Periodically parshas Shemini (“Eighth”, referring to the 8th day of setting up the Mishkan in the desert) is read 8 times (this occurs outside of Eretz Yisroel in a non-leap year when Pesach falls out on Shabbos). This gives rise to the expression “Shemini Shmoneh Shmeina”, meaning “[When parshas] Shemini (“Eighth”) [is read] Shmoneh [eight times, then the year will be] Shmeina [fat]” — with material and spiritual abundance. This special quality is not only present in a year when this occurs, but is drawn into all the years until the next time that it comes to be read 8 times.
The “eighth” that is mentioned in this parsha is the beginning of the indwelling of the Shechina in the Mishkan. The world derives from 7 — the number of days of Creation, the days of the week, the 7 midos (emotional attributes, as explained in Kabbala and Chassidus). The number 7 represents G-dly light as it is enclothed in the Creation. The number 8 represents the G-dly light above Creation, and it is specifically on the 8th day that we find the Shechina being revealed in the Mishkan.
Ultimate Purpose of Creation
Hashem’s intent in creating the world is that the G-dly light that is above the world (represented by Shemini, 8th) will not remain separate but rather will be drawn down to be revealed in the world in a way that the world, on its own terms, will be able to receive this revelation.
This means revelation above limitation bring unified with limitation itself. These two aspects, when unified, allow the recipient to be a vessel to accept this revelation in an internalized way. The order of this avodah is from below to above. This is connected with the revelation of the Shechina in “the work of your hands”, the Mishkan.
This is exemplified in the words of the Sages that the place of the Aron Kodesh (containing the Luchos) transcended limitation (“eino min hamida”). The Aron itself had precise measurements, but the place transcended limitation, meaning limitation and unlimited together, that the unlimited can be grasped by within the bounds of the lower (limited) entity. The Rebbe explained this in another Sicha:
[We find that the Aron (the ark which housed the tablets) possessed just such a quality [of opposites co-existing]. The Talmud states that “the position occupied by the Aron did not take up any space.” That is, the Aron had definite physical dimensions — 2½ cubits length, 1½ cubits width, 1½ cubits height. Logically then, when placed in the Holy of Holies, the Aron should have occupied this amount of space. Yet, the Talmud tells us, it took up no space at all! This is logically impossible — for it is the synthesis of two opposites: the finite and the infinite. Yet in the case of the Aron, it existed. The Rashba cites this as proof of the existence of the phenomenon of the logically impossible. Not only did the Aron transcend the limits of nature (itself a great miracle, since the Aron was made of physical gold), but simultaneously the finite and infinite co-existed together in it: the Aron had definite physical limits, yet took up no space…Its concept is made possible from a level that transcends both of them, allowing the synthesis of these two opposites. (From sicha of 23 Elul, 5742)]
We find this as well in the avodah of a Jew — there is his limited and measured avodah, as befits his level, to make himself into a vessel to internalize the revelations. And additionally there is the avodah of “with all your might” (b’chol me’odecha) — a vessel to receive G-dliness above the limitations of the person. The ultimate goal is the unification of these 2 forms of avodah. To summarize: Shemini (8th) is the unlimited, whereas Shmoneh (the number 8) is the unlimited as it is contained in the qualities of limitation (7): the unification of limited and unlimited, the ultimate intent of Creation.
[Interestingly, the Rebbe, taking a hint from the “shmeina” (“fat”, related to the concept of oil) asserts that the mention of oil in the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 105:5) hints at Pnimiyus Hatorah (within the laws themselves). Through properly keeping the laws of the Shluchan Aruch there is a drawing down and revelation of this “oil” of Torah also in the world (since the halachos relate to conduct in the world, including earthly financial matters) and “through this comes about the Geulah of all Yisroel”. In other words: keeping Shulchan Aruch properly impacts the world and through this Yisroel is redeemed!]
The revelation of the level of G-dliness that is above the limitation of world is specifically via the avodah from below to above — within the limitations of the world. As with the 8 which comes specifically from the 7 that precede it. Thus we find that the limited and measured avodah is connected (in its source) with the highest level (above the source of the unlimited). Similar to what we find with the Aron — the concept of “eino min hamida” (transcending limitation), comes specifically because the Aron had defined measurements.
