Among the objects that we were commanded to bring for the construction of the Mishkan were skins of the tachash.1 These skins formed the outermost covering. Rashi explains that the tachash, now extinct, was a wild animal with multicolored skin.

Using this varicolored skin for the outermost covering of the Mishkan eliminated the need for dye, and thus emphasized the internal aspect of the Mishkan as a whole:

The Rambam states2 that “All existing beings, whether celestial, terrestrial or belonging to an intermediate class, exist only through G‑d’s true existence.” It is logical to infer that “All existing beings” refers not only to the beings as a whole; their particulars as well exist through His true existence.

Consider. All entities are generally divided into three parts:

a) their very existence — something shared by all things;

b) their singular aspects — aspects that are unique to each being, such as the distinct properties of fire and water;

c) the secondary aspects and details of each thing.

All the above aspects of every being — even the secondary and external aspects — derive their existence from G‑d’s true existence.

This was symbolized by the tachash skins that served as the outermost covering for the Mishkan : Since the purpose of the Mishkan was to allow G‑d to “reside among you”3 in a revealed manner, the Mishkan demonstrated that G‑d’s true existence can be found within every aspect of all beings.

This concept was exemplified by the tachash skins, the many hues of which were an element of the animal itself, eliminating the need for extraneous dyes.

But why was the outermost portion of the Mishkan selected to symbolize this theme?

The Mishkan itself was divided into three parts: vessels, boards and coverings. Each symbolized one of the above three aspects of all beings.

The vessels of the Mishkan were distinct in both form and purpose. This indicated how the unique aspects of each being depend upon the individual life-force that creates and animates each one as a distinct entity.

The board walls, surrounding as they did everything that was found within them, denote an encompassing degree of divine illumination. This revealed how all beings are equally dependent on G‑d’s true existence.

The coverings sheathed not only the vessels but the boards as well. This most external aspect — especially the tachash skins, the most external covering of all — served to indicate that even the external aspects of all beings are nullified to and derive their existence from G‑d’s true existence.

The above is also reflected in man’s spiritual service. For every commandment has three distinct aspects: a) the actual deed, in which all Jews are alike, since everyone performs the deed in a similar manner;4 b) the intent with which the deed is performed, wherein each Jew’s particular intent is commensurate with his or her degree of spiritual advancement; and c) performing a mitzvah in the best and most beautiful manner possible, as well as scrupulously observing Jewish customs.

It is possible for an individual to err, thinking that the most important thing is to be punctilious about the performance of the actual deed and the intent with which it is performed. The person may well be led to think so, inasmuch as “deed is above all,” and “a mitzvah [performed] without intent is as a body without a soul.”5

But when it comes to ornamenting and beautifying a mitzvah, and surely with regard to something that is mere custom, the person might well say to himself: “What is so important about being assiduous about their performance?”

Herein comes the lesson from the coloration of the tachash : the external hues of the tachash were a part of the animal itself. In other words, even the seemingly “external” customs and adornments of a mitzvah are part and parcel of the essence of Judaism.6

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXXI, pp. 135-141.