Arrival Of Biblical Red Heifer In Israel Could Bring Millions Of Visitors
By JNS.orgJuly 17, 2023
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Hundreds of visitors flocked to Shiloh in Samaria's Binyamin region on Thursday to welcome a biblically pure red heifer.
The 22-month-old cow, which was brought to Israel from the United States, found a new home at the Ancient Shiloh heritage site, where the biblical Tabernacle once stood.
In the coming month, two more heifers will be transported to the town, 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 animal is subsequently slaughtered, and its ashes are used in a purification ritual.
The discovery of an entirely red such heifer is a rarity. Jewish sources state that only nine were slaughtered in the period from Moses to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.
In keeping with biblical law, the heifer put on display in Shiloh is completely red, and has never borne a yoke.
"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."
That vision of a future Jerusalem to many prophetic scholars includes the ashes of the red heifer and a rebuilt Third Temple.
The red heifer was the main component in the Biblically mandated process of ritual purification for impurity that results from proximity or contact with a dead body. Because the elements needed for this ceremony have been lacking since the destruction of the Second Temple, all Jews today are considered ritually impure, thereby preventing the return of the Temple service.
The Temple Institute launched its Red Heifer program about a decade ago, led by Rabbi Azariah Ariel. But even in Temple times, an animal that fulfilled the Biblical requirements was exceedingly rare. Failing to produce a suitable candidate from ranchers in Israel, The Temple Institute began investigating alternative sources for a red heifer.
Boneh Israel, an organization that connects Christian lovers of Israel to the Holy Land, stepped in to help. Led by Byron Stinson, a native Texan, Boneh Israel understood ranchers.
"I didn't set out to do this, but right now, I am probably the best red heifer hunter in Texas," Byron quipped. "The Bible says to bring a red cow to purify Israel, and I may not understand it, but I am just doing what the Bible said."
"The prophecies came true, and the Jews are back in Israel," Byron said. "Now they need to build a Temple. But it's like buying a really nice car. If you don't have the key, you aren't going anywhere. The red heifer is the key to making the Temple work like it's supposed to."
A team of rabbis from the Temple Institute flew out to inspect the calves last year and after approved they were transported to Israel last Fall.
Originally published at JNS.org - reposted with permission.