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1. Seven days before the burning of the heifer, the priest who burned the heifer was removed from his house to the chamber in front of the Temple Palace towards the northeast; 1 and it was called the Stone House. And he was sprinkled during all the seven days from all the ashes of red heifers which were there. R. José said "they did not sprinkle him save on the third and seventh days only." R. Hananiah, the deputy high priest, said, "on the priest who burned the heifer they sprinkled during all the seven days, but on him who took service on the Day of Atonement, they did not sprinkle save on the third and seventh days only."

2. There were courts in Jerusalem built of stone, and beneath they were hollow, 2 through fear of an unseen grave. And pregnant women were brought, and they were delivered there. And there they reared their sons, and oxen were brought with doors on their backs, and the lads were seated

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on them with stone cups in their hands. They came to Siloam, they dismounted, and filled them. They remounted, and returned on the backs of the oxen. R. José said, "from their seats on the backs of the oxen they let down (the cups) and filled them (with water)."

3. The lads came back to the Mountain of the House and dismounted. The Mountain of the House and its courts were hollow below through fear of an unseen grave. And at the door of the court there were prepared the ashes of the red heifers; and they brought a ram from the sheep, and they twisted a rope between his horns, and they twisted a stick and stuck it into the end of the rope, and it was dipped into the ashes, and the ram got a blow, and he skipped backwards, and took them, and caused them to appear on the surface of the water. R. José said, "you should not give an opportunity to the Sadducees for scoffing: but (the lad) took and prepared the ashes."

4. They did not make use of (what pertained) to one red heifer for a second one, nor did they use another lad for 1 his (prepared) companion. "And the lads themselves were in need of sprinkling." The words of Rabbi José the Galilean. R. Akiba said, "they had no need of sprinkling."

5. If they did not find (ashes) of seven red heifers, six were sufficient, five, four, three, two, one. "And who made them?" "Moses made the first. And Ezra the second, and (there were) five from Ezra and afterwards." The words of Rabbi Meier. But the Sages say, "seven from Ezra and afterwards." "And who made them?" "Simon the Just, and John the High Priest made each two. Elihueni son of Hakuf, and Hanamel the Egyptian, and Ishmael, son of Piani, made one each."

6. And a causeway was made from the Mountain of the House to the Mount of Olives, with arches over arches. And there was an arch in front of the last pillar for fear of an unseen grave. Over it the priest who burned the heifer, and the heifer with all her attendants, proceeded to the Mount of Olives.

TOP OF THE MOUNT OF OLIVES, AS SEEN FROM MOUNT MORIAH.<br> (To illustrate the Treatise on The Red Heifer.)
Click to enlarge

(To illustrate the Treatise on The Red Heifer.)

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7. If the heifer were unwilling to go, they did not bring with her a black one, lest it be said, "they slaughtered a black one" nor a red one, lest it be said, "they slaughtered two." R. José said, “this was not the reason, but because it is only said, “That he may bring her forth.” 1 And the elders of Israel preceded her on foot to the Mount of Olives. And a house for washing was there. And the priest who burned the heifer was rendered unclean because of the Sadducees, 2 lest they should say, "it is needful for sunset to pass over him." 3

8. The elders put their hands on the priest and said, "my Lord High Priest, wash once." He descended and washed, and he came up and wiped himself. And wood was set in order there, cedar, and ash, and cypress, and figwood smoothed. And it was made like a tower, and windows were opened in it, and their direction was westward.

9. The red heifer was bound with a rope of bulrushes, and she was put on the place of preparation, with her head southward, and with her face westward. The priest stood in the east with his face westward. He slaughtered the heifer with his right hand, and received (the blood) in his left hand. R. Judah said, "he received it in his right hand, and put it into his left, and sprinkled it with his right hand." He dipped his hand, and sprinkled the blood seven times in front of the House of the Holy of Holies. For every sprinkling of blood he dipped his hand. When he finished sprinkling the blood he wiped his hand on the body of the heifer. He went down and kindled the fire with chips. Rabbi Akiba said, "with palm branches."

10. She burst and moved from her place. He took cedar wood and hyssop, and scarlet (wool). He said to them, "is this cedar wood, is this cedar wood?" "is this hyssop, is this hyssop?" "is this scarlet, is this scarlet?" three times for each thing. And they said to him, "yes," "yes," three times for each thing.”

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11. He wrapped them in the remainder 1 of the tongue of scarlet wool, and cast them into the midst of the burning. When the fire was burned down, the ashes were beaten with sticks, and sifted with sieves. R. Ishmael said, "with stone hammers, and the work was finished with stone sieves." A black piece in which there are ashes must be pulverized, and that which has no ashes is left. Bones with or without ashes were pulverized. And they were divided into three parts. One part was put in the Chel, and one was put on the Mount of Olives, and one was divided for all the guards. 2 (i.e., the representatives of all Israel).


303:1 Nehem. ii. 8. 1 Chron. xxix. 1.

303:2 According to Jewish tradition a dead body covered in with earth conveyed legal uncleanness to every one who walked over it; but if a vault was over the body, or if air intervened between the corpse and the surface of the ground, it was regarded as a non-conductor. There are reckoned six degrees of uncleanness—the father of fathers—the fathers—the first, second, third, and fourth children of defilement. There are altogether twenty-nine fathers of uncleanness, of which eleven arise from contact with a dead body.

304:1 Some commentators explain that "each heifer requires a fresh lad."

305:1 Numb. xix. 3.

305:2 The Pharisees asserted that a priest might be defiled, and that after washing he was legally clean for burning the red heifer. But the Sadducees maintained that he was not legally clean before sunset. Numb. xix. 9, 10.

305:3 Lev. xxii. 7.

306:1 The cedar, hyssop, and scarlet wool were laid parallel to each other, and whatever portion of the scarlet wool remained too long was wrapped round the bundle.

306:2 Numb. xix. 9.

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