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Aaron and his sons shall come when the camp journeys and they shall take down the partition of the screen and cover the Ark of Testimony with it. They shall place upon it a tachash hide covering and spread a cloth entirely of techailes over it and set its staves (Bamidbar 4:5, 6).
In this weeks parsha we learn that as the Holy Ark journeyed through the desert it was sheltered with three coverings. First, the paroches that divided between the Holy and the Holy of Holies was removed and placed on the aron. On top of this was placed the tachash hide and above this was laid a cloth of techailes. The commentators note that the order of the two upper layers was the opposite of the other utensils of the mishkan. Regarding them the posuk says that first they were covered with a techailes cloth and then a tachash hide. Why was the order of coverings different for the aron?
We may suggest that to an observer the techailes cloth evoked a feeling of awe. Chazal explain that the color of techailes is similar to the sea, the color of the sea is similar to the color of the heaven and the color of the heaven is similar to color of Hashem’s throne. Thus, when one gazed at the techailes cloth he was reminded of Hashem’s throne and was filled with a feeling of awe.
Chazal teach us that the tachash was a multi-colored wild animal that existed only during the generation of the Exodus. Its beautiful skin had six colors. The targum translates the word tachash as “sas’gona,” which means “it rejoices over its beautiful colors.” The Midrash (see Torah Sh’laima Shemos 48) tells us that just by looking at the tachash one’s anxiety would dissipate. Its beauty evoked a feeling of joy. Indeed, the commentators explain that an alternate translation for the targum’s word “sas’gona” is “it removed feelings of aggravation.”
It is noteworthy that each utensils of the mishkan was covered with these two coverings, one evoked joy and the other fear. Indeed, chazal teach us that our approach to spirituality must be with both emotions as it says in the posuk. “rejoice with trepidation” (Tehillim 2,11).
However, there is a difference in how the coverings were layered. The commentators explain that the utensils of the mishkan are symbolic of the performance of various mitzvos. The outer covering of these utensils was tachash, the hide that evoked joy. When an onlooker gazed at the utensil he was filled with joy. Only after a closer examination would one discover the hidden layer of techailes beneath and experience awe. This is symbolic of our approach to mitzvos. When approaching a mitzvah one’s initial emotion should be joy. Only after one performs the mitzvah and appreciates what the mitzvah represents will one attain a level of awe and fear of Hashem.
However with regard to the aron hakodesh it is the opposite. The aron hakodesh is symbolic of Torah study. Torah study is a delicate matter. One’s initial approach to Torah study must be with awe and respect for the truth of the Torah and the Torah sages. Indeed in pirkei avos (6:6) where the mishna lists the forty eight steps necessary to acquire Torah first comes fear and later joy. Only with a mindset of awe will one succeed in mastering Torah knowledge and uncover the joy of Torah.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5763/2003