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The Red Heifer



The red heifer is a ritual that is required for any person who has come in contact with the dead -whether the bone of a human, a grave or an actual dead body (or simply being in the presence of someone who dies or has recently died). The cow must be without blemish - though no mention is made as to whether the cow must be free of any non-red hair. Furthermore, the cow cannot have ever been used for work.

Once the cow is selected, it must be slaughtered in front of a priest. The priest takes some of its blood and sprinkles it toward the front of the temple seven times. Then, the cow - hide, flesh, blood, dung and all is burned before the priest. The priest takes cedar, hyssop and "red-stuff", and throws them into the fire that is consuming the remains of the cow. The priest and the man who burned the cow then washes their garments, bathe and remain unclean until evening. A clean man, then, gathers up the ashes and deposits them in a clean place for storage. This man is then unclean and must bathe, wash his clothes and remain unclean until evening. The ashes are then used for cleansing those who have become unclean through contact with the dead (Wayyiqra' 19).