One thing struck me as unusual in the latest Blogging the Bible post. Our blogger mentions the red heifer story and says it is vaguely familiar.
Also, an unusual ritual is described: An unblemished red heifer is sacrificed, burned to ash, and scattered over holy water. This sanctified water is used to purify people who have handled a corpse. I remember reading a few years ago about efforts to breed an unblemished red cow in Israel. Hmm, perhaps this was the story. Apparently, the red heifer is necessary before Jews can rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, which is a prerequisite for the Messiah to come.
I also remember the red heifer story and remember exactly what was about. As Plotz says, the red heifer is a pre-requisite for the rebuilding the Temple which is, in turn, a pre-requisite for the Tribulation, the second coming and the end times.
As I remember it, a group of fundamentalist Christian Texas ranchers helped a group of ultra-orthodox Jewish farmers in Israel to breed a red heifer without blemish to try to hurry the end times along a little bit. A quick Google search for “red heifer” turns up dozens of stories about it like this one at the National Review. Interestingly, many of those hits are environmentalists like the Sierra Club members who point out people who think the world is likely to end any minute now are not going to have too many concerns about the long-term consequences of, say, pollution.