We sometimes look at Sukkot like it is a week long, but we have a bonus day. As Leviticus 23:36 tells us “36 For seven days you are to bring an offering made by fire to Adonai; on the eighth day you are to have a holy convocation and bring an offering made by fire to Adonai ; it is a day of public assembly; do not do any kind of ordinary work.” The eighth day appears to not only demand a public assembly, but also requires no one to work, like an ordinary Sabbath (Numbers 29:35). In certain circles, this eighth day is called “Shemini Atzeret”.
So what is so unique about this eighth day?
The very name of this festival, “Shemini Atzeret,” literally means “The Eighth Assembly.” It is the final holy day of God’s Holy Day Plan. However, there is great significance in the number “eight” itself!
W. Bullinger, in his book Number in Scripture, explains about the meaning and symbolism of numbers, including the number “eight.” He declares:
“In Hebrew the number eight is Sh’moneh, from the root Shah’meyn, ‘to make fat,’ ‘cover with fat,’ ‘to super-abound.’ As a participle it means ‘one who abounds in strength,’ etc. As a noun it is ‘super-abundant fertility,’ ‘oil,’ etc. So that as a numeral it is the super-abundant number. As seven was so called because the seventh day was the day of completion and rest, so eight, as the eighth day, was over and above this perfect completion, and was indeed the FIRST of a new series, as well as being the eighth. Thus it already represents two numbers in one, the first and eighth” (p.196).
Even as “seven” is God’s number of perfection, or completion (as the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, which completes and perfects the week), so “eight” is the same as the first day of the NEXT week, but counting from the days of the previous week. Thus it represents clearly “A NEW BEGINNING.”
Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, takes place right before Sukkot. After passing through the anguish of this humbling Holiday (repenting and sacrificing), one should feel like they have eliminated the old man, the man of this world. Then we step into the vulnerability of Sukkot. Here, we build feeble shelters trusting in the Lord, both an actual and metaphoric experience. Finally, the eighth day, the celebration of a “New Beginning”. In some ways this experience can be seen as a rebirth. So, for those of you that have gone through this process …
“Happy New Beginning!”