Truma: The Tachash as Erev Rav

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Truma: The Tachash as Erev Rav

Post  Waqar Daniel on Fri 19 Feb 2010, 5:57 pm

by Rabbi Chanan Morrison

What did the Tachash, the creature whose hide was used to cover the Tabernacle, symbolize?

The Talmud gives an enigmatic account of the Tachash, the mysterious creature whose beautiful multi-colored hide was used to cover the Tabernacle: "The Tachash that lived in the time of Moses was a unique species. The Sages could not determine whether it was domesticated or wild. It only appeared at that time for Moses, who used it for the Tabernacle; then it was hidden away." (Shabbat 28b)

What is the significance of this unique animal? What was its special connection to Moses, that it made its appearance only during his lifetime? And why did Moses incorporate the colorful Tachash in the Tabernacle, albeit only for its outermost covering? Mixed Blessings from Mixed Multitudes In Aramaic, the Tachash is called Sasgona, for it was proud (sas) of its many vivid colors (gona). According to Rav Kook, the multihued Tachash is a metaphor, representing the desire to include as many talents and gifts as possible when building the nation. Even talents that, on their own, might be negative.

The metaphor of the Tachash specifically relates to Moses' decision to allow the Erev Rav - 'mixed multitudes' from other nations - join the Israelites as they left Egypt. The Erev Rav caused much grief to the Jews of that generation. They instigated the sin of the Golden Calf and other rebellions against God in the wilderness. And their descendants throughout the generations continued to bring troubles upon Israel. Nevertheless, the culmination of the End of Days will be blessed by these difficult and diverse forces. All of the troubles and suffering they caused will be ultimately revealed as for the best, as the absorption of the Erev Rav within Israel will enrich and complement the nation.

One disturbing aspect of the Erev Rav is the phenomenon of many dynamic forces abandoning the Jewish people during its long exile among the nations. Yet this is not a true loss, since only that which is essentially foreign to the inner spirit of Israel is cast off. These lost elements of the Erev Rav were ultimately incompatible to Knesset Yisrael, the soul of the nation; thus, they were unable to withstand the pressures and demands of exile. It saddens us to lose that which we thought was part of Israel, but in fact they were never truly assimilated within the nation's soul. This outcome provides a benefit to the world at large. As these 'fallen leaves' join the other nations, they bring with them much of what they absorbed from the holiness of Israel. As a result, other peoples have become more receptive to the spiritual heritage of Israel.

Was the Tachash Domesticable? The Sages were in doubt as to the ultimate fate of the multi- talented Erev Rav. Would they be truly absorbed within Israel, enriching the people and remaining forever part of us? Or would they only serve as a positive influence on the world, outside the camp of Israel?

The Sages expressed this doubt by questioning whether the Tachash was a domestic creature. A wild animal cannot be trained and will not permanently join man's home. It can be influenced only in an indirect fashion. A domesticated animal, on the other hand, is completely subservient to mankind and is an integral part of his household. Would the Erev Rav be ultimately rejected, like wild animals which cannot permanently join humanity? Or would they be domesticated and incorporated into the house of Israel?

Just as the Tachash only made its appearance in Moses' time, so too this inclusion of foreign talents was only possible in that generation. No other generation could take it upon itself to add alien forces to the nation. Once the Erev Rav have made their contribution, the nation's restoration requires their purging. "I will purge your dross... and then you will be called the city of righteousness, faithful city" (Isaiah 1: 25-26). We usually avoid destructive forces which may delay and hinder the ultimate good. However, a far-reaching vision can detect the purpose which underlies all human activity, as all actions ultimately fulfill the Divine Will. The great hour of Exodus resonated with the farthest vision and the ultimate redemption. Moses, the master prophet, "the most faithful of all My house," saw fit to include those varied forces that would ordinarily be rejected. Yet, like the skins of the Tachash, they were only suitable for the most external covering. "The new heavens and the new earth which I will make, are standing before Me." (Isaiah 66: 22)

All of the wonderful forces of the future world, "the new sky and the new earth," are not really new. They already exist. Even now, they are "standing before Me." Moses planted these diverse gifts like seeds within the people. Like seeds, they rot in the ground, but ultimately they will sprout and bring forth new life. The brilliant future light, with all of its myriad colors and expansive breadth, is not new, but secreted away. This resplendent light is hidden, like the multihued Tachash, until the time will come for it to be revealed once more. (adapted from Ein Eyah vol. III pp. 105-107)

Artuz Sheva


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the LORD Jesus Christ. (Philemon 1:3)

Waqar Daniel

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