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Skin of the Tachash

At least 6 times, G-d calls for the covering of the sacred parts of the Tabernacle (see Exodus 25) “with the skin of the dolphin.” Why the dolphin?

I assume that you have read some translation of the Torah that describes “Tachash” skins, one of the coverings of the Tabernacle, as dolphin skins, however this is clearly a faulty translation. How could a wandering group in the Sinai desert get a hold of dolphin skins? It is easy to understand, though, why a translator would stumble on the word “Tachash”, as it is a unique word in the Torah without any definitive translation.

The Jerusalem Talmud (Tractate Shabbos 2:3) discusses differing opinions as to the identity of the Tachash. Rabbi Yehudah understands the Tachash as referring to a blue or violet coloring of goatskin, whereas Rabbi Nechemya argues that the Tachash is the Galaksinon (a type of weasel, probably the ermine). A third opinion is found in Midrash Koheles Rabbah (1:28), as well as in the above mentioned Talmud, that quotes the teaching of Rabbi Avin who says that the Tachash is the Keresh (It has been suggested that this refers to the giraffe).

As for an explanation of the Torah’s choice for using Tachash skins for the covering of the Tabernacle, the commentary of Rashi (Shemos 25:5), notes that the Tachash skins were aesthetically pleasing with their multi-colored skin. Such skins would add great beauty to the Tabernacle’s appearance.

Yochai Robkin

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