Friday, May 4, 2012

Bread, Wine, Oil and the Red Bounty

           lit art eat lit art eat art lit eat art lit

           Food and (some sagacious) Literature 

The ritual of the red heifer (in Hebrew, parah adumah) is part of one of the most mysterious rituals described in the Torah. The purpose of this ritual is to purify people from the defilement caused by contact with the dead. The ritual is discussed in Numbers 19. If you find it difficult to understand, don't feel bad; the sages themselves described it as beyond human understanding. What is so interesting about this ritual is that it purifies the impure, but it also renders the pure impure (i.e., everybody who participates in the ritual becomes impure). [Judaism 101: Qorbanot: Sacrifices and].

  Red Cow Bounty [artist unknown]


Rambam: Rabbi Moses Maimonides: (1135-1204)

The Tenth Red Heifer Will Be Prepared By The Messiah: 

     In recounting this historical record in his commentary to the Mishna, the great Maimonides ends with the enigmatic statement: "... and the tenth red heifer will be accomplished by the king, the Messiah; may he be revealed speedily, Amen, May it be God's will." 

With this amazing statement, Maimonides recounts an ancient tradition - that the tenth red heifer is associated with the Messianic era. Does this perhaps mean that the appearance of a red heifer in these waning end times is an indication, a forerunner of the appearance of the Messiah himself, who will officiate at its preparation? 

If there has been no red heifer for the past 2,000 years, perhaps it is because the time was not right; Israel was far from being ready. But now... what could it mean for the times we live in, to have the means for purification so close at hand? With the words of Maimonides in mind, we cannot help but wonder and pray: If there are now red heifers... is ours the era that will need them?"(1)

Parashat Hukkat

Numbers 19:1–22:1

June 19, 2010 / 7 Tammuz 5770

This week's commentary was written by Dr. Barry W. Holtz, dean of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education and the Theodore and Florence Baumritter Professor of Jewish Education, JTS

This week's Torah reading opens with one of the most mysterious and incomprehensible rituals in the entire Bible. Numbers 19:1–22 describes the ritual of the red heifer—the complex practice that allows a person who has come in contact with a dead body to become "purified" of the contamination (tu'mah) that accompanies connection to those who have died. A red heifer is slaughtered, its body and blood are burned in a fire with certain woods and plants, and the ashes that remain after that burning are used in a mixture with water to create a kind of paste that is sprinkled on those who have come in contact with a corpse. The sprinkling of this "water of lustration" (in the New Jewish Publication Society translation) allows the contaminated person to return to the community freed from the tu'mah related to contact with the dead. Adding to the mystery is the fact that those who are impure become purified, but those who are already pure and then come in contact with the ashes of the heifer become impure (Num. 19:10).
Part II

     My  children have long chided me (and rightly so!) about my generous use of butter. And I have long maintained (cynically) that one can cook anything with butter and vermouth.

     Yes, I am (successfully) medicating my high cholesterol and trying (unsuccessfully) to cut back, so I was delighted recently delighted (read: as Teddy Roosevelt used to say) to discover at my food market a Land of Lakes product [copywrite] made with OLIVE OIL AND SEA SALT.    

    For years, now, we have been munching the wheat breads from our local Great Harvest Baking Company.   And I am very pleased with my discovery of the Hahn Estate red wines (especially their pinot noirs) from the  Santa Lucia uplands, near Monterey, California.

  It don't get no better than that!  

Moreover I heard  just today that my practice is somewhat validated (I won't say blessed) by the Old Testament text:

wine to gladden their hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread to sustain the human heart.
From Psalm XIX, verse 15: 

 Butter Power [collage]. Willard B. Moore, 2010

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