Shabbat Parah Adumah, The Red Heifer

On the Shabbat after Purim, two Torah Scrolls are removed from the Ark. The Sidrah of the week is read from the first, and from the second, the chapter of Parah Adumah, the Red Heifer. The reading of this chapter was instituted for this time of the year because Jews were required to purify themselves coming to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festival of Passover.

Bamidbar chapter 19:1-9: "This is the statute of the Torah which Yehovah has commanded, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel that they bring you an unblemished red heifer in which is no defect, and on which a yoke has never been placed. And you shall give it to Eleazar the priest, and it shall be brought outside the camp and be slaughtered in his presence. Next, Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of its blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times. Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight... Now a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and deposit them outside the camp in a clean place, and the congregation of the sons of Israel shall keep it as water to remove impurity; it is a purification from sin.’"

This passage is about the purification from sin for the entire nation of Israel, not as a community - that was the scapegoat, the Azazel, of Yom Kippur - but as individuals as they were coming to the Temple. The ritual was performed continuously until the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. Therefore the nation of Israel has not performed this Mosaic ritual for almost 2000 years. Were the Jews not able to remove impurity from sin in this period of time? Was God’s commandment annulled? Or was there an event that fulfilled all God’s requirements for the purification from sin?

Indeed all these sacrifices that the Torah speaks about are images of Yeshua’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. His sacrifice fulfilled their meaning and replaced them all, and not only it is all sufficient to remove the impurity from sin, but it is the only sacrifice that can remove the guilt of sin once and for all. With the advent of Moshiach the Mosaic system of sacrifice was over, we have been purified by His shed blood instead of the bulls, thus the validity of God’s commandment given in the Torah remains - man's purification from sin can be done only by a blood sacrifice.

In traditional Judaism the significance of the Red Heifer sacrifice, purifying the impure (the ones coming to it with sins) and rendering impure the pure (the ones that handled it), has not been explained and it is puzzling. Nevertheless, the Red Heifer ritual is a prerequisite for the building of the third Holy Temple in Yerushalayim. In the Mishnah, Tractate Parah, it is stipulated that a total of nine cows were sacrificially burned since Moshe and the tenth one will be burned as a testimony of the coming of Moshiach. Therefore the Jews are earnestly searching for a Red Heifer in anticipation of the coming of Moshiach.