Holy Cow!January 12, 2012 - 5:00 am
“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: ‘This is a requirement of the law that the Lord has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke.’”—Numbers 19:2
Much debate has gone on, both in Jewish and Christian camps, regarding the red heifer and its significance to the rebuilding of the Third Temple, and therefore, to ushering in the messianic period. Both Jews and Christians in recent years have attempted to locate and bring to Jerusalem a genetically pure red heifer.
Sacrificing a red heifer as part of a ritual law dates back to Moses’ time. God had commanded Moses and Aaron, the high priest, to sacrifice a red heifer without defect or blemish as part of a purification ceremony. However, the absolute rarity of the animal, and the mystical ritual in which it is used, has given the red heifer special status in the Jewish tradition.
According to Jewish tradition, only nine red heifers have actually been sacrificed from the time of Moses to the destruction of the Second Temple! It is considered one of the greatest and deepest mysteries of the Torah, belonging to a category of biblical law called chok, for which there is no apparent human logic. Even King Solomon in all his wisdom could not understand this command.
This much is known: The state of ritual purity obtained through the ashes of a red heifer is necessary before anyone can participate in any Temple services. Therefore, efforts have been made in modern times by Jews and Christians wanting to rebuild the Temple to locate a red heifer. One Christian pastor in the United States has even gone so far to as to breed red heifers on his ranch in Mississippi.
Whether such efforts will yield the red heifer remains to be seen. And groups, such as the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, are keeping a close scrutiny over all alleged candidates.
The one thing that such discussion and speculation does underscore is that, for the Jew, we are living in times of biblical prophecy being fulfilled. More and more Jews are not only returning to the Holy Land as prophesized, but also to the ways of our forefathers. We are realizing the significance of the Holy Temple as the place where we will see God’s peace prevail, as it is written in Haggai 2:9, “‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.’”
That is a peace I think we can all look forward to seeing.