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Chumash     Rambam   Shabbos 28b



Sacred Monsters: Mysterious and Mythical Creatures of Scripture

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Explanation of Rashi (Ex.25:5):Tachash skins. Explanation according to Pnimiyut that the upper covering of the Mishkan was specifically from Tachash skins. a species of animal (chaya) ... that rejoices and boasts of its hues (גַּוָּנִים). -[from Shab. 28a,b]


One of the things that the Jewish people were commanded to brings as an offering to the Mishkan (“And this is the offering that you shall take from them. Ex: 25:3”) was Tachash skins and as Rashi explains: “Tachash skins - This was a species of Chaya” (wild animal).

In the words of Chazal there is a dispute in the matter: In Talmud Bavli (Shab. 28b): “Said R. Elai in the name of R. Simeon b. Lakish, R. Meir used to maintain, The Tachash of Moses' day was a separate species, and the Sages could not decide whether it belonged to the genus of wild beasts (Chaya) or to the genus of domestic animals (behaima)”
But in the Talmud Yerushalmi it states: “The Rabbis state that the Tachash was a species of Tahor (Chaya)”. (And this is also in the Tanchuma: “R’ Yehuda says a large Tahor (pure) Chaya existed in the desert etc. and its skin had six colors, and they took it and made from it curtains”)
According to this (as is also brought in the commentaries) Rashi accepted like the Yerushalmi (and the Tanchuma) that it was a “type of Chaya”.
We need to understand, how does Rashi, according to the simple meaning of the verses (Pshuto shel mikrah), decide from these opinions, that it was a “type of Chaya”?
2. Afterwards Rashi continues: “it existed only for a [short] time, and it had many hues (גַּוָּנִים). Therefore, [Onkelos] renders [it] סַסְגּוֹנָא, because it rejoices (שֶׁשָׂשׂ) and boasts of its hues”
One can say, simply, that the reason that Rashi needed to say that it “it existed only for a [short] time” was that since the student (a five year old) does not know of a type of animal named Tachash, Rashi, therefore, explains that indeed this animal is not known because “it existed only for a [short] time”.
[According to this it is understood the reason that Rashi used the wording “it existed only for a [short] (L’Shaah) time”. Because this is similar to the wording of the Bavli (Shab.28b): “and it came to Moses' hand [providentially] (L’Shaah) just for the occasion, and he made the [covering of the] Tabernacle, and then it was hidden” and not like the Yerushalmi: “G-d created a species of Tahor (pure) Chaya for Moshe in the desert; When he made with it the works of the Tabernacle, it was hidden”. Or like the wording of R’ Nechemiah in the Tanchuma: “[It] was a miraculous deed and the very time that it was created, it was hidden” - Because according to the simple meaning of the verses there is no necessity (to explain) that this was a special creation or a miraculous deed (and also the special act of hiding the Tachash). But ( it can be explained} that it only “existed only for a [short] time” and therefore it is forgotten in Tanach.
And it is also understood why Rashi continues:”and it had many hues” because since it was not a known animal (since “it only existed only for a [short] time”) Rashi needed to explain how the Tachash ships were special, and why HaShem commanded to bring them as an offering to the Mishkan (and especially since it does not state in the verse that they needed to be dyed, like the “ram skins – dyed red). Therefore Rashi explains that “it had many hues” ( and did not need dyeing)
Yet we must understand the lengthiness of Rashi’s wording: “Therefore, Targum renders it sasgavna because it rejoices and boasts of its hues” for it seemingly would have been sufficient to state: “Therefore, Targum renders it sasgavna”. For from this we would have known that it has many colors.
 Why does Rashi stress:
1) “Therefore, Targum renders it”
 2) Conclude with an explanation of the Targum: “it rejoices and boasts of its hues”
At first glance, the words of Rashi (explaining the Targum) are taken from the Talmud. For the Gemara explains the words of R’ Nechemiah in the Tanchuma: “R. Nehemiah said: There was one covering (Consisting half of rams' skin and half of Tachash skins –Rashi) and it was like a squirrel (lit.’Hanging on the tree – a speckled unclean animal'). But the squirrel is unclean!-This is its meaning: like a squirrel, which has many colors, yet not [actually] the squirrel, for that is unclean, whilst here a clean [animal is meant]. Said R. Joseph: That being so, that is why we translate it sasgavna [meaning] that it rejoices in many colors.This is the (like the) wording of Rashi: “Therefore, Targum renders it sasgavna for it rejoices and boasts of its hues
But it has been explained many times that it is not Rashi’s style in his commentary on Torah to bring sayings of Chazal except when they are related to the simple meaning of the verses (Pshuto shel mikrah) . Why then do we need the lengthiness of Rashi’s (and the Talmud’s) wording in explaining the word Tachash?
[and specifically in our case, for the intent of R’ Yosef in saying: “That being so” (a proof, Rashi), Is not just to prove that the Tachash has many colors, but mainly to explain that “it is Tahor (clean)” (not like the squirrel which is unclean”) – for since it is Tahor it is fitting to translate it sasgavna since it is not like the squirrel except for its having many colors].
Some explain that that Rashi comes to answer the words of the Targum, for since Rashi writes: “it existed only for a [short] time”), how could it state in the Targum (in Bavel) the name of this animal (Chaya) animal was not known before the time of the Mishkan and not afterwards? Therefore Rashi writes: “Therefore, Targum renders it sasgavna, because it rejoices and boasts of its hues” for the intent of the Targum is not that the name “Tachash” is Aramaic but that it is a description of the appearance of the Tachash, that it rejoices…of its hues.
But even this explanation is difficult for as explained (many times) it is not Rashi’s style in his commentary on Torah to cite and explain the words of Targum.
3. One can explain – simply:
Rashi’s explanation of “type of Chaya” ("wild" animal) is not to negate the explanation that the Tachash is a type of Behaima (domesticated animal) but rather to negate the idea that ‘Tachash” is the name of a color dye and that the explanation of “Tachash skins” is like “ram skins dyed red” namely that just like “ram skins dyed red” means: ram skins that “were dyed red after being tanned” so too one could explain that “Tachash skins” are skins dyed with a color called “Tachash’ [ like the opinions in the Yerushalmi that: “R’ Yehuda says Teynun is called after its color.” (The dyed ram skins were “Tachash skins” and they were called “Tachash skins” because of the name of the dye which was similar to Tachashim). R’ Nachman says that they were Glaktinin (the name of a dye)
Therefore Rashi writes that it is a “type of Chaya” ("wild" animal) and his intention plainly is that they took skins from a species of Chaya whose name is Tachash and not that they took (ram) skins and dyed them a color Tachash.
[And the simple reason Rashi is forced to explain it so, is because if the intent was that they dyed (ram) skins the (color) Tachash. – The verse should have said: “rams skins dyed red and Tachashim etc” and not “Tachash skins”. For the fact that the verse adds “Tachash skins” implies that these are not the same type of skins that were spoken of previously (ram skins) ,but that they were skins of a Tachash ( which is the name of a Chaya)
And this is the reason for the continuation of Rashi: “Therefore, Targum renders it sasgavna because it rejoices and boasts of its hues”:
With this Rashi is bringing proof from the Targum that it is not a common name of a color, with which they dyed the skins, but rather it is the name of an animal, for the Targum of “Tachash” is sasgavna i.e., an animal that rejoices and boasts of its hues.
Therefore Rashi does not write concisely: “Like Targum renders it Sasgavna” because this would allow an interpretation that the intent of Onkelos is that “Tachash” is a dye composed of many colors or that “Sasgavna” means six colors (like the opinion in Tanchuma that the Tachash has six colors) – but he emphasizes that: “it rejoices and boasts of its hues” for through this it is understood that the Targum of “Tachash” is an animal.
4. But there still is some difficulty with Rashi’s wording: “that it rejoices and boasts of its hues” for it seemingly is sufficient to state “that it rejoices” (like the Gemara). Why do we need the addition of (not just rejoices but) “boasts of its hues”?
One can say that with this (addition) Rashi is hinting to the special quality of “Tachash skins” which is not just because of the beauty of the color of these skins, but because this stresses the nature of the Tachash, that skins of these colors cause the Tachash to boast of its hues (and this is an important factor, so much so, that that his is a part of it name (Sasgavna) in the words of the Targum)
And this is also the advantage and importance of this offering of “Tachash skins”. It is understood and simple that an offering of the animal species is dearer than the offering of the vegetative species (like we find concerning offerings on the Altar). And in this there is a special importance of the “Tachash skins” over the “rams skins dyed red “not just because the “Tachash skins” have “many colors” (not like the other dyes that were brought individually: blue, purple, and crimson etc.) but primarily because the colors are a part of the skin of the Tachash itself. For with the donations of the “rams skins dyed red” (which were dyed afterwards), the donation only pertained to the actual hide, but not to the dye of the skins. Whereas with the donations of the “Tachash skins”, the coloring was included in the donation of the animal, because the dye was an actual part of the skin of the animal, so much so that this is an integral part of the animal - it rejoices and boasts of its hues. (as above)
And one can say that this is an additional reason that these curtains were the uppermost coverings of the Mishkan – for besides the fact that these sheets were more beautiful than the others, one also cannot compare a dyed skin to one that has a multitude of colors naturally. – And, as above, the colors of the “Tachash skins” were in integral part of the animal.
5. One can add an additional explanation why the “Tachash skins” were the uppermost top coverings of the Mishkan, for this advantage of the “Tachash skins” that the colors are an integral part of the animal, has a special manifestation to the inner meaning of the Mishkan, in general.
The word Chaya (animal species but literally ‘live’) is a hint to HaShem who is called the “life of the world” (Chai Olamim”) since G-d is the source of life for all worlds, as Rambam states (beg. Hil Yesodey haTorah) “All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between them came into existence only from the truth of His being.” And it is reasonable that the intent of Rambam’s statement: ““All the beings etc” does not refer to just their general nature, but also that all their specifics are also “from the truth of His being.”
In other words:
Everything in the worlds is divided (in general) into three parts:
1)    The essence of the object’s existence, which is similar in all objects

