Illustration of a red heifer (Photo: The Temple Institute Screenshot)
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The Temple Institute has been working to reinstate the red heifer ceremony since 2015, and recently, a pro-Israel Christian organization decided to help out.
THE RED HEIFER PROGRAM
The Temple Institute launched its Red Heifer program about a decade ago, 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.
Last year, the Temple Institute was contacted by a cattle farmer in Commanche, Texas, who informed them that five red calves had been born on his ranch, about two and a half hours travel from Dallas. Normally, calves are ear-tagged when just a few days old. By a remarkable coincidence, these five calves were not tagged, and, also coincidentally, all were female. Any blemish disqualifies the calf, and a hole in the ear is just such a blemish.
The farmer explained that because of COVID, the employee who normally puts in the tags did not come to the farm when these five calves were born.
A team of rabbis from the Temple Institute flew out to inspect the calves. The requirements are incredibly demanding, requiring that there be no more than two non-red hairs on the entire calf. It must also never have been used for any labor or have been impregnated. The heifer must be two years and one day old to be suitable for the ceremony. Sometimes, a calf that is perfectly red when it is young develops black or white hairs as it grows older or may develop a blemish. Sometimes, the colored hairs fall out or disappear. The Temple Institute decided to reinspect the calf at a later date.
Two of the five untagged Heifers were extremely close to passing. One heifer had a very small white spot. Otherwise, it was perfect. The other had some hairs that could be red or black.
So the search continued. But Boneh Israel, an organization that connects Christian lovers of Israel to the Holy Land, stepped in. Based in Texas, Boneh Israel understood ranchers. They took out full-page ads in ranching magazines, explaining the situation to ranchers. They requested that any red calves be set aside.
Byron Stinson, a team leader in America for Boneh Israel
THE BEST RED HEIFER HUNTER IN TEXAS
“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.”
Byron had a unique understanding of the red heifer ritual, which purifies Jews from proximity to the dead.
“We are all living under the shadow of death,” he said. “We desperately need to be restored to life in today’s world. The red heifer is just to purify the Jews for serving in the Temple as a house of prayer for all nations, but we all need it.”
Byron described the response of the ranchers, which has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic as many of them are Bible believers. He did relate one rancher who contacted him about a newly birthed red calf. Still, before Byron could go to check it out, the rancher recanted, saying that his pastor told him it was forbidden to help Israel bring the redemption and the Third Temple.
A STRONG CONNECTION BETWEEN TEXAS AND ISRAEL
“But that doesn’t happen too often,” Byron said. “There is a strong connection between Texas and Israel.”
Chanan Kupietzky, an Orthodox Jewish resident of Efrat, is the liaison between Boneh Israel and the rabbis of The Temple Institute.
“The Jews don’t need to be pure to build the Temple or to bring the public sacrifices,” Chanan explained. “On the other hand, purity will take it to the next level and will facilitate rebuilding the Temple and doing the service.”
“Education is essential to move forward, for the Jews and non-Jews,” Chanan said. “Boneh Israel is an Israeli organization whose main goal is education.”
Chanan pointed out that last year was 5781 in the Hebrew calendar.
“In Hebrew numerology, this is תשפא. That is an acronym for תהיה שנה פרה אדומה (it will be the year of the red heifer). The cows we were are looking at now were conceived last year,” Kupietzy said.
THE CRIMSON WOOL
“There are five elements necessary to perform the ritual of the red heifer,” Chanan explained. “We need the crimson wool, which the Temple Institute now knows how to make. We need the cedar, which we can get. And we need the specific location on the Mount of Olives, which we can purchase. And finally, we need the cow. And we are working on that.”
“The element that is really lacking is the will of the entire nation to come together and have the Kohanim perform the ritual. The red heifer is a form of public offering. God willing, we are moving towards that,” Chanan said.
The Talmud has a precedent for the red heifer being provided by a non-Jew. The Talmud (Kiddushin 31a) tells the story of the non-Jew named Dama who would not wake his father, Netina, to get to the key under his pillow to retrieve the stones to sell for the breastplate of the High Priest at a price of 600,000 dinars. Dama forfeited this great sum simply so as not to disturb his father’s sleep. He was rewarded the following year by finding in his flock and selling a rare red heifer to the rabbis for the same sum.