A Unique Creature
It is written, “This is the offering that you shall take from them: Gold, silver, and copper, and turquoise, purple and scarlet wool; linen and goat hair; red-dyed ram skins, tachash skins and shittim wood” (Shemot 25:3-5). Rabbi Meir said, “The tachash of Moshe’s day was a unique creature, for the Sages could not decide whether it belonged to a type of wild animal or to a type of domestic animal. It had one horn on its forehead, and it presented itself to Moshe for the occasion, and he made of it a [cover for the] Sanctuary, and it was then hidden” (Shabbat 28b). The Jerusalem Talmud explains that the Holy One, blessed be He, created a type of pure wild animal for Moshe in the desert, and once it was used for constructing the Sanctuary, it disappeared (Shabbat 2:4).
I have heard the Mashgiach of Yeshiva Ateret Israel, Rav Chaim Walkin Shlita, asking why the Holy One, blessed be He, decided that it was good to create a unique creature solely for the needs of the Sanctuary. Were animal skins missing in the world, such that G-d had to create this creature? The Sages have also said, “The world did not actually deserve the benefit of gold, but it was created for the sake of the Sanctuary and the Temple…. The cedars, too, should have disappeared, but did not, for Rabbi Chanina said: ‘The world did not deserve to avail itself of cedar trees, but they were created solely for the sake of the Sanctuary and the Temple’ ” (Shemot Rabba 35:1). Here too we may ask what the difference is between the tachash, which was created solely for temporary use and ended up disappearing, and gold & cedar, which were also created for the Sanctuary but did not disappear.
We may explain this according to what we have already said, namely that the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded Moshe to make the Sanctuary so the Children of Israel could learn how to serve G-d. They entered it constantly, for the Torah only endures with one who studies at the Beit HaMidrash, as it is said: “It is a covenant that was concluded” (Yerushalmi, Berachot 5:1). One who puts an effort into studying Torah in synagogue will not quickly forget his learning. The Sages have also taught, “A man’s prayer is heard only in synagogue, for it is said: ‘To hear the cry and the prayer’ [I Kings 8:28]. Prayer is to be recited where there is song” (Berachot 6a). Rashi explains this to mean: “Where there is song, in synagogue, where the community recites songs of praise with a beautiful voice.” This is why the Holy One, blessed be He, did not create new creatures anywhere else, but only for the construction of the Sanctuary. He wanted to show the Children of Israel that just as He created a new creature for the Sanctuary, they were also to renew themselves each day, and their service of today must not be like their service of yesterday, since they must renew themselves each day.
Hashem Requires the Heart
In the same spirit, the Arizal explains (Sha’ar HaKavanot) that what we say each day in prayer – “in His goodness He renews each day, continuously, the work of Creation” – means that the Holy One, blessed be He, renews the strength of man every morning, as the verse states: “They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Eicha 3:23). Just as Hashem renews Creation each day for man, everyone must renew his strength to serve Hashem in order for his service of today not to resemble his service of yesterday.
The Sages have said, “The Holy One, blessed be He, requires the heart” (Sanhedrin 106b). This means that a person will sometimes fulfill a mitzvah, but only out of habit. Hashem looks as how he fulfills the mitzvah – “He sees innermost thoughts and feelings” (Jeremiah 20:12) – examining the heart of man when he fulfills a mitzvah to determine if it is done out of habit or not. Hence the Holy One, blessed be He, created a new creature for the construction of the Sanctuary: The entire goal of the Sanctuary was for the Children of Israel to learn how to serve Hashem, and for them to renew their deeds at every moment.
Doing Good for Others
Furthermore, G-d wanted to teach the Children of Israel to acquire good middot. In fact we can help others with gold and cedar, and gold also enables us to give money to the poor. This is why, although the world did not deserve the benefits of gold and cedars, the Holy One, blessed be He, did good to man by leaving him these things, so he can benefit from them and show kindness to others.
Concerning tzeddakah we have learned: Naton titen – “You shall surely give” (Devarim 15:10) – even 100 times (Sifrei). In other words, a person should not fulfill the mitzvah of tzeddakah out of habit. Rather, every time that he gives, it should be as if he received the order today. On the other hand, in regards to the tachash, since people do not derive any special benefit from it, Hashem hid that creature. Are animal skins missing in the world? He did not create it for the needs of the Sanctuary, but so the Children of Israel could learn to renew their service every day.
This is why the Sanctuary was disassembled and reassembled, in order for the Children of Israel to know that they must serve their Creator each day in a renewed way. Even if they study Torah and fulfill mitzvot on a given day just as on the day before, they must still study Torah and fulfill mitzvot on the following day as well. Furthermore, they must study Torah and fulfill mitzvot with all their limbs, as it is written: “All my bones will say” (Tehillim 35:10). The Sages have taught: “Beruriah [the wife of Rabbi Meir] once found a student who was learning in an undertone. Rebuking him, she exclaimed: ‘Is it not written: “Established for all time and secure” [II Samuel 23:5]? If it is “established” in your 248 limbs, it will be “secure.” Otherwise it will not’ ” (Eruvin 53b-54a).