SALT - Monday, 29 Shevat 5776 - February 8, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            Parashat Teruma begins with God’s command to Benei Yisrael to donate the materials that were needed for the Mishkan and the priestly vestments, including tachash skins (25:5).  As we read later (26:14), these skins were used to form the outermost covering over the Mishkan.  Rashi, citing the Gemara (Shabbat 28b), comments that the tachash was a supernatural creature that sported a dazzling array of colors on its feathers.  Onkelos, as Rashi notes, translates the word “tachash” as “sasgona,” which refers to the fact that this animal “sas u-mitpa’er” – rejoiced and took pride in its colorful appearance.

            What is the significance of the special “joy” and “pride” of the tachash, whose skins were used to cover the Mishkan?

            The tachash skins differed from the other materials in the Mishkan in that they did not require dyeing; their color was part of the fabric.  Most of the skins and threads used for the Mishkan and the bigdei kehuna were dyed to appear colorful, whereas the tachash skins were naturally colorful and did not have to be treated.  Symbolically, perhaps, this distinction signifies the difference between the struggle to acquire positive traits and habits, and having them naturally embedded within our characters.  The other materials set the model of working to extend beyond our natural tendencies, wrestling with our instincts to embrace the qualities that we know we should possess.  The tachash skins, by contrast, represent the joy and satisfaction of being naturally drawn to do the right thing, of having positive behaviors and character traits as part of parcel of our beings, such that we are naturally drawn towards the proper decisions and modes of conduct.

            Significantly, the tachash skins are the outermost covering over the Mishkan, placed on top of all the other materials.  The level of “sas u-mitpa’er,” of being naturally “colorful,” without having to “import” positive qualities from outside our characters, represents the final stage, the culmination of a long, grueling process of growth and struggle.  Only after we fully construct our “Mishkan,” our personal, internal sanctuaries, can we begin to lay claim to this feature of the tachash, to the incorporation of the full range of “colors,” of Torah values, into our being, their being naturally embedded within our personalities.  We must first work, toil, labor and struggle to “dye” our “materials,” to “color” ourselves with the kind of conduct and habits the Torah demands, hoping, yearning and striving for the time when we reach the highest point, the level of the tachash, where these qualities become second nature and part and parcel of our beings.