2)    The specific property of each objects, where each object s different from the other. For example, Fire and water which are different in their nature and properties, so much so that the nature of fire is opposite to that of water.
3) Other specifics of the object which are not a part of their essential makeup and essence.
And all aspects of creation “came into existence only from the truth of His being.” – In other words, besides the essential existence of the creation, and also the makeup and specific aspect of each being –the non-consequential specifics also “came into existence only from the truth of His being.”
And this is the purpose of the curtains made from “Tachash skins” in the Mishkan:
Since the purpose of the Mishkan is: “I will dwell in their midst”, the resting of the Divine Presence in a revealed manner, it is understood, that in it (the Mishkan), the “truth of His being” was revealed in every specific (part). [And as it is explained in commentaries (Bachaye etc) -from the “physical forms” of the Mishkan and its vessels – it is possible to “understand the spiritual forms that they represent” because they are descended from them. And the Rama elaborates concerning this in his sefer “Torat HaOlah”.]
And therefore, there needed to be in the Mishkan an aspect that showed the connection between outwardly things of creation with “truth of His being.” – And this is symbolized by the “Tachash skins”. For even the dye of their skin ( which is only an inconsequential (outward) property) was from the animal itself – to show that even the most inconsequential aspects of creation, even to their color, “came into existence only from the truth of His being.”, the “life of the world” (Chai Olamim”)
6. One can add, according to the explanation of the Alter Rebbe (in Torah Or) concerning the difference between the matter (Chomer) of the created object, and its form (Tzurah). “For the matter of the beings are created with word of G-d (dvar Hashem) and with the Ten Utterances (Asarah Maamorot), whereas “the manner of the form of the firmament (for example)..was made with the “desire of G-d” (Chaifetz HaShem) that does not come into the category of revealed speech (dibur) or utterance ( maamor)” – The reason for this is that “speech and utterance … cause the existence ( yeshut) of each being, for if they were created only with the “desire of G-d” (Chaifetz HaShem) and His will alone … the world’s existence would become completely nullified ( bottul b’mitzius mamosh)”. However, with the form of the being ( whose source is from “desire of G-d” (Chaifetz HaShem) that does not come into the category of revealed speech (dibur) or utterance ( maamor)”), the aspect of Bittul ( nullification) is drawn into the being ( c.f. at length)
[And one can say that this is expressed in the form of the beings, which is an inconsequential aspect that does not have “essence” ( tochein) – for the inner reason is that Bittul ( nullification) is drawn into the form of the being, and therefore it comes into the form of the being, that has no existence (mitzius) and “essence” ( tochein) in itself ( like the “existence” (mitzius) of the essential existence of the being, and also the “essence” ( tochein) of the being and its properties]
According to this, one can deeper understand the ( inner) reason why specifically the “Tachash skins” were the uppermost coverings of the Mishkan, for the Bittul of the beings (which was the primary purpose of the Mishkan - resting of the Divine Presence which causes a revealed Bittul to G-d) is connected to the “form” of thebeing more than any other part of the being ( as above); And this Bittul is specifically hinted in the “Tachash skins” for the colors of the skin ( which is inconsequential from the animal itself, and moreover this outward aspect is integral to the primary essence of the animal, more than other specific properties which is why it “it rejoices and boasts” specifically because of its colors
Through the vessels of the Mikdash, where each one is different from the other, and in each one, there is a different Avodah (service) that corresponds to it particular makeup, it is revealed how each specific object and property of creation is the word of G-d (dvar HaShem), and its specific life-force, which creates and enlivens it, and its true existence is as t is reflected Above:
The Kerashim (planks), which surround everything within it equally, depict Or Makif (the Encompassing light) and through them it is effected and revealed how all the beings “came into existence only from the truth of His being.” For this is aspect is common among all creation, that “All existence … from the first form down to a small mosquito in the depths of the earth - came into being from the influence of His truth”
