Last week in Jerusalem a baby cow was born. Watch the adorable infant scamper around her mother in a short video released on YouTube by the Temple of Israel, below. Why is this worth your attention? Because – according to some Jewish and Christian scholars – this tiny red calf may be ushering in the end of the world.
On September 4th, the Temple Institute released a statement confirming “a perfectly red heifer was born in the land of Israel”, possibly the first pure-red heifer in two thousand years. The event fulfills a Biblical prophecy to “reinstate purity to the world and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple,” according to the temple’s YouTube announcement.
Red heifers feature in end times tales in both Christianity and Judaism. The absolute rarity of the animal, combined with the detailed ritual in which it is used, have given the red heifer special status in Jewish tradition. It is cited as the prime example of a khok, or biblical law for which there is no apparent logic, and is therefore deemed of absolute Divine origin. Because the state of ritual purity obtained through the ashes of a red heifer is a necessary prerequisite for participating in Temple service, efforts have been made in modern times by Jews wishing for biblical ritual purity and in anticipation of the building of The Third Temple to locate a red heifer and recreate the ritual.
The cow’s birth and sacrifice is said to proceed the construction of the Third Temple in Jerusalem which heralds the arrival of the Jewish Messiah. So important is the arrival of an unblemished red heifer that the Temple launched their “Raise a Red Heifer in Israel” program three years ago which strives to breed a perfectly red cow. According to a report by Breaking Israel News, that program imports frozen embryos of red angus cows and implants them into traditional Israeli domestic cows.
Rabbi Chaim Richman, director of the Temple Institute, hailed the red heifer’s birth as an indication that s the time could be right for the Third Temple, which would bring the coming of the messiah and the final judgement. Writing on the Temple Institute’s website, Rabbi Caimen said, “Does this perhaps mean that the appearance of a red heifer in these waning end times is an indication, a forerunner of the appearance of the Messiah himself, who will officiate at its preparation?” Some evangelical Christians also view the red heifer as a harbinger of the end of the world.
The little calf has undergone extensive examination by rabbinical experts who confirmed she is a “viable candidate for the Biblical red heifer”, and that she fulfils the prophesied requirements. There remains a possibility that the cow could be disqualified through natural causes.
The Temple Institute claims there have only been nine true red heifers – and the 10th will herald the construction of the Third Temple. Previous candidates have been disqualified for not meeting prophetic standards. A red cow identified in 1999 was disqualified for being male. Another, born in 2002, was disqualified after developing a small patch of white fur.
Said Chaim, “If there has been no red heifer for the past 2,000 years, perhaps it is because the time was not right; Israel was far from being ready. But now, what could it mean for the times we live in, to have the means for purification so close at hand?” He concluded, “We cannot help but wonder and pray: If there are now red heifers… is ours the era that will need them?”
The prophecy has even been linked to the US President Donald Trump moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Rabbi Hillel Weiss said he believes Trump’s decision over the embassy is the first stage of bringing about the end of days. Another Rabbi, Pinchas Winston, claimed ongoing tensions between Iran and Israel is building to the Messiah.
In mainstream Orthodox Judaism, the rebuilding of the Temple will happen before the coming of the Jewish Messiah. The two previous temples have been destroyed.