Are Orthodox Jews about to sacrifice a red heifer?

A model of the second Jewish Temple, also called Herod’s Temple, after King Herod (74 BC-4 BC) paid for a major renovation and expansion of the Jewish temple. It was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Credit: Ariely/Wikipedia/Creative Commons 3.0

Many believe that the building of a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem is a critical signpost leading up to Christ’s second coming.

Though the Romans destroyed the last Jewish Temple in 70 AD, in his vision of the end times, the Apostle John referred to a Temple in Revelation 11:1-6. Since he had this vision 20 years after the destruction of the Jewish temple, some have speculated that this indicates a third Jewish temple would be constructed.

Because of this, the arrival of five red heifers from the US in September 2022, caused excitement, as the ashes from a Red Heifer are required for the purification ritual for the Jewish Priests working in the temple.

CBS reports with the red heifers soon coming of age to be sacrificed, a group of Orthodox Jews have constructed an altar for the sacrifice, suggesting it could happen soon, says Rick Snyder in his article on Charisma News.

Rabbi Yitshak Mamo is helping lead the project and actually owns the land on which the sacrifice would take place.

As CBN explains:

According to those working on the project, the ceremony of the red heifer needs to be performed on the Mount of Olives, and in a place that would have looked directly into where the Temple stood. The land directly east of the Temple Mount, purchased 12 years ago, meets both of those standards.

Rabbi Yitshak Mamo owns that land on the Mount of Olives. Mamo is with Uvne Yerusalim, a group that preserves Israel’s history and works to educate future generations.

Concerning the specifics of the land, he told CBN News, “It had to be exactly at the front of the place that the priest that made this ceremony can see the Holy of the Holy Place.”

There are a couple of conditions that need to be met for this particular sacrifice to take place.

First, the red heifers have to be without blemish (Numbers 19:2). This has been interpreted to mean they can have no more than two off-color hairs.

Before they arrived in Israel from Texas in 2022, the heifers were inspected with a magnifying glass to ensure they were purely red. However, that can change as they age. According to one report, one of the red heifers has developed off-colored hairs, meaning only four remain eligible for the sacrifice.

The second requirement is their age. Though the passage in Numbers does not specifically refer to the heifer’s age, there is the requirement that it has not been yoked (Numbers 19:2). This has been interpreted to mean that the heifer must be three years old when it is sacrificed, as it would typically be ready for yoking at four.

Rabbi Mamo addressed the looming age issue with the heifers at the 2024 National Gathering for Prayer & Repentance in Washington D.C held on January 31, 2024.

“If there is any [mathematicians] here, so you can understand that we are very close to the third year of these cows,” Mamo said. “Which means that with the help of God, we will get permission from God and from the people to make the ceremony. And then we can be pure.”

Since the Jewish Passover will be celebrated on April 22 this year, some wonder if this, along with the construction of the altar, indicates that the red heifer sacrifice could take place, even secretly, sometime before that date.

Some have even proposed that it could happen as early as March 29, which according to the Jewish calendar is the “Sabbath of the red heifer” when the priests were purified with the heifer ashes in preparation for the Passover sacrifice.

Though there is no requirement for the sacrifice to take place on that day, the age issue is still looming.

“I do believe that the Temple Institute fully intends to conduct a red heifer sacrifice at some point in 2024,” Snyder writes.

Since a significant amount of ash was produced during this sacrifice, there have only been nine red heifers sacrificed in Israel’s religious history. If a red heifer is sacrificed this year, the ash will be stored until a third Jewish temple is built.

However, there is no guarantee that a third Jewish temple will be constructed. Though the Apostle John saw a temple in his vision of the end times, there is room for this to be a reference to the church, the Body of Christ, which is also referred to as a temple (John 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Peter 2:5).

The fact, that Christ’s death on the cross ended the need for animal sacrifices, including the red heifer sacrifice, begs the question Will God allow a third temple to be built?

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our[b] conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:13–14 ESV).

This combined with the cursing of the fig tree, which, based on the sandwich theory of Bible interpretation, suggested that Christ not only cursed the Temple leading to its destruction in 70 AD, but also indicated it would not be rebuilt.

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