The name of our Torah portion is “Shemini” (In the eighth day). And this year we read in the diaspora this Torah portion (or parts of it) eight (Shemona) times. And in Hebrew fat is “Shemena”. The similar sound (and origin) of these words made some Polish Chasidics come up with a phrase: “Shemona, Shemini, Shemena, i.e.: A year when we read eight times Parashat Shemini is a fat [=plenteous] year”. According to some the years when this strange phenomenon occurs is an omen for a year of plenty and abundance. I’m not sure if I believe in this specific omen but I just love how much our people love the Torah and use their creativity to share Torah and offer an uplifting message. Today I would like to add my personal touch and reading of this phrase.
“Rav Ḥiyya bar Ashi says that Rav says: a Torah scholar must have one-eighth of one-eighth of arrogance (BT, Sotah 5a)”. Arrogance is not good but the Talmud states that every Scholar should have one-eighth of one-eighth (Shemona Sheminit, you see where I’m going) of arrogance. No leader should be arrogant but he or she needs to have a minimum amount of arrogance in order to be able to lead, to teach and to express his opinion. Arrogance is like fat, a lot is not good but a small portion is healthy and adds flavor. The same is true about ambition, pride, desire, etc. Shemona, Shemini, Shemena, always (or almost always) everything that in big proportions is bad in small quantities (1/64th maybe) is good.