This last day's focus on Jewish dedication is centered on the number 8 itself. Eight is a significant Jewish number. A bris takes place on the eighth day of a boy's life. Eight is associated with the ancient Temple in Jerusalem -- King Shlomo dedicated the first Temple on Sukkot, the eight-day fall festival. In the Torah, the portable Mishkan began to operate at the end of an eight-day ritual.
Eight, in other words, is the number that represents covenant. Seven is nature, and eight is something extra. What God adds, what we bring -- eight is the partnership between human beings and God in this world.
There are, according to Rabbi Moses Maimonides, eight levels of tzedakah. The highest level is a gift, loan, or partnership that helps a poor person become self-sufficient. Leading in the Jewish community in this commitment is the Jewish Funds for Justice TZEDEC program, which I have written about before and can't ever resist boosting again. TZEDEC pools capital from Jewish institutions and individuals, and invests in loan funds that support economic and community development in low-income areas. Their newest intiative is called, aptly enough, 8thDegree. It makes microloans to support small businesses in New Orleans, which is still rebuilding slowly after Hurricane Katrina. TZEDEC and 8thDegree flow from Jewish teachings but support the wider community.
Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov (it's the beginning of the new month of Tevet), and for a final time this year, Chag Urim Sameach!