying that on this day Hashem was as joyous as on the day that He created heaven and earth. They draw a connection between the word ויהי which appears in this verse, as well as in the verses discussing creation: “And it was evening and it was morning…” This interpretation is surprising, because the Gemara teaches that the word ויהי signifies sadness and gloom. It is not a term that represents joy, so why would the commentators assume that the presence of this word in the verse discussing the inauguration of the Sanctuary and in the verses discussing creation would be an indicator of the great joy that Hashem had on this day? How does the word ויהי, which usually connotes sadness, become an indicator of the great joy of the eighth day when the Mishkan was consecrated?

The Zohar explains that up until the Sanctuary was built, the world’s existence was somewhat weak. The world was not yet firmly established. On the day that the Mishkan was built, the entire world was strengthened and received the ability to exist for the future.

This statement raises an important question. Our sages tell us (Shabbos 88a) that the world was created on condition that the Jewish people accept the Torah at Sinai. On the day that the Jewish people received the Torah, the world was finally firmly established. If so, why does the Zohar tell us that when the Mishkan was built, that is when the world was established for the future?

The reason why Hashem created the world was solely for the Torah – so that the Jewish people should uphold and keep the Torah. Even when we are distanced from our Land and reside in the four corners of the world, living in great darkness, we yearn to come close to Hashem and do His will. Hashem commanded us to “build a Sanctuary and I will rest among you” (Shemos 25:8). Hashem wants to live among us, to be close to us.

When Hashem created the world, its creation was weak. Without the Torah, the world had no future. If the Jewish people would not have accepted the Torah, Hashem’s creation would have been in vain. When the Torah was given at Sinai, the heavens and earth could finally relax; they would not be destroyed. Indeed, on the day the Torah was given, the world earned the right to exist. But still, the real purpose of creation, as well as the purpose of giving the Torah, was for Hashem to reside among us. This is why Hashem commanded us to build the Sanctuary, in order to complete what has been started with the giving of the Torah.

When this purpose was finally realized and the Sanctuary was inaugurated, Hashem’s joy was so great that that all heavenly judgments were removed. Therefore, even though ויהי usually indicates sadness, on this day it was reversed to a spiritual joy. There was no room for any sadness in the world when it finally reached this point of fulfillment.

We can now understand why the day of inauguration is considered to be “the first day of the work of creation.” Although Hashem had created the world long before, its existence had not been firmly established until now. In His great love for us, He wanted to live among us and only when this was achieved did He consider the world to be fully created.

Once we understand the significance of the eighth day, we can understand what Moshe was instructed to “tell Aharon and his sons and the elders of Israel.” Aharon’s goal was to draw everyone closer to Hashem. When the Mishkan was built, he was able to do this much better, because there was so much more potential for connecting to Hashem. When Aharon and his sons served in the Mishkan, they evoked tremendous inspiration in the hearts of all who saw them. They helped the people realize that they are Hashem’s beloved children. In every generation, the “elders of Israel,” the leaders of the Jewish people, follow Aharon’s ways and bring the people closer to Hashem by telling them how special is their status as Hashem’s children.

When Moshiach will come and the third Bais Hamikdosh will be built, the joy of the entire universe will be far greater than ever before! The tremendous simcha of that day when the ultimate purpose of creation will finally be fulfilled will be like the “light of the sun - seven times stronger than the morning light!”

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