Friday, June 10, 2005
This is a dugong. (dū'gŏng') The answer people tell us, that this is "a herbivorous marine mammal native to tropical coastal waters of the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and southwest Pacific Ocean."
My point: In Shmos (25:5) God tells Moshe to take "...rams' skins dyed red, and tachash skins, and sheetim wood." What's a tachash, you ask? Well, the Talmud thinks it's a kosher, one horned animal, with colorful skin. (Shabbos 28A) Nosson Slifkin thinks this sounds like a giraffe.(Mysterious Creatures) The linguists who wrote the King James edition of the bible have it as "badger."
However, it seems* that all this guessing and deducing may have been done for nothing. Why's that? The Arab word for "dugong," the Red Sea dwelling mammal pictured above, is tukhas which sounds an awful lot like tachash; also apparently Bedhouins have been recorded using the skin of the dugong for exactly the purpose described in Shmos.
* An alert reader tells me Nosson Slifkin identifies the dugong as the tachash in Mysterious Creatures.
* I'm working from memory and had forgotten. I am certain others have put up similar posts. Let me know about it, and I'll link you.