The Temple Institute has initiated the second stage towards building the Temple: compiling a list of Jewish priests who will be eligible to prepare the red heifer and serve in the Temple, Rabbi Chaim Richman, the International Director of the Temple Institute, announced on Monday. The announcement coincides with the weekly Torah reading that describes the preparation of the red heifer.
The registry will include men who have a clear patriarchal heritage from the priestly class (descendants of Aaron), were born and raised in Israel, and have observed the laws of purity incumbent upon priests. This includes not coming into proximity with the dead, so priests, or kohanim, who were born in hospitals, have visited hospitals, or have entered cemeteries are not eligible.
Once the Temple Institute has compiled a list of candidates with verified eligibility, it will begin to train them in the complex preparation of the ashes of the red heifer. The training will take place at the Nezer Hakodesh, an institute established three years ago to educate priests in the details of the Temple service.
The project has implications not just for kohanim, but for anyone interested in taking part in the Temple service. Anyone going up to the Temple needs to be on a high level of ritual purity. Most types of impurity can be removed through immersion in a mikveh (a ritual bath). For ritual impurity imparted through contact or proximity to a dead person, the purification process requires a priest to sprinkle water mixed with the ashes of a red heifer.
Today, after thousands of years without a Temple, all people are considered to be on this level of impurity, making the reinstituting of the red heifer ashes an essential part of the return of the Temple service.
“This is a huge jump for the Temple Institute and a huge leap for the Jewish people. For the first time in 2,000 years, after miraculously returning to the Land of Israel, we are beginning the process of reinstating the Biblical purity of the Jewish priesthood,” Rabbi Richman told JNI.