A sign of the times? Priests wanted for Third Temple

thumbRNS-TEMPLE-PRIEST033116Michele Chabin/RNS

Kohanim, wearing their priestly garments, blow silver trumpets made by the Temple Institute for use in the Third Temple. (Photo courtesy of Temple Institute)

An Israeli institute dedicated to building the Third Temple in Judaism’s history is seeking males ritually pure enough to carry out Torah-based commandments that haven’t been performed in nearly 2,000 years.

Earlier this week, the Temple Institute announced a search for a select group of male kohanim, members of the Jewish priestly class, qualified to perform animal sacrifices, including the slaying and burning of a red heifer.

The arcane rituals the institute wants to revive stretch back to the biblical book of Numbers, which stipulates, among other things, that the ashes of an unblemished red cow sacrificed by Jewish priests at the Jerusalem Temple can purify people who come in contact with the dead.

Problem is, a Jewish Temple hasn’t existed since the year 70, when the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, and Jews have been led by rabbis, not priests, though they continue to keep track of priestly lineage.

Most Jews consider any talk of rebuilding the Temple the work of extremists, and the institute and its supporters are, for the most part, on the fringe of Israeli society.

The institute’s leaders believe a third Temple cannot be built until there are priests ritually pure enough to maintain it; hence the call for the reinstatement of ritually pure kohanim.


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