According to Kabbalistic teachings, the number seven is the number of perfection that is achievable through natural means whereas eight symbolizes that which is beyond the realm of the natural and it’s limited perfection.
Examples of the number seven in Judaism:
- The world and it’s natural order was created in seven days. The Sabbath day, the seventh day of the week, represents completeness after G-d created and continues to create during the rest of the week.
- There is a period of seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot that Jewish people count. In these weeks, special emphasis is put on perfecting seven emotions; love, fear, compassion, ambition, humility, bonding and receptiveness- one emotion a week. After these seven weeks of work on the self, we are considered a being worthy of receiving the Torah on Shavuot as a people of completed persons who have gained control over all seven emotions.
- The Menorah in the Temple was meant to illuminate this natural world with spirituality and it had seven branches.
- Seven colors can be found in a rainbow and there are also seven musical notes. Seven parts to something means that it has reached a state of completion- for example- seven notes on the diatonic scale equals a complete octave.
Eight is symbolic of something that is a step higher than the natural order- it does beyond the limitations of nature. Therefore, the festival of Chanukah is eight days long- the decision of the small group of Maccabees to wage war against the huge Greek armies was far from logic and nature. The Maccabees relied on faith and courage that were far beyond normal human nature. In reward for this, they merited a miracle that was beyond the natural- a miracle lasting eight days- when the jug of oil they found in the Temple that had enough oil to last a day burnt steadily for eight entire days.
In commemoration of this miracle, Jewish people light an eight-branched Chanukah Menorah (candelabrum) on each night of the eight-day festival of Chanukah, which begins on the twenty-fifth day of the Hebrew month of Kislev.