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Red heifer

Red heifer

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The red heifer or red cow was a sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 the ashes of which are used for the ritual purification
Ritual purification
Ritual purification is a feature of many religions. The aim of these rituals is to remove specifically defined uncleanliness prior to a particular type of activity, and especially prior to the worship of a deity...

 of an ancient Israelite
Israelite
According to the Bible the Israelites were a Hebrew-speaking people of the Ancient Near East who inhabited the Land of Canaan during the monarchic period .The word "Israelite" derives from the Biblical Hebrew ישראל...

 who had come into contact with a corpse.

Hebrew Bible


According to : "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer
Heifer
Heifer may refer to:*A young cow before she has had her first calf*Red Heifer, in Judaism is a heifer that is sacrificed and whose ashes are used for the ritual purification*Heifer International, a charitable organization...

 without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke"

The Book of Numbers stipulates that the animal must not have hairs of any other color, must be in perfect health, and it must not have been used to perform work . The heifer is then ritually slaughtered  and burned outside of the camp (Numbers 19:3–6). Cedar wood, hyssop
Hyssop
Hyssop is a genus of about 10-12 species of herbaceous or semi-woody plants in the family Lamiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to central Asia. They are aromatic, with erect branched stems up to 60 cm long covered with fine hairs at the tips. The leaves are narrow oblong, 2–5 cm...

, and scarlet
Scarlet
Scarlet may refer to:* Scarlet , a bright tone of red that is slightly toward orange* Scarlet , type of woollen cloth common in medieval England* Scarlet , women's magazine in the UK* Scarlet , 1995...

 are added to the fire, and the remaining ashes are placed in a vessel containing pure water .

In order to purify a person who has become ritually contaminated by contact with a corpse, water from the vessel is sprinkled on him, using a bunch of hyssop, on the third and seventh day of the purification process (Numbers 19:18–19).

The priest
Kohen
A Kohen is the Hebrew word for priest. Jewish Kohens are traditionally believed and halachically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Aaron....

 who performs the ritual then becomes ritually unclean, and must then bathe himself and his clothes in a ritual bath
Mikvah
Mikveh is a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism...

. He was be deemed impure until evening.

Book of Daniel


In the Book of Daniel
Book of Daniel
The Book of Daniel is a book in the Hebrew Bible. The book tells of how Daniel, and his Judean companions, were inducted into Babylon during Jewish exile, and how their positions elevated in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. The court tales span events that occur during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar,...

 is a reference to a Red Heifer.In Daniel 12:10, God tells Daniel that in the last days, "many shall be purified and made white"; a reference to the purification ritual of the Red Heifer, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isa 1:18, Num 19:6). The analogy appears to relate to a partner of the returning End Time messiah
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

.

Mishnah


The Mishnah
Mishnah
The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism. It was redacted c...

, the central compilation of Rabbinic Oral Law
Oral law
An oral law is a code of conduct in use in a given culture, religion or community application, by which a body of rules of human behaviour is transmitted by oral tradition and effectively respected, or the single rule that is orally transmitted....

, contains a tractate on the Red Heifer, Tractate Parah ("Cow") in Seder Taharot, which explains the procedures involved. The tractate has no existing Gemara
Gemara
The Gemara is the component of the Talmud comprising rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah. After the Mishnah was published by Rabbi Judah the Prince The Gemara (also transliterated Gemora or, less commonly, Gemorra; from Aramaic גמרא gamar; literally, "[to] study" or "learning by...

, although commentary on key elements of the procedure is found in the Gemarah for other tractates of the Talmud. According to Mishnah Parah, the presence of two black hairs invalidates a Red Heifer. In addition to the usual requirements of an unblemished animal for sacrifice
Korban
The term offering as found in the Hebrew Bible in relation to the worship of Ancient Israel is mainly represented by the Hebrew noun korban whether for an animal or other offering...

.

