Again the biblical red heifer is in the news, sparking renewed discussion about a future Third Temple in Jerusalem.
Hundreds of Israelis reportedly visited the Jewish settlement of Shiloh in central Samaria last week to welcome the first of three pure red heifers to arrive from the United States. Shiloh was the first biblical capital of Israel and the place where the Tabernacle stood for hundreds of years before King David moved it to Jerusalem.
The three red heifers will be housed at the Ancient Shiloh heritage site and a center will open there dedicated to researching the phenomenon. The heifers will be kept in a fenced-off area, and visitors will not be able to touch the animals.
The mysterious red heifer, or Parah Adumah, is first mentioned in the Book of Numbers, when God instructs Moses and Aaron to take “a perfectly red unblemished cow, upon which no yoke was laid.” The ashes of a red heifer are necessary for purification prior to conducting biblical sacrificial ceremonies.
But it’s extremely difficult to find such a cow, perfect of color and without blemish.
Jewish sources state that only nine were slaughtered in the period from Moses to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. According to the 12th-century sage Maimonides, the Messiah will offer the 10th red heifer.
“This is an exciting and exceptional event for the entire Jewish people,” said Ancient Shiloh CEO Coby Mamo. “We are already in touch with researchers and promoters around the world who are waiting to come here with large groups. We have returned to the site of the Tabernacle in Shiloh and are bringing back the Jewish past for the future of our people.”
Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Ganz called the cow’s arrival a “historic moment.”
“The Ancient Shiloh site is continuing to grow and develop, and the Red Heifer Center will attract more visitors, up to one million a year, from Israel and around the world,” he added, calling it “good news for the Jewish world, for scientists and researchers, and for everyone.”
The red heifer arrived as part of the council’s Binyamin Temple Conference, which started on Wednesday with a Temple-era dinner.
The conference continued on Thursday with lectures at Tel Shiloh, the center of Jewish life before the construction of the First Temple in Jerusalem. Among other topics, speakers discussed the offering of the Passover sacrifice in modern times, the traditional grape varieties of the region, and urban and logistic planning “in the vision of future Jerusalem.”
What’s truly amazing is that after centuries, perhaps millennia of not finding suitable red heifers, there are now several in Israel.
Late last year, a group of Evangelical Christians from the United States transported five biblically pure red heifers to Israel. Rabbis from the Temple Institute inspected the animals to make sure they met scriptural requirements.
Temple Institute has exciting news to share about a major advance in efforts to raise a red heifer whose ashes can be used for purification-a huge step toward the building of the Holy Temple! Live FB feed at 5 PM Israel (USA, 10 AM Eastern – 7 AM Pacific) https://t.co/fpcF9xG7yU pic.twitter.com/jC1HbVquea
— Temple Institute (@TempleInstitute) September 15, 2022
A representative for Boneh Israel, the Christian group that found and transported the animals, told Ynet that a ritually-acceptable red heifer hadn’t been seen in Israel for over 2,000 years, “and now we have five!”
The cows were moved to a farm in Beit Shean, where they will be cultivated in hopes of growing a herd for future Temple use. If successful, it is believed the farm will also become an attraction for Christian visitors.
At the time of their arrival, the religious news website Kipa reported that rabbis were moved and some even wept at the sight of five unblemished red heifers being delivered to Israel, and by Christians no less.
Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon, one of those tasked with inspecting the animals, said, “It is very exciting that we have red cows ready both for the building of the Temple, with God’s help, and in the meantime to study. The building of the Temple is approaching, we need to know, to prepare, and that is one of the things that must be ready.”
With reporting by JNS.
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