Thursday, February 07, 2008

Teruma: The Identity of the Tachash

At the start of Terumah:
ד וּתְכֵלֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן וְתוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי, וְשֵׁשׁ וְעִזִּים. 4 and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair;
ה וְעֹרֹת אֵילִם מְאָדָּמִים וְעֹרֹת תְּחָשִׁים, וַעֲצֵי שִׁטִּים. 5 and rams' skins dyed red, and sealskins, and acacia-wood;
Many of these are colors, or dyed wool. Even the rams skins are specifically ones dyed red. And I've suggested that וְעִזִּים refers not to goats' hair but to bright and intensely dyed cloth. If so, what to make of orot techashim? One can read it as skins of techashim. Or one could read it as skins which are techashim. Shadal notes:

עורות תחשים : תחש לא נמצא חוץ מסיפור המשכן רק פעם אחת ( ביחזקאל ט " ז י ') ואנעלך תחש . לדעת המתרגמים הקדמונים הוא שם עור צבוע בצבע מיוחד , וחכמי התלמוד אמרו ( שבת כ " ח ע " א , ע " ב ) שהוא שם חיה , וכן דעת גזניוס והוא אומר שהוא זאב הים או כיוצא בו .

Usually, we try to establish meaning of unknown words based on usage. And Yechezkel 16:10:
י וָאַלְבִּישֵׁךְ רִקְמָה, וָאֶנְעֲלֵךְ תָּחַשׁ; וָאֶחְבְּשֵׁךְ בַּשֵּׁשׁ, וַאֲכַסֵּךְ מֶשִׁי. 10 I clothed thee also with richly woven work, and shod thee with sealskin, and I wound fine linen about thy head, and covered thee with silk.
is not entirely helpful. Once again, the context could be taken to suggest something specific, or some specific quality, to the cloth, as with the other examples. But perhaps not.

Shadal notes that the early translators explained that it was some hide dyed with a specific dye. Thus, they take it as orot which are techashim. While in the Talmud they explain it as a certain wild animal. And Gesenius says it is an animal like a sea lion. (If I translate correctly.)

Turning to the examples in local context of parshat Terumah, as noted, the items leading up to it are all modified by color. But on the other hand, while red, ram skin is specifically mentioned. And atzei shittim is wood of shittim.

An interesting note. Shadal cites Gesenius that it is the זְאֵב הַיָּם. According to Hebrew Wiktionary, this is the hake. (Pictured to the right.)

But I think it is likely that this is an example of language changing, and he might mean a sea lion. Unless he means a seawolf (which is a direct translation to English)? Indeed, in German, Seewolf means the same fish, the seawolf. Follow this link to the picture. It is a beautiful, if a bit frightening, fish. Meanwhile
, the corresponding word for the hake in German is Seehechte.

So why the difference?
Why the word זְאֵב הַיָּם has this correspondence in modern Hebrew, I don't know. I did not see Gesenius inside, so I do not know which word he used, or what meaning it had when he said it. Tzarich Iyyun, and suggestions from commenters are of course welcome.

Update: Read the comments, below. (Thanks, everyone!) Here is the the Eng
lish translation of what Gesenius says, which is badger or seal. Here is a clipping from Gesenius. Click to make it larger. He refers to Luther's Bible, which says Dachsfelle, which means badger fur.

I wonder how the choice of "sea wolf" came about for Shadal's time, as well as for modern Hebrew. And what German word was used by Gesenius that caused Shadal to render it such.


J. P. van de Giessen said...

Maybe this helps:
Brown, D.D., D.Litt. Francis, Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon p. 8476: • I . תַּ֫חַשׁ S 8476, 8477 TWOT 2503 GK 9391, 9392 n.m. taḫaš, a kind of leather or skin, and perhaps the animal yielding it ( prob. the dugong , cf. Arabic تُخَسٌ
( tuḫasun ) dolphin , Thes 1500 D i -Ry Ex 25:5 Post HastDB BADGER ; Assyrian taḫšu ( Dl Baer Ezech. xvi ), for which Dl Prol . 77 ff.; HWB 705 conj. meaning sheep(skin) ; Bondi Egyptiaca
Bäd Bädekers Egypt; Onk Targum of Onkelos. Ry V. Ryssel.
Dl Friedrich Delitzsch. Dl Friedrich Delitzsch, Wo lag das Paradies? Bondi J. H. Bondi, Hebr. Lehnwörter in Hieroglyphischen Texten.
1 ff. cp. Egypt. t…ḥś , leather; v. summary of views M’Lean-Shipley Ency. Bib. BADGERS ’ SKINS ) ;— abs. ת׳ Nu 4:6 +, תָּחַשׁ v 8 +; pl. תְּחָשִׁים Ex 25:5 +;—leather used for (woman’s) sandals Ez 16:10 ; elsewhere for cover of tabernacle Nu 4:25 , עוֹר ת׳ v 6, 8 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 14 , עֹרֹת (הַ)תְּחָשִׁים Ex 25: 5; 26:14 ; 35:7 , 23 ; 36:19 ; 39:34 (all P).

joshwaxman said...

the Assyrian and Arabic cognates are interesting.

J. P. van de Giessen said...

If interested, on my website are 2 pages
see Referenties (right corner) with several links to English sites and citations about this subject.

Josh M. said...

Samuel Tregelles' translation of Gesenius (1949) uses seal or badger. I'm not sure if either the lexicographer or the translator would necessarily distinguish between the seal and the sea lion, though.

Anonymous said...

I know that R' Slifkin has addressed the "Tachash" ID issue; IIRC, among the possibilities he discussed were giraffe and dudong. He also, if memory serves, suggested the possibility that "tachash" means "adorned with beads" although I don't remember what the derivation was.

J. P. van de Giessen said...

I think the link is in Yechezkel 16:10 could be interesting. According Dr. J. van Dorp (a Dutch Bible translator) Bedouins of the Sinai-desert uses in the past the skin of a dugong for sandals.
Furthe the skin of the dugong is one of the finest leather of a sea-animal.


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