The number seven plays a significant role in Jewish thought. There are seven days of the week, with the seventh day being the holy Sabbath. The holidays of Passover and Sukkot are each celebrated for seven days. In ancient Israel, every seventh year the land is to lie fallow (shemita) and every seventh cycle of seven years was* a Jubilee year (Yovel).
Shabbat is celebrated on the seventh day, because it was on the seventh day of creation that God rested from the acts of creation. God, being omnipotent, could, of course, have created the world in one moment, or taken millions of years (and indeed, it is difficult to assess how long a pre-human day actually was). So why does the Torah record seven days of creation?
When God created the physical world, He anchored it to established laws that we today call nature. There are six directions of movement in the physical world: forward, backward, right, left, up and down. If one imagines these six directions as a physical object, they would form a cube of four walls with a top and a bottom. The empty space in the center of the cube is the seventh “direction” and represents nature perfected and whole, since it only exists within the forces that create nature.
Additionally, if one thinks of each wall of the cube in terms of geometry, each is an infinite plane that goes on endlessly. The central space, however, is contained and, thus, at rest. This is the secret of the seventh day, it is nature in its perfect state.
*While the Jubilee year is not celebrated without the Temple, the laws of shemita are still observed in the Land of Israel today.
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