Transforming the Exile (“gola”) Into Geulah
The 14th day of the Omer, as it was the day this sicha was said, completes the avodah of refining Chesed (first 7 days of the Omer) and Gevurah (second 7 days), which are the spiritual root of limited and unlimited. Chesed, as is known, is the attribute of “kindness” and giving. Gevurah, as explained by the Alter Rebbe [Torah Ohr, Noach 9c] is not tzimtzum (contraction and limitation), but rather the attribute of “might” which can overpower other forces (“hisgabrus haChayus”). The 14th day is Malchus (Geulah) which is in Gevurah — the revelation of the Ketz haGeulah (the “end” associated with Geulah), something which is not revealed during golus since it is above revelation. Gevurah is not the absence of Chesed, but rather a higher level of might that can conceal the Chesed. Gevurah brings about exile, but is itself a powerful level of Kedusha, as explained in Chassidus regarding the special quality of “the light that comes from the darkness”.
Geulah, as explained many times in the Rebbe’s Sichos, is attained by adding to the word “gola” (exile) the letter “alef” (representing the Holy One, blessed be He “Alufo shel olam”). This adding of the letter “alef” is accomplished via “our deeds and our avodah during the time of exile” (Tanya) upon which the Geulah is dependent. Through this, the exile itself (“gola”) becomes Geulah.
The main thing is that through “our deeds and our Avodah during the duration of exile” we bring the Geulah. It is specifically the concealments and limitations of exile which give the strength to bring Geulah (the level of Malchus sh’b’Gevurah).
This is similar to statement of our Sages: “everyone who fulfills the Torah amidst poverty will in the end fulfill it amidst wealth.” Via the poverty of exile, “there is no one who is poor except in knowledge” (“ein oni ela b’da’as”), we receive the true wealth of knowledge and wealth in the simple sense — in the true and complete Geulah. This is especially since we have already fulfilled any obligations to endure the limitation of “poverty” (in the previous generations) [meaning — primarily — poverty of knowledge]. Now there is freedom and abundance (“harchava”) in a simple sense from the kingship of the nations. [The Rebbe is making a thinly veiled reference to the Messianic Era (Yemos Hamoshiach) of which the sages say “there is no difference between this world and the Messianic Era besides servitude to the nations”. This refers to the first epoch of the Messianic Era, followed by a second epoch of even greater G-dly revelations. For more explanation, see Inyonei Moshiach and Geulah #8.]
Thus, we can learn Torah and fulfill Mitzvos in a relaxed state of mind and body (“menuchas hanefesh and menuchas haguf”) with “wealth” in Torah — via the printing of many seforim that (some) were hidden until now. For this reason the Geulah will have both the positive quality of Geulah and the positive quality of Golus (the quality of avodah performed via compelling one’s self (“hiskafya”), limitation and constriction, “amidst poverty”…)
Geulah Didn’t Come—Proof That it Depends on Us
Since the Geulah didn’t yet come, this itself is proof that it is dependent on “our deeds and our avodah” of this generation. It is specifically through avodah amidst boundaries and limitation and concealment (which derive from Gevuros), because amazing powers are hidden away within them—powers which can bring the Geulah.
There is a rule that “The Holy One, blessed be He, does not demand of us more than we have the power to accomplish, so therefore we have the power to bring the Geulah (since that is what is demanded of us). To be a partner with Hashem in this, not just to help. A partner implies being involved in all the details in a complete manner. Since a Jew is a part of G-dliness (chelek Eloka) he possesses the greatest powers to bring about the greatest things — until even the command “be Holy because I am Holy”, upon which our Sages comment “Holy, like Me” — with certainty!
All of us have the responsibility to add in avodah to bring Moshiach in actuality. There is no room to rely on others — each one needs to do the avodah of “to serve my Master” by himself, and he is given the powers to do this. How so? By adding in Torah and Mitzvos — the revealed and the Pnimiyus, and fulfilling Mitzvos in an exemplary manner. The Rebbe mentions learning Pirkei Avos and influencing others to do the same. Spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit and the wellsprings of Chassidus outward, the latter especially brings about “the Master comes” — this is the King Moshiach. And all of this amidst anticipation and yearning for the Geulah.