The ashes of the red heifer are required by the Torah to cleanse the Levitical priesthood for Temple work. Do we have the red heifer needed for the Third Temple construction yet?
New Red Heifer Being Raised
As of May, 2006, Irvin Baxter Jr. of End Times Ministries reports that the Jews have a red heifer, born 3½ years ago in Jerusalem (among the cattle born in and imported from Mississippi). If it does not get disqualified like the previous red heifer candidates reported over the past years (such as "Melody"), it could mean that one more obstacle to the construction of the Third Temple is gone. Irvin said that the that according to Chaim Richmond of the Temple Institute who is driving force behind it, the red heifer was ready to be offered up in Jerusalem.
Red Heifer Requirements
Numbers 19 is where this requirement is found in the Torah. The only cure given for ritual impurity from contact with a grave (and other related non-living things) was from the ashes of the red heifer. Although Baxter reported that it had to be 3 years old, there is no such requirement found in the Bible. No doubt this is a tradition from the Oral Torah which will be followed by the Jews in charge of the Temple.
Interestingly, Numbers 19 does require a clean man who has never been unclean himself. To prepare for this they have raised young people sequestered from any possible contact that would make them ritually impure. This includes keeping them on rock floored dwellings to make sure no one is buried below.
Original Red Heifer's Ashes Needed, Too?
Some raise the question that a new red heifer is not enough but the original red heifer ashes are needed, too (found in a container called the kelal). This is because one tradition says the original red heifer's ashes were always mixed with the each new one. Why? The Temple Institute comments:
Some opinions maintain that the newer ashes were always mixed together with a combination of the previous ashes. One way of understanding this, is to the view this mixture of old and new ashes as being yet another precautionary measure... actually, as a kind of insurance policy.
To this end there are groups today searching for the original ashes by following one of the Dead Sea Scrolls known as the Copper Scroll that purports to tell the location. But, again, this requirement is not found in the Torah itself. And according to the last article quoted this tradition has "has no basis in the reality of Biblical law or Jewish practice" even if the ashes could be found and proven to be authentic and uncontaminated.
But in the meantime, let the truth be known: there is nothing to stop the people of Israel from raising a new red heifer, from birth, and preparing it in the manner we have described in these pages, and raising children in purity to carry out the procedure - even without the original ashes. On the contrary: we may be in doubt as to the true nature of any discovery that is unearthed whose authenticity cannot be completely verified. But a perfect heifer, born and raised under a controlled environment, would be fit to be used for the Temple. And that is precisely what is being done today.
Possible End Times Sign?
Supposedly there have only been nine red heifers in Israel's history. This new red heifer then would be the tenth. Mamonides, the Jewish Sage, said that in the days of the tenth red heifer the Messiah would come.
Irvin Baxter believes that the reason the Sanhedrin announced their plans to rebuild the temple was because of this red heifer in their possession. Of course, the Third Temple is prophesied to be built in the Book of Revelation (Rev 11) and in Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians (2The 2:4), and used by the Antichrist during the Great Tribulation as his headquarters. According to prophecy we must go through the False Messiah before we get to the real one, 3½ years later. So this looks like one more development setting up for that time to come.
However, there are a few things that we still lack (and thankfully so). One of them is the Middle East war between Israel and her neighbors "round about" her that is predicted in multiple chapters of the Old Testament (Zechariah 12). And these days, Iran and president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear aspirations appear to be bringing us on a collision course with exactly that.
The other is, of course, a much-ignored visit from a red dwarf star named Wormwood...