Red Heifer Today
As interest in the Third Temple grows, so does the desire of the Jewish people to locate a qualified red heifer, known in Hebrew as a para aduma. The ashes of a red heifer are needed to prepare the Kohanim (priests) to carry out the Temple service.
Rabbi Azariah Ariel of The Temple Institute in Jerusalem is an expert on the laws related to the red heifer. He told Israel365 News, “A red heifer is a female cow that is red. In the language of the Bible, red is not exclusively what we know today as red. It also includes brown and other similar shades of red.This excludes black. All of the hairs on its body must be the same color.”
When a presumably qualified red heifer is born, rabbis from Israel will go check it out. Israel365 News provides updates about the search of a totally kosher red heifer around the world. Wherever possible, we publish videos of potentially-qualified red heifers.
Many potential red heifers will be disqualified and when they are, we report on that as well.
You can read a good general overview of issues related to the red heifer here.
It should be emphasized that the presence of a qualified red heifer does not, in itself, cause redemption. It’s necessary before services in the Third Temple can be inaugurated, but it has no power itself to bring redemption.
Red Heifer in the Bible
The commandment of the red heifer is introduced in Numbers 19.
This chapter describes the Biblical commandment to burn the cow in its entirety and for the ashes to be used to ritually purify one who came into contact with a dead body. These laws are extremely deep and complex and cannot be properly understood on a surface level. The commandment of the red heifer has been described by Jewish sages as the most inexplicable of any in the Torah.
One of the difficulties can be seen in the fact that the person who is helping to purify another with the ashes of the red heifer becomes contaminated themselves.
That shall be for them a law for all time. Further, he who sprinkled the water of lustration shall wash his clothes; and whoever touches the water of lustration shall be unclean until evening. Numbers 19:21
“The Torah commands us to perform the mitzvah (Torah commandment) in order to be in a ritually pure condition,” Ariel explained. “This is necessary for us to engage in anything that is holy or sanctified.
“It is important to understand that impurity is not any type of physical dirt or something. For most ritual impurities, bathing in a mikveh (ritual bath) is sufficient. The highest level of impurity comes from contact with the dead and to purify this condition, the ashes of the red heifer are required.
“In such cases, the ashes of the red heifer are the only method for becoming ritually pure. Lacking the ashes of the red heifer, this condition remains forever.”
There have been nine red heifers throughout history. The first one was prepared in the time of Moses and Elazar, the son of Aaron. According to Jewish tradition, the tenth one will be used by the Messiah.
While crucially important for conducting the Temple service, we only need to find one qualified red heifer to prepare for the Third Temple.
“If properly prepared, one heifer is sufficient to purify the entire nation. There is no limit on how much wood can be burned with the heifer. Those ashes are also used to purify people. A tiny amount of ash, a few milligrams, can be mixed with a large quantity of water. In this manner, one heifer can indeed purify the entire nation,” Ariel said.