In describing the construction of the Mishkan, the Torah says that the Mishkan would be covered by a tarp made of the skin of the Tachash. Later in Bamidbar we are told that Tachash skin was also used to cover the vessels of the Mishkan while they were in transit. And in the Book of Yechezkel, God describes the care He showed to the Jewish People while they were in the Midbar after leaving Egypt; one of the ways was by providing Tachash skins for their shoes. What was the Tachash? Nobody knows for sure.
One of the defining characteristics of the Tachash according to many opinions is that it was multi-colored. The Talmud in Shabbat 28 states that the Tachash was known in Aramaic as Sasgona (as it is referred to in Targum Onkelos) because it was sas begavvna- it rejoiced in its multitude of colors.
The Tachash skins differed from the other materials in the Mishkan in that they did not require dyeing; their color was part of the fabric. Most of the skins and threads used for the Mishkan and the Bigdei Kehuna were dyed to appear colorful, whereas the Tachash skins were naturally colorful and did not have to be treated. Fundamental to the Tachash was the intrinsic diversity of colors that were naturally inherent within its skin. The Tachash can be a symbol of the beauty of diversity. Diversity is a theme that comes up in a number of ways in the Mishkan. Different people - men and women - contributed in different ways to its construction. Kohanim Leviim and Yisraelim all had critical roles in the construction and ongoing Avoda in the Mishkan- each with their own strengths and their own focus. We are a diverse shul. I often say that everyone can find their place in our community- except for someone who’s uncomfortable being part of a diverse community.
Rabbi Shmuel Fine in his Sefer Yalkut Shmuel wonders: what is the relevance of the Tachash being happy with its multi-colored status? Why attribute emotions to the animal? Rabbi Fine explained that the Tachash is not only a creature of diverse colors, but it takes joy in its diversity! Diversity is not merely something to tolerate. Rather it should be embraced and understood to be the path through which everyone is elevated.
This is the underlying principle of inclusion. As I once saw someone put it, the difference between diversity and inclusion is: “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” Inclusion demonstrates the awareness that including different people makes everyone better. This was one of the most poignant lessons I took away from my conversation with Avi Samuels, Golbal Chairman of Shalva. Avi pointed out that the philosophy of Shalva, formulated by his parents in his own home, is that inclusion of people with different abilities has a positive impact on everyone. February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month. It is also Black History Month. It is an opportune time to consider the lessons of the Tachash. Its multi-colored skin teaches the lesson of diversity. The fact that it rejoiced in its diversity is a lesson in inclusion. The Tachash skin was on the outermost layer of the Mishkan, closest to Hashem. I believe that is because respect for diversity and efforts at inclusion are Godly and holy.