And the curtains, which encompass everything in the Mishkan and the Kerashim from above also depict Or Makif (the Encompassing light), but a higher level of encompassing, which is why they need to be dyed, and specifically the uppermost covering of the “Tachash skin” – to show that even the outwardly form of things in the world are Bittul to the “life of the world” (Chai Olamim”- G-d). And on the contrary, this Bittul of the outwardly form comes from a higher level, Or Makif d’Kedusha (a holy Encompassing light), (G-‘ds will ( ratzon) and desire (Chaifetz)) which is much higher.
8. These three concepts are also in man’s Avodah (service):
In every Mitzvah – there are three aspects:
1)      The act of the mitzvah. In this all Jews are equal, from the greatest to the smallest ( For example: The deed of Moshe Rabbeinu putting on Tefillin is equal to the deed of a simple Jew’s putting on Tefillin, at all times). And as Tanya states: “For we have all one Torah and one law, insofar as the fulfillment of all the Torah and Mitzvot in actual performance is concerned”
2)      The intent (kavana) of the Mitzvah. In this there are differences from one individual to another, and is dependent on one’s level in his Avodah pnimiyut (inner service) with his mind and heart – According to one’s contemplation of the greatness of G-d that brings love of G-d and fear of G-d ( and as the ruling in the Rambam: “What is the path [to attain] love and fear of Him? When a person contemplates His wondrous and great deeds etc”) and “The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God” on which the Zohar states: “Each one according to his measure”
3)      Hiddur Mitzvah (beautification of the mitzvah) (which does not preclude the fulfillment of the Mitzvah), until the beautification of additional specifics on the actual Mitzvah, and specifically – things that are dependent on Minhag (custom).
Now, there is room for a person to mistakenly think, that the primary intent (diyuk) in keeping Mitzvot is only in the first two categories above, since:
The need for specifying the deed of the Mitzvah is understood and simple. For the “main thing is the deed” (maaseh hu haIkar) and as Alter Rebbe elaborates in Tanya : “Thus, if one recited the Shema in his thought and heart alone, even if he did so with the full power of his concentration, he has not fulfilled his obligation of reciting the Shema, by merely meditating on the words that comprise it; he must repeat it [verbally]… If, on the other hand, one spoke the words (of Shema, prayer, etc.) but did not concentrate his thought, he has, post facto, fulfilled his obligation”
And it is also understood he need for intent ( kavana) of the Mitzvah, For a Mitzvah without kavana is like a “body without a soul”. And as Alter Rebbe elaborates in Tanya the great need in performing Mitzvot with love of G-d and fear of G-d ;
But regarding additional aspects and specifically Minhagim, what is the necessity (diyuk) of them? And specifically with customs related to the education of small children, that don’t understand are not able to incorporate what they see and hear, especially very young children?
Regarding this, the lesson comes to (teach us) that even dye, an outward color, is an integral part of the Chaya (animal). That things that are outwardly forms need to be done with vitality (Chayut), and vitality that comes from the essence of the soul. And the roots of many Jewish customs are higher than many aspects of Laws, Customs of Jews are Torah (Mihag Yisroel Torah), Customs could annul Law (Minhag mvatel halacha), as the known responsa of the Rashba on this subject.
And through each and every Jew adding in all aspects of Torah and Mitzvot – both actually keeping Torah and Mitzvot and with Hiddur Mitzvah (beautification of the mitzvah), which are revealed (“the revealed things apply to us and to our children”) and also the hidden aspects (“The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God”) in serving G-d with love of G-d and fear of G-d , and also being scrupulous in Jewish customs ((Mihagei Yisroel) – through this will be “and I will dwell in their midst”, in each one of the Jewish People.
And this will bring close and hasten even more so the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash, “directed toward Your habitation, which You made, O Lord”. For the Mikdash below parallels (m’chaven) the Supernal Mikdash speedily in our days, mamosh.
( m’Sichas Shabbos Parshas Terumah 5734)
Other Info about Tachash:

(Rabbi Yehudah, Yerushalmi, Shabbath 2:3; Arukh s.v. Teynun; Koheleth Rabbah 1:9; Josephus 3:6:1, 3:6:4; Septuagint; Aquilla). Tachash in Hebrew. Others have 'black leather' (Saadia; Ibn Janach), that is, leather worked in such a manner as to come out dark and waterproof (Avraham ben HaRambam). In ancient Egyptian, tachash also denotes a kind of specially worked leather. See Ezekiel 16:10.

Other sources identify tachash as a species of animal. Some say that it is the ermine (Rabbi Nechemia, Yerushalmi, loc. cit.; Arukh, s.v. glaksinon. The word galy axeinon denotes the ermine, a member of the weasel family imported by the Axenoi (see Jastrow). Others state that it is a member of the badger family (Rashi on Ezekiel 16:10).

 Others say that it is a colorful one-horned animal known as a keresh (Yerushalmi, loc. cit., Shabbath 28b; Tanchuma 6; Rashi; cf. Chullin 59b). Some say that this is a species of wild ram (Ralbag), possibly an antelope, okape or giraffe. Some see the one-horned creature as the narwhal (Mondon monoceros) which has its left tooth developed into a single long horn-like appendage. This animal, which can grow to be over 16 feet long, is occasionally found on the southern Sinai shores.

In Arabic, tukhush denotes the sea cow or dugong (Dugong hempirchi) an aquatic mammal which is found on the shores of the Sinai. Some thus say that the tachash is a type of seal, since its skins were used for the tabernacle's roof, and sealskins were often used for this purpose (cf. Pliny 2:56).

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