In this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, the Jewish Nation was commanded to build the Mishkan, A.K.A. the Tabernacle. It was a portable sanctuary which the Jewish people carried throughout their forty years in the wilderness. The Jews were commanded to donate the items which would be needed to construct G-d’s “home” in the desert. The Torah enumerates all of the articles which the Jews were to donate. Among them was (Shemos 25:5) “… ram skins dyed red, tachash skins, and acacia wood …” We have no translation for the animal called “tachash” in Hebrew. As Rashi explains, “this was a species of animal that existed only for a short time, and it had many colors.” That means to say, that the “tachash” existed at the time of the building of the Mishkan, but has long since been extinct.
Rashi is bothered by how the Jews acquired acacia wood in the desert. He explains this in his following comments. “Rabbi Tanchuma explained that our father Ya’akov prophetically saw that the Jews were destined to build a Mishkan in the desert. He brought cedars to Egypt and planted them. He commanded his sons to take them with them when they left Egypt.”
Rashi’s words seem to require some explanation. After all, there were simpler ways for the Jews to procure acacia wood in the desert. It may have been possible to buy the necessary wood from nomadic merchants travelling in the wilderness. There may have also been forests in proximity to the desert from which the Jews could have acquired the wood. Why was there a need to go to the trouble of carrying trees from Israel to Egypt, replanting them in Egypt, and then taking them out of Egypt?
One possible explanation can be derived from the fact that Rashi mentions that this teaching was stated by Rabbi Tanchuma. It is most unusual for Rashi to name a source at all. Why does he tell us the name of the Sage who he is quoting?
The name “Tanchuma” is related to the Hebrew word “Nechomoh,” meaning consolation. The Jewish Nation withstood 210 years of bitter slavery in Egypt. Granted, they knew that Hashem had promised to redeem them. Nevertheless that does not compare to actually seeing a tangible indication of this promise. Throughout the centuries of backbreaking work and bitter decrees, our ancestors were able to actually see the cedars which their forefather Ya’akov had planted. They were well aware why he planted them This concrete sign of the approaching redemption served to comfort them in their servitude.
May these words of Torah serve to elevate the soul of my mother, Mrs. Chana (Ann) bas Reb Shmuel O.B.M. Mendelsohn on the occasion of her 25th Yahrtzeit on this coming Sunday, 7 Adar 5775. Her soul should rise to even more exalted heights. May she intercede in heaven on behalf of all of her children, their spouses, her grandchildren, their spouses, her great grandchildren and the entire Jewish Nation!
Wishing one and all Shabbos and a Happy Purim!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn