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Holy Cow: Biblical Red Heifer in production

reposted from The Jerusalem Post
07.16.2015 | 29 Tammuz, 5775

by Jeremy Sharon

The intricacies of animal husbandry and care are not something one would immediately suspect rabbis and scholars of Jewish law to be particularly engaged with.

The intricacies of animal husbandry and care are not something one would immediately suspect rabbis and scholars of Jewish law to be particularly engaged with.

But the Temple Institute, a religious educational and activist group dedicated to preparing for the construction of the Third Temple in Jerusalem, has recently partnered with an Israeli cattleman to raise a Red Heifer, a cow suitable for use in important Temple rituals as described by the Torah.

One of the most arcane stipulations of Jewish law is that in order to remove spiritual impurity acquired by contact with the dead, a prerequisite for service in the Temple, a cow which is entirely red and which fulfills a variety of other stringent requirements must be slaughtered, its remains burnt to ash and then sprinkled over someone who has become ritually impure, purifying him by so doing.

The Temple Institute, which has constructed many of the different vessels required for use in the Temple, explained the purpose of the project as yet another step in what it hopes will be the construction of the Third Temple and the messianic age which accompanies it.

"During this [current] period known as the 'Three Weeks' as world Jewry mourns the destruction of the Second Holy Temple, The Temple Institute has taken a bold move towards the third," the organization says of its Red Heifer project.

Although Rabbi Chaim Richman, director of the institute's international department, states that the various breeds of cow from which a bovine candidate to be a biblically approved Red Heifer are common, such as Red Angus, Shetland, and others, it is the rarity of finding a cow which meets the stringent stipulations of Jewish law and the level of required supervision over such beasts that makes it so challenging to fulfill the law's regulations and produce a true Red Heifer.

Not only must the cow in question be entirely red, if it has just two hairs of a different color it is invalidated as a Red Heifer. The Torah also stipulates that it never have been used for labor, that the owner never derived benefit from the cow in any way, that it have no blemishes or injuries and that no male cow ever mated with it.

The cows are being produced by a rancher in the Negev region utilizing the technique of implanting frozen embryos of Red Angus cattle in Israeli domestic cattle. The result of this program will be the introduction of the Red Angus breed into Israel, and the project has already witnessed the birth of a number of male Red Angus cows. Females are now eagerly awaited.

To meet the exacting requirements for a Red Heifer, supervisors of the cow in question must always be able to observe the animal, the cow must be fed a superior quality diet to that a normal cow and various other environmental conditions need to be met.

Richman will have 24 hour access, via his smartphone, to footage from cameras installed at the farm in the Negev Desert where the Temple Institute has established its partnership.

The institutes says that that project is the culmination of decades of research into ancient religious texts discussing the laws of the Red Heifer as well as into methods for harnessing modern science and technology into creating the ideal conditions for producing this unique cow.

The institute is of course paying for the particular conditions in which these cows will need to be kept, and such costs will be high. A fundraising campaign launched with the project seeks to bring in $125,000, but this sum represents only a part of the total cost of the project, the rabbi said.

Richman said that anyone who thinks such a project has no practical application is "of a mindset acquired during the Jewish people?s experience of exile" and called the plans to produce a Red Heifer the "normative Jewish expression of faith in action."

"Make no mistake, this project is no less than the first stage of the reintroduction of Biblical purity into the world, a prerequisite for the building of the Third Temple," the institute asserts.



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