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A Dvar Torah for Perashat Chukat: Numbers 19:1 - 22:1

Our Dvar Torah: Looking For The Red Heifer?

A Dvar Torah for Perashat Chukat: Numbers 19:1 - 22:1
By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © June 17, 2021

This week's parsha includes the necessity of the red heifer in building the Temple. The Temple Institute explains:

In our own times, the commandment of the red heifer takes on more and more significance. For without it, the Divine service of the Holy Temple cannot be resumed. There is a spiritual renaissance today in Israel; after almost 2,000 years, Israel is clearly moving towards the time when the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah - the prophesied Third Temple - will be rebuilt... the Creator Himself, the Supreme Author of peace, has stated: "The honor of this last house will be greater than that of the first, says HaShem of Hosts; and in this place I will grant peace, says HaShem of Hosts" (Haggai 2:9).
But the sages of Israel enigmatically stated that when the Messiah arrives, he will stand atop the roof of the Holy Temple and cry out: "Humble ones! The time of your redemption has arrived!" Thus: the Temple will be built before the Messiah arrives.

So many people of faith/emunah are asking today, “Is this not a good time for the coming of Mashiach?”

To this question I'm sure everyone here at Beit Emunah would respond, 'AMEN!' We want Mashiach now! And the Third Temple?

This is of course a complicated matter. We've discussed the process of Redemption from various perspectives in the past, including the likelihood that Mashiach ben Yosef will come prior to the revelation of Mashiach ben David to rescue Israel and conclude the final world war, known as the War of Magog. Today let's briefly consider another aspect of eschatology that is discussed in this week's parsha: The Red Heifer.

Again, in the words of the Temple Institute:

For a period spanning nearly 1,000 years, the Holy Temple functioned as the heart of the Jewish people. It was the center of life for all that was considered of value in Israel: the kingdom, the spirit of prophecy, the Sanhedrin, and most importantly... the Divine service. Here, in this house of prayer for both Israel and the nations, the kohanim (priests) and Levites attended to their sacred duties. From every corner of the ancient world, people streamed to the Holy Temple to absorb something of the holiness and the spirit of purity that resided in this place.

The Institute continues:

What does a red heifer have to do with any of this? Perhaps it would be difficult for some to believe that a cow could be so important. But in truth, the fate of the entire world depends on the red heifer. For G-d has ordained that its ashes alone are the single missing ingredient for the reinstatement of Biblical purity.

Despite everything we have experienced as a people, both the positive and negative, it all comes down to a cow?

Yes and no. The ashes of a completely fit red heifer, snout to tail to hooves, is required for ritual purity to be granted by HaShem. No one has been ritually pure since the year 70 CE when the Second Temple was destroyed by the Will of HaShem.

The Temple Institute is sparing no effort nor expense to breed this one animal: the Tenth Red Heifer. They have at present two herds of red breeding stock and are carefully examining their offspring in hope of producing this special animal. If and when one of these cows reach the age three years and is at that time perfectly red, many in Israel will rejoice - many will not! The current candidates are very close, but all of them have a few white hairs or some slight ritual impurity. By its third birthday the special heifer must meet all of the requirements or be rejected as per the requirements of Leviticus, chapter 22. Some argue the heifer could be a bit older, perhaps four, and some say even older. This special heifer must also have never been used as a beast of burden and never worn a yoke.

Once such a heifer is identified it could be slaughtered – not sacrificed since the Temple does not yet stand – and its ashes used in the purification process. The heifer must be brought to the “Mount of Anointment,” a precise spot on the Mount of Olives, opposite the eastern gate of the Temple Mount (which is currently sealed). There the heifer must be slaughtered and burned. Afterwards, its ashes are to be mixed with natural spring water. This solution is called "the waters of sanctification" in the Torah – and are reminiscent of the waters of Miriam's Well discussed in this week's parsha – that will be used to sprinkle on those who are deemed worthy of ritual purification.

Now here's the crux of my point with this Dvar Torah. Once it becomes possible to ritually purify the people with the water from the Red Heifer, the Temple Institute believes the rebuilding of the Third Temple or Beit HaMikdash – House of the Holy – can begin. The only obstacle they acknowledge is the Red Heifer.

The Temple Institute continues:

More and more Jews  are returning to the Torah, to the G-d of Israel and the ways of our fathers. And more and more are beginning to realize that the Holy Temple is the only solution for achieving the elusive peace we all desire to see: for the Creator Himself, the Supreme Author of peace, has stated: "The honor of this last House will be greater than that of the first, says HaShem of Hosts; and in this place I will grant peace, says HaShem of Hosts" - Haggai 2:9.
But the sages  of Israel enigmatically stated that when the Messiah arrives, he will stand atop the roof of the Holy Temple and cry out: "Humble ones! The time of your redemption has arrived!" Thus: the Temple will be built before the Messiah arrives.

