In an article for Shemini 5774, Rabbi Cherki explains that the world remains in the “Seventh Day” of Creation, when mankind fulfills the role of continuing to perfect the world.
Since Aaron and his sons sat at the entrance to the Tabernacle for seven days, the day of the dedication of the Tabernacle should in fact be called the “eighth day.” However, since it is also called “the first day – when the joy was equal to that of the day when the heaven and the earth were created” [Megilla 10b], it can also truly be considered as the eighth day of Creation. In the description of the Creation, our natural world is called the “seventh day,” and this day is not yet finished, as is clear from the fact that nowhere is it written, “And it was evening and it was morning, the end of the seventh day,” as what appears for each of the first six days.
The seventh day is the time when G-d stops modifying the laws of nature in the world and no longer interferes directly with the organized order of Creation. Instead of G-d, mankind does labor, acting almost as a “Shabbat Gentile” for the Holy One, Blessed be He. As far as we human beings are concerned, this is an era of a weekday, we are the ones who perform labor instead of G-d, who is “resting.” The six thousand years of history of the “seventh day” are divided into six separate eras, corresponding to the days of the week.
In spite of the truth of this description, something of a precursor of the “eighth day” does exist in our world – the Temple, a place of direct contact between the Creator and His creatures. The Temple belongs to the eighth day, and therefore the laws that apply there differ from our regular laws. Sacrifices are brought on Shabbat and the priests wear “shaatnez” (cloth combining both animal and plant ingredients), among other things. This corresponds to the words of the sages, that the mitzvot will be annulled in the end of days. The main element in the Temple is the face-to-face meeting with G-d at the end of days.
The seven days when Aaron and his sons waited in anticipation serve as a repeat of history and a preparation for the eighth day.
If we had been found worthy, the dedication of the Tabernacle would have brought the world into the eighth day. This did not happen for two reasons. The first is the actions of Nadav and Avihu, and the second is the fact that the Temple had not yet arrived at its final site, Jerusalem. So the world remained in the seventh day, with a single point of contact with the eighth day, in the Temple.
Since the mitzvot of the Torah of Moses will be cancelled on the eighth day, it might have been thought that in the Temple it was not necessary to listen to Moses. There the Torah of Aaron reigned, separate from the Torah of Moses. And Nadav and Avihu felt that they could make up their own minds about what to do. This same effect continued through the generations, when the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies alone and there was no way to know if he followed the detailed instructions of the sages or not. In the Tractate of Yoma it is written that “two Torah scholars, disciples of Moses,” told the High Priest to swear that he would not change anything of what they had taught him. Evidently the High Priest was tempted to detach himself from the Torah of Moses.
How can this be prevented? He is asked to take an oath. The root of the Hebrew word for oath is shin-bet-ayin, which also means seven – the High Priest is brought back into the “seventh day,” even though he has started to enter into the “eighth day.” In terms of personal satisfaction, he would like to remain where he is, in the eighth day, but for the good of the nation we ask him to return to the seventh day, in order to pass along to us something of the flavor of the eighth day. Note that the peak of Yom Kippur is when the High Priest leaves the Holy of Holies and not when he enters: “How wonderful it was for the High Priest when he left the holy area in peace.” [Mussaf Prayer Yom Kippur].
Source: “AS SHABBAT APPROACHES” – a biweekly column in Shabbat B’Shabbato, Shemini 5774, Volume 1517. (Zomet Institute) See: www.zomet.org.il/eng