Job opening: High priests needed for ancient Temple ritual

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

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

JERUSALEM (RNS) 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.


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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.

Candidates must have been born in Israel and be able to prove their priestly lineage. In keeping with ritual purity guidelines spelled out in the Hebrew Bible, these candidates must also have exercised “extreme caution” to avoid exposure to corpses.

Kohanim born in hospitals, or who have visited hospitals or cemeteries, will almost certainly be ineligible, said Rabbi Chaim Richman, international director of the Temple Institute.

“All Jewish males who are descended from Aaron are obligated to serve in the Holy Temple” once it is built, Richman said. “We’re talking about a different level of purity, or spiritual acclamation.”

Palestinian Muslims consider the institute’s goal of building a temple a threat to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which was built on the site where the Jewish Temples once stood. Israeli government assurances that it has no intention of changing the status quo on the mount — called Haram al-Sharif in Arabic — have not assuaged Muslims’ fears.

(Michele Chabin is RNS’ Jerusalem correspondent)

  • Ilan Gehrenbeck

    Call me when there is a stoning….sacrificing lambs is boring and rather lame

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  • Fran

    A third temple is not necessary nor is the further sacrifice of animals, such as lambs, since Jesus FULLFILLED the LAW (Matthew 5:17,18) through his sacrificial death as the “lamb of God” who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36).

    Jesus also became the “high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek forever” (Hebrews 6:19, 20), and the “mediator of a new covenant” for a heavenly government (Luke 22:20, 29; Hebrews 9:11-28).

    This was all accomplished because the Father of Jesus, God, so loved the world of imperfect mankind so much that he gave his own son, Jesus, so that everyone exercising faith in him might have everlasting life (John 3:16) and no longer sin and die.

    Jesus, because of his love for mankind as well, willingly offered his perfect life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). So, for ALL of these reasons, a third temple and further animal sacrifices have become moot and are no longer required.

  • Re: “A third temple is not necessary nor is the further sacrifice of animals, such as lambs, since Jesus FULLFILLED the LAW …”

    You realize, I hope, that the article is talking about Jews. Yeah, you know, people who don’t believe all this stuff about your Jesus? Did you miss that part, or are you really as clueless and insensitive as you appear?

  • Wes Mordine

    Maybe the Jewish are the clueless ones…?

    Because Moses told them to expect the Messiah, and Daniel told them when he was coming. They missed it because they adhered to traditions not from the Law. They missed the point.

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  • Susan

    The rabbis replaced the sacrifices with prayer, good deeds and study. Therefore, sacrifices are no longer necessary. The Christians continued with the Temple sacrifices in the form of Jesus. Don’t quote the “New Testament” at me. It’s not part of my Bible.

    Biblical prophecy only predicts Jesus, If you already believe in Jesus and read the “Old Testament” backward then Jesus will be believed to be the Messiah.

  • Hal

    Uh, Wes . . . . Uh, no. Jews (Torah observant ones, anyway) are very well aware of what is contained in the Torah and the Prophets. Many of us read it in the original Hebrew (or Aramaic, as is the case with Daniel) and understand nuances that you can never get reading your English translation. It’s not that we’ve missed anything. We simply understand the words of the Hebrew Bible very differently from you. And our understanding is based on a thorough and deep study of God’s word. Maybe you should learn how the Jews understand these verses that you are so sure of their meaning before passing judgment on the Jews.

  • Fran

    Susan,

    Thanks for clarifying that “sacrifices are no longer necessary.” I got the impression from the article that Jewish priests were still being sought to accomplish them.

  • Susan

    Well, some Jews believe the sacrifices will be reinstated after the Messiah comes and a Temple will be rebuilt, but that won’t happen until there is a universal age of peace, love and understanding. Until then, Jewish priests are not being sought.

  • Fran

    Susan,

    Gotcha! There definitely is not universal peace, love and understanding today, and I truly believe it’s around the corner! The world will then be a better place to live in for everyone! ❤️?☝

  • Marilyn Finkel

    Dear Michelle..
    Glad it was fun to write.
    The comments were so convoluted it was like they were caught up in a caldron…then somehow resurfaced.
    Stay Safe..Well.. & Happy Pesach as well.
    Hag Samayach.
    Marilyn Finkel