Details of the commandment


There are various other requirements, such as natural birth . The water must be "living" i.e. spring water
Spring (hydrosphere)
A spring—also known as a rising or resurgence—is a component of the hydrosphere. Specifically, it is any natural situation where water flows to the surface of the earth from underground...

. This is a stronger requirement than for a ritual bath. Rainwater accumulated in a cistern is permitted for a mikveh, but cannot be used in the Red Heifer ceremony.

The Mishnah
Mishnah
The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism. It was redacted c...

 reports that in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

, water for the ritual came from the Pool of Siloam
Pool of Siloam
Pool of Siloam is a rock-cut pool on the southern slope of the City of David, the original site of Jerusalem, located outside the walls of the Old City to the southeast. The pool was fed by the waters of the Gihon Spring, carried there by two aqueducts.-History:The Pool of Siloam is mentioned...

. The ceremony involved was complex and detailed. To ensure complete ritual purity of those involved, enormous care was taken to ensure that no-one involved in the Red Heifer ceremony could have had any contact with the dead or any form of tumah, and implements were made of materials, such as stone, which in Jewish law
Halakha
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

 do not act as carriers for ritual impurities. The Mishnah recounts that children were used to draw and carry the water for the ceremony, children born and reared in isolation for the specific purpose of ensuring that they never came into contact with a corpse:
Various other devices were used, including a causeway from the Temple Mount
Temple Mount
The Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as , and in Arabic as the Haram Ash-Sharif , is one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It has been used as a religious site for thousands of years...

 to the Mount of Olives
Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives is a mountain ridge in East Jerusalem with three peaks running from north to south. The highest, at-Tur, rises to 818 meters . It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes...

 so that the Heifer and accompanying priest
Kohen
A Kohen is the Hebrew word for priest. Jewish Kohens are traditionally believed and halachically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Aaron....

s would not come in contact with a grave.

According to the Mishnah, the ceremony of the burning of the red heifer itself took place on the Mount of Olives
Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives is a mountain ridge in East Jerusalem with three peaks running from north to south. The highest, at-Tur, rises to 818 meters . It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes...

. A ritually pure kohen slaughtered the heifer, and sprinkled of its blood in the direction of the Temple seven times. The Red Heifer was then burnt on a pyre, together with crimson dyed wool, hyssop, and cedar wood. In recent years, the site of the burning of the Red Heifer on the Mount of Olives has been tentatively located by archaeologist Yonatan Adler.

Jewish tradition


The existence of a red heifer that conforms with all of the rigid requirements imposed by halakha
Halakha
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

 is a biological anomaly. The animal must be entirely of one color, and there are a series of tests listed by the rabbis to ensure this, for instance, the hair of the cow must be absolutely straight (to ensure that the cow had not previously been yoked, as this is a disqualifier). According to Jewish tradition, only nine Red Heifers were actually slaughtered in the period extending from Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 to the destruction of the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

. Mishnah Parah recounts eight, stating that Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 prepared the first, Ezra
Ezra
Ezra , also called Ezra the Scribe and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra. According to the Hebrew Bible he returned from the Babylonian exile and reintroduced the Torah in Jerusalem...

 the second, Simon the Just and Yochanan the High Priest
Kohen Gadol
The High Priest was the chief religious official of Israelite religion and of classical Judaism from the rise of the Israelite nation until the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem...

 prepared two each, and Elioenai ben HaQayaph and Hanameel the Egyptian
Hanameel the Egyptian
Hanameel the Egyptian was a Jewish High priest in the 1st century BCE. He was appointed by Herod to fill the office of high priest made vacant by the ignominious death of Antigonus . Hanameel was an Egyptian according to the Mishnah , and a Babylonian according to Josephus...

 prepared one each (Mishna Parah 3:5).

