Yesterday, we saw the Gemara’s comments in Masekhet Shabbat (28b) concerning the tachash – the animal whose skins were used for outermost covering of the Mishkan, as mentioned in Parashat Teruma (25:5). The Gemara notes Onkelos’ Aramaic translation of “tachash” as “sasgona,” and explains this term to mean, “sas be-gevanim harbei” – this animal “rejoiced” over its numerous colors. Moreover, the Gemara tells that this was a supernatural creature which God brought into the world just once – when Benei Yisrael were in the wilderness, for the specific and exclusive purpose of providing a colorful covering for the Mishkan.
What might be the symbolic the significance of the tachash, as described by the Gemara?
The tachash “rejoiced” over its colors – specifically because these were the colors it was given. We are all created with many beautiful “colors” – natural qualities, strengths, talents and capabilities, but many of us, unfortunately, lose these “colors” and allow them to fade, because we instead try to adopt the “colors” of others. Rather than nurture and cultivate our God-given talents, we instead try to follow a model set by others. We feel pressured to imitate the “colors” that other people exhibit, rather than “rejoicing” and taking pride in our own “colors,” recognizing our unique talent and potential, and working to actualize it to its fullest. The tachash celebrated its own “colors” because it recognized that it was created just once, that its colors were given to serve a particular purpose that was needed specifically at that time. If we see ourselves in this way, then we, too, will rejoice over our own “colors” instead of trying to adopt the “colors” of other people. We need to recognize that each person is placed on the earth only once, because he or she has a specific role to fill at that particular time and place – a role which no other human from any other time since the world’s creation can fill. If we see ourselves in this fashion, then we, like the tachash, would rejoice over our “colors,” our unique set of qualities and strengths. If we recognize that we are to fill a unique role that nobody else in world history can fill, then we will celebrate who we are and appreciate our singular characteristics without envying those of others.
The Gemara thus teaches us to embrace and take pride in our unique potential and capabilities, to cultivate our talents and be the best version of ourselves that we can, without allowing our beautiful “colors” to fade as a result of the vain, futile attempt to be like other people.