Read an article titled “Ordinary Effort, Extraordinary Results” written by Rabbi Sholom Schapiro, the Shliach of the NY Torah Center on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.
Rabbi Mendel Futerfas, a great chassid of the last generation, spent many years imprisoned in Soviet labor camps. During that time, he suffered much deprivation and hardship.
Rabbi Mendel yearned to send a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, yet this was an impossibility. Rather, he decided to send a “virtual” letter. He walked to the furthest point in the camp, and mentally wrote and mailed a letter to the Rebbe.
Miraculously, a few days later, a letter from the Rebbe arrived to his family, in England, acknowledging the acceptance of the letter.
It seems strange: if the Rebbe can receive a letter which wasn’t written physically, why did Rabbi Mendel go through the motions of walking to the edge of the camp?
Our Torah portion, Shmini, tells the story of the inauguration of the Tabernacle, the Mishkan. The previous portion, Tzav, related that Aaron and his sons served in the Mishkan for seven days. Our portion begins with the eighth day of its inauguration, when a fire descended from heaven to consume the sacrifice that was on the altar. When the Jewish people saw this, they knew that G-d’s presence rested upon their sanctuary.
Why did G-d wait until the eighth day to descend upon the Mishkan?
The framework of this world is predicated upon the number seven. G-d created the world in seven days. The week consists of seven days. The sabbatical year is every seven years. Thus, the number seven represents the natural order of the world, while eight represents the supernatural, that which is beyond this world.
Still, isn’t eight a continuation of the seven numbers which precede it? Why not start counting anew? Why is it called the eighth day?
Man’s task is to perfect every aspect of this world. When man does his work, G-d completes the rest. The first seven days of the Mishkan represent human endeavor, while the eighth day represents G-d’s involvement.
G-d waited seven days for the Jewish people to do the job of man, and only then did He allow His presence to fill the sanctuary. After man completes his task, G-d imbues His unique blessing into man’s creation.
This explains the story with Rabbi Mendel. He wished to access a supernatural means of communication, and he knew that in order to accomplish that, he would need to do his part, by doing everything in his power to send a letter.
In life, we often find ourselves disappointed by our own limitations. We dissuade ourselves from being involved in various pursuits, due to our own shortcomings. The lesson of this portion is that we must try to the extent of our capabilities. When we do our part, we can be sure that G-d will bless our efforts with success.
This Shabbat marks thirty years from when the Rebbe spoke a powerful message to his chassidim. “I have done all in my power to bring Moshiach. Now, I am giving it over to you. Do all that you can to bring Moshiach.”
When the chassidim heard these words, they were stunned. How can we accomplish something so great?
The answer is that we have to focus on what we can accomplish. When we do our part, then Hashem blesses our endeavors. May we merit that our efforts bring about the final redemption, now.
Dedicated in honor of Moshe Ben Aviva for good health, Nachas, and success in everything.
Rabbi Sholom Schapiro
Kollel Torah Center
393 Fifth Avenue, Ground Floor
New York, NY 10016
“Let’s welcome Moshiach with acts of goodness and kindness” – The Rebbe