The absolute rarity of the animal, combined with the detailed ritual in which it is used, have given the Red Heifer special status in Jewish tradition. It is cited as the prime example of a khok, or biblical law for which there is no apparent logic, and is therefore of absolute Divine origin. Because the state of ritual purity obtained through the ashes of a Red Heifer is a necessary prerequisite for participating in Temple service, efforts have been made in modern times by Jews wishing for biblical ritural purity (see tumah and taharah) and in anticipation of the building of The Third Temple
The Third Temple
The Third Temple, or Ezekiel's Temple , is a temple architecturally described in the Book of Ezekiel...

 to locate a red heifer and recreate the ritual. However, multiple candidates have been disqualified, as late as 2002. (See the "Temple Institute" section below.)

Temple Institute



The Temple Institute, an organization dedicated to preparing the reconstruction of a Third Temple in Jerusalem, has been attempting to identify Red Heifer candidates consistent with the requirements of Numbers
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch....

 19:1–22 and Mishnah
Mishnah
The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism. It was redacted c...

 Tractate Parah. In recent years, the Institute thought to have identified two candidates, one in 1997 and another in 2002. The Temple Institute had initially declared both kosher, but later found each to be unsuitable.

During a March 2010 radio interview a Temple Institute representative claimed that there is now "definitely a kosher red heifer here in Israel."

Christian tradition


The non-canonical Epistle of Barnabas
Epistle of Barnabas
The Epistle of Barnabas is a Greek epistle containing twenty-one chapters, preserved complete in the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus where it appears at the end of the New Testament...

 (8:1) explicitly equates the Red Heifer with Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

. In the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

, the phrases "without the gate" and "without the camp" have been taken to be not only an identification of Jesus with the Red Heifer, but an indication as to the location of the crucifixion
Crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

. This is the thesis of Ernest L. Martin
Ernest L. Martin
Ernest L. Martin was born in Meeker, Oklahoma who was known for his controversial works on archaeology in Israel with respect to the Temple Mount. Martin claimed that the site of the Al Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock incorrectly identified the true location of the Temple in Jerusalem.-Background...

 in his 1984 book Secrets of Golgotha.

Christians


Some Christians
Fundamentalist Christianity
Christian fundamentalism, also known as Fundamentalist Christianity, or Fundamentalism, arose out of British and American Protestantism in the late 19th century and early 20th century among evangelical Christians...

 believe that the Second Coming
Second Coming
In Christian doctrine, the Second Coming of Christ, the Second Advent, or the Parousia, is the anticipated return of Jesus Christ from Heaven, where he sits at the Right Hand of God, to Earth. This prophecy is found in the canonical gospels and in most Christian and Islamic eschatologies...

 of Jesus Christ cannot occur until the Third Temple is constructed in Jerusalem, which requires the appearance of a red heifer born in Israel. Clyde Lott, a cattle breeder in O'Neill, Nebraska
O'Neill, Nebraska
O'Neill is a city in Holt County, Nebraska, United States. The population was 3,733 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Holt County.-Geography:O'Neill is located at ....

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, is attempting to systematically breed red heifers and export them to Israel to establish a breeding line of red heifers in Israel in the hope that this will bring about the construction of the Third Temple and ultimately the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Islam


The Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 mentions the story of the Cow in the chapter Al-Baqara
Al-Baqara
Sura al-Baqarah is the second and longest chapter of the Qur'an. It is a Medinan sura and comprises 286 verses, including the single longest verse in the Qur'an...

 (The Cow), in verses 2.67–2.73. The story becomes the name of this longest chapter of the Qur'an. The Cow required at first was just a "cow". During the story, more restrictions were given, and the color of the cow is required to be red after Moses was needlessly asked by people to give details on how old it was, then on its colour, and then what it was used for, showing much reluctance to obey the command to sacrifice an animal as valuable as "a cow".

According to ibn Abbas and other scholars said: An old man from among the children of Israel was very rich, and he had some nephews and he was killed by one of them. His corpse was placed in by his brothers door. Then disputes ensued and they asked prophet Musa for help. When they found the yellow cow per Musa's command, he instructed them to slaughter the cow and struck part of it on the deceased. The dead old man came back to life. The prophet Musa asked who killed him and he said his nephew and he died again.

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