This final point is debatable, that: Thus: the Temple will be built before the Messiah arrives.

There are several prophecies to take into consideration and this one does not even imply that interpretation.

Some say the Temple will miraculously descend from the celestial Gan Eden, having been prepared without human hands. Others say Jews will rebuild it through their own labor following meticulous guidelines. Some say the Jews will rebuild it and then its mirror image in Gan Eden will descend, purifying the always imperfect work of human hands. It is not certain that the Temple will stand before his arrival, indeed there is strong evidence that it will not. Mashiach ben David could just likely oversee its construction and then go to the roof in celebration to declare the completion of the project.

Consider: Human efforts to fulfill divine prophecies don't work. They never have. We know of one man whose followers hoisted him onto a donkey and paraded him into the Holy City with shouts of 'Hosanna to the king' based on the prophecy at Zechariah 9:9. Yet this would be Messiah never reigned as king and met none of the essential qualifications. We have seen many such failed attempts force G-d's hand. Human efforts to fulfill biblical prophecy, despite the doubtless sincerity of those making the effort, do not alter nor hurry HaShem's Plan of Redemption. We today are not ready for Messiah ben David! As the Chofetz Chaim noted:

Our Sages state: "Jerusalem was destroyed only because its inhabitants limited their decisions to the [letter of the] law of Torah" (Bava Metzia 30b). This seems difficult, for Scripture records many sins of which that generation was guilty.

Our discussion sheds light on the matter. Had the people overlooked the wrong caused them, then HaShem would have forgiven them as well. However, they were absolutely unrelenting toward each other, demanding from one another whatever they could possibly extract according to the law -- and Heaven judged them accordingly.

When it comes to exclusionary and divisive behavior among the Jews, those of the first century had nothing on our generation! Many of the arguably most qualified among us wont even speak to Jews they consider to be inferior to themselves and many of from the liberal streams condemn the observant while assimilating more and more into the anti-Semitic globalism of 'the one like Haman'. Why would HaShem grant us the Third Temple when we do the same as they, only more so? No, we need far more than a dead red cow!

The most critical lacking component is not the red heifer. It is emunah, motivating faith in HaShem. As Rambam explained at Mishna Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, Chapter 11, Law #4:

If a king will arise from the House of David who delves deeply into the study of the Torah and, like David his ancestor, observes its mitzvot as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law; if he will compel all of Israel to walk in [the way of the Torah] and repair the breaches [in its observance]; and if he will fight the wars of G-d; - we may, with assurance, consider him Mashiach.

If he succeeds in the above, builds the Beit HaMikdash on its site [i.e. the Third Jerusalem Temple on the Holy Mount], and gathers in the dispersed remnant of Israel, he is definitely the Mashiach.

He will then perfect the entire world, [motivating all the nations] to serve G-d together, as it is written [Zephaniah, 3:9], "I will make the peoples pure of speech so that they will all call upon the Name of G-d and serve Him with one purpose."

The Temple Institute aside, this is what Jews have always believed and waited for. Mashiach Ben David will come and oversee the erection of the Third Beit HaMikdash when we are prepared to welcome him.. Based on this, the most the Temple Institute could do, if they figure out what to do with Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, would be to build a nation Jewish Synagogue or shul. The so-called alternative location has no biblical authorization.

Friends, don't get overly excited about reports of red heifers, or strange lights in the skies, and attempts to fulfill the prophecies. Besides, were the Third and Final Beit HaMikdash to be rebuilt before the revelation of Mashiach ben David it would be the cause of massive division among the Jewish people as a small group of Black Hatted men determined who is worthy to come and, more divisively, who is not. It even would perhaps lead to a civil war in Israel. Furthermore the building, which would have to include the removal of the Al Aqsa Muslim complex, doubtless would incite a global war that the current secular government of Israel would not survive.

No, if you want to see the Temple rebuilt in our lifetime work for the revelation of Mashiach ben David. Enhance your emunah, study more Torah, invest more time in hitbodedut, give more in charity – in financial giving, in giving of your time, in showing compassion and so on. It is the purification of our consciousness that is desperately needed today, not the sprinkling of mystical ash water - not yet at least. As is said, a pig wearing lipstick is still just a pig. We need to be preparing for the coming War of Magog and the revelation of Mashiach ben Yosef, since it is pretty clear that our people are not going to make teshuvah in large enough numbers to avoid the War. THEN we will greet ben David who will erect the Beit HaMikdash and usher in the Olam Haba. May HaShem be merciful to us as He was merciful to our fathers and mothers despite the fact that we in no way deserve it! Encourage your hearts and cling to HaShem alone dear friends and remember, Be the blessing you were created to be and don't let the perfect defeat the good.

Shabbat Shalom.

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