Seven Days of Preparation

  • Harav Baruch Gigi





Parashat shemini



Seven Days of Preparation

Translated by Kaeren Fish



“You shall not come out of the entrance to the Tent of Meeting for seven days, until the days of your consecration are complete, for He shall consecrate you for seven days.” (Vayikra 8:33)


Our parasha talks about the “days of consecration,” following which the Mishkan is inaugurated. From here Chazal deduce that the Kohen Gadol, too, before Yom Kippur, requires a seven-day seclusion in his official chambers, and we also find a seven-day period in connection with the Red Heifer. What is the point of these seven days? Why the need for isolation, and why specifically for seven days?


The Meshekh Chokhma adds that during the preparation of the Red Heifer there was a biblical requirement to read “parashat Para” – the portion describing God’s commandment in this regard. Likewise, on Yom Kippur, the relevant parasha was read, and in the same way, during the “days of consecration” the reading of the parasha was necessary. What is the need for all these readings?


What is common to all three cases is that they involve preparation for an important event: purification from the defilement of the dead, entrance into the Mikdash, and inaugurating the sacrificial service. Hence we may apply the lessons we learn here to other matters of importance in our lives.


Anything that is of critical importance must be preceded by thorough preparation, on two levels – as we find in all three cases described above.


First, there must be a “reading of the parasha.” For instance, when Pesach approaches, we prepare ourselves by studying the laws so that we are ready: “We inquire and expound the laws of Pesach [from] thirty days prior to Pesach.” Similarly, before a person marries, he or she must prepare by studying the laws relevant to this realm. Personal emotional preparation is not sufficient; one must study, for without the guidance of the Torah our private preparation will not suffice.


In Massekhet Yoma we find that towards the end of the Second Temple Period, there were kohanim – even Kohanim Gedolim – who were ignorant or illiterate. The beit din would therefore read the laws to them, since every momentous event requires appropriate study.


Second, we must prepare mentally and emotionally, like the week of isolation. The idea behind this is that a week is an entire life unit. Along these lines, Ashkenazic brides and grooms do not see each other during the week prior to the wedding. And in the same way, the Kohen Gadol separates himself for a week prior to entering the Holy of Holies. It is through the merit of the Kohen Gadol that each individual among Israel achieves atonement and closeness to God; hence the importance of preparation on both levels: study and intense mental preparation.