Terumah: I Believe in Unicorns

This Dvar Torah is dedicated in memory of Rav Chaim Shmuel Niman zt”l, the Mashgiach of Yeshivah Chofetz Chaim in Queens whose burial was today on Har Hamenuchos in Jerusalem. 

One of the materials used as a covering in the mishkan [tabernacle] was the skin of the Tachash. What is a Tachash? The Medrish Tanchuma (parshas Terumah, paragraph 6) says it was a gigantic kosher animal (split hooves, chewed its cud) which had one horn in the center of its forehead and a multi-colored coat (six types of colors to be exact). Rebbe Yehuda said it was a wild mammal which lived in the desert and Rebbe Nechemia said it was a miraculous animal which was created temporarily for the purpose of making the 30-amah, 47.25 foot  covering of the mishkan, and was then hidden forever. A creature similar in appearance to the ‘mythical’ unicorn.

The Rabbeinu Bachye (Shemos 25:5) suggests that the Tachashim were placed in the desert solely for the purpose of the mishkan and the honor of G-D, as their skins had incredibly magnificent designs on them. There were many fine materials used in the mishkan which are listed in the Torah (Shemos 25:3-8) such as “gold, silver, copper, turquoise, purple, and scarlet wool; linen and goat hair; red-dyed ram skins, [Tachash skins], acacia wood; oil for illumination, spices for the anointment oil, and the aromatic incense; shoham(onyx) stones and stones for the settings, for the Ephod and the Breastplate.”

The Rabbeinu Bachye (25:3) points out that the Torah lists “3 kinds of metals and 3 kinds of wool but silk were not donated to the mishkan. This is because [silk] comes from the body of a creepy crawly, the silkworm and only kosher and spiritually pure material was used for the Service of Heaven…” (Click herefor Hebrew text.)

Silk is a fine soft fiber produced by silkworms originating from the Far East. Real silk is known to be one of the fanciest and most expensive textiles in the world; yet Hashem chose not to use it as part of His “House” in this world, because it originates from something impure. On the other hand, Hashem went out of his way to create a miraculous, kosher creature that was only temporarily in existence, solely for the sake of the mishkan. The lesson being, that no matter how precious and fancy an object is to the naked eye, if its essence is impure it is inappropriate for holy matters.

Hashem created the human being in His image, b’tzelem Elokim. Though we have a physical body we also have a soul, which is a spark of holiness and spirituality; we must treat it the same way as the mishkan was treated. We must have the utmost sensitivity to what we come in contact with, imbibe, or associate with. Is it of a kosher, proper, and holy nature, or is it lowly, distasteful, and unclean? It is our choice to set our priorities straight in life.

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