Friday, March 3, 2017

Terumah: The Tachash and the Erev Rav

by Rabbi Chanan Morrison

The Talmud gives an account of the enigmatic Tachash, a mysterious creature whose beautiful multicolored hide was used as a covering for 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 vanished.” [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
The Tachash is said to have had one horn, this picture is
for illustrative purposes only, and not a real Tachash

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 Moses’ desire to include as many talents and gifts as possible when building the Jewish people - even talents that, on their own, might have a negative influence upon the people. 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 were the source of much grief. 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, at the End of Days, all the troubles these difficult and diverse forces caused will be revealed as having been for the best, as the absorption of the Erev Rav served to enrich the Jewish people.

One disturbing aspect of the Erev Rav is the phenomenon of many dynamic forces abandoning the Jewish nation during its long exile among the nations. Yet this is not a true loss, since only that which was foreign to the inner spirit of Israel is cast off. These lost elements of the Erev Rav were ultimately incompatible with Knesset Yisrael, the national soul of Israel; thus they were unable to withstand the pressures and hardships 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 benefits 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 Israel’s spiritual message.

Could the Tachash be Domesticated?

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 a part of it? Or would they only serve as a positive influence on the world, outside the camp of Israel?

The Sages expressed this uncertainty 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 only be guided indirectly. A domesticated animal, on the other hand, is completely subservient to man and is an integral part of his household. Would the Erev Ravultimately be rejected, like wild animals which can never be truly at home with humanity? Or would they be domesticated and incorporated into the house of Israel?

Moses and the Tachash

Just as the Tachash only made its appearance in Moses’ time, so too, this absorption of foreign talents was only possible in Moses’ generation. No other generation could have taken it upon itself to accept alien forces into the nation. Once the contribution of the Erev Rav to Israel is complete, the nation’s spiritual restoration requires that they will be purged from the Jewish people. “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 underlying purpose of all human activity, as all actions ultimately fulfill the Divine Will. The great hour of Exodus resonated with the highest vision; the first redemption of Israel initiated the historical process that will culminate with the final redemption. Moses, the master prophet, “the most faithful of all My house,” saw fit to include those varied forces that ordinarily would be rejected. And 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 - “the new heavens and the new earth” - are not really new. They already exist. Even now, they are “standing before Me.” By accepting the Erev Rav, Moses planted these diverse gifts within the Jewish people. Like seeds, they decay in the ground; but ultimately they will sprout and bring forth new life. The brilliant future light, with all of its spectacular colors and breadth, is not new; it was secreted away long ago. This resplendent light is hidden, like the multi-hued Tachash, until the time will come for it to be revealed once more. [Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. III, pp. 105-107]


Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating piece of Dvar Tora that I have not heard before.
Fascinating. . .
As a person who has an interest in Chinuch/Jewish education, I want to commend you on the lovely pictures that you constantly portray in your blog. But especially worthy of mention is your caption under the illustration of the Tachash where you bring to the attention of your vast readers that this picture is for ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES ONLY!
I want to wish you my heartfelt Bracha veHatzlacha for all the interesting and educational information you present in your blog/s.
Chazak U'Varuch (Yasher Koach)!
Have a wonderful Shabbat and all the days, weeks and months following,
till we welcome Mashiach Tzidkeinu 'K'Heref Ayin" - in an eye-blink!

thlh s said...

very inspiring article. thanks.
what is very nice about your blog, is that unlike other some other blogs, who seem to know and always run down the non jewish world , who seem to know who the erev rav that is any jew who does not agree with eiier own views as correct, your blog reaches out to the world, without in anyway diminishing israel's holiness and holy stature as given by HaShem.
thanks. the chabad rebbe, too reached out to the non jewish world and he played a huge role in the lives of many noahides, even those who like my self had never met him, and brought many to the 7 laws.again, this is a very informative and inspiring article.

Anonymous said...

I want to agree with the first comment....I love coming to your site. You educate people in Torah and connect them with so many Torah related topics in such a light filled and beautiful fashion. As someone who relates better to all things presented in a lovely manner...well the beautiful presentation on this site makes learning a soothing and uplifting experience, like a balm for the neshama. I personally dont react well to things presented in a harsh strident or colorless manner, So Yasher Koach because you are presenting Torah in a manner which is Chanoch L'Na'ar al pi Da'archo.... I once learned that that phrase means to educate a child in Torah in a manner that will appeal to him and reinforce the beauty and love of Torah in the best way that child will learn. You can then be sure that child will walk in the ways of Torah all his life, if he is taught in the appropriate manner. Your site is awesome and Kol Hakovod to you for all the good you do and the Torah learning that you help to disseminate.

Devorah said...

Thank you so much.