Monday, July 20, 2015

Were red heifers really red?

MORE ON THE TEMPLE INSTITUTE'S PROJECT: The Temple Mount red heifer saga: Engineering the apocalypse? Building the Third Temple is a dream for many religious adherents. Could selectively breeding from Red Angus stock solve a key problem - that red cows don't exist? (Elon Gilad, Haaretz).
Building a Third Temple in Jerusalem is the dream for the messianic branches of Judaism and Christianity, but there are snags. One is the deficiency of a pure red heifer for sacrifice. Tradition holds that the heifer must be truly red from head to toe, with no more than two black hairs on its body, the problem being that such beasts don't exist. Now Temple Mount devotees hope to circumvent the vagaries of nature by breeding the Red Angus strain of cows in Israel.

But they may not be barking up the right tree. The ritual of the red-colored bovine is probably rooted in misinterpretation.


Now, this ritual is predicated on red cows actually existing. The problem is that they don’t.

At best cows are auburn. Yet, according to the ancient texts, there were red heifers for the burning.

How does one reconcile this? Well, rabbinic teaching tells us that God miraculously brought about red heifers for use for this purpose, but there could be another explanation.

The ancients separated the domain of colors differently from us moderns. What we today see as to distinct colors, our forefathers saw as merely different shades of the same. What we call brown, the ancient Hebrews just saw as a type of red. They would be baffled by our pedantic insistence that pink, purple, red, orange and brown each be given a different name - to them all were just different shades of red.

That's an interesting point. The ancients often classified colors differently than we do. Some past posts on this subject are here, here, and here. More on the Temple Institute's red heifer project, which has recently been getting a lot of media attention, is here.