Parashah chukas (Bamidbar 19:1-22:1)
HaShem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, saying: This is the decree of the Torah, which HaShem has commanded, saying: Speak to the Children of Yisrael, and they shall take to you a completely red cow, which is without blemish, and upon which a yoke has not come. You shall give it to Elazar the Kohen; he shall take it out to the outside of the camp and someone shall slaughter it in his presence. Elazar the Kohen shall take some of its blood with his forefinger, and sprinkle some of its blood toward the front of the Tent of Meeting seven times. Someone shall burn the cow before his eyes – its hide, and its flesh, and its blood with its dung, shall he burn. The Kohen shall take cedarwood, hyssop, and crimson thread, and he shall throw them into the burning of the cow. The Kohen shall immerse his clothing and immerse himself in water, and afterward he may enter the camp; and the Kohen shall remain contaminated until the evening. The one who burns it shall immerse his clothing in water and immerse himself in water; and he shall remain contaminated until evening. A pure man shall gather the ash of the cow and place it outside the camp in a pure place. For the assembly of Yisrael it shall remain as a safekeeping, for water of sprinkling; it is for purification. The one who gathers the ash of the cow shall immerse his clothing and remain contaminated until the evening. It shall be for the Children of Yisrael and for the proselyte who dwells among them as an eternal decree.” (Bamidbar 19:1-10)
The priest(Elazar, and NOT Aharon, even though Aharon is still alive) who slaughters it OUTSIDE THE CAMP, unlike all other offerings, and then he sprinkles it’s blood FROM OUTSIDE toward the front door of the tent of meeting. The designated priest(a different person) burns the red heifer on the altar, ALL of it including its excrement, and he becomes unclean until evening and must rinse himself in water. A third person, a pure man, shall take the pure ashes, and deposit them in a pure place outside the camp. By being clean, touching only a clean thing, and going only to a clean place, he becomes unclean until evening and must rinse his clothing and himself in water. The eternal decree of the red heifer is for Jew and G-d-loving-gentile alike. It is "the decree” of the Torah. The ashes are kept "as a safekeeping, for water of sprinkling; it is for purification.” So, its killed outside the camp, its blood atones for the corporate sin of everyone, its ashes atone for individual uncleanness, yet the process of making it so causes the people who carry out the task to become unclean.
The enigma remains…Why this command? Why this way? Why is it called "The decree of the Torah”? But Yeshua was killed outside of the camp, in part at the hands of the chief priests, H-s death and resurrection has the power to make all people clean before G-d, Jew and G-d-loving-gentile included, and yet it was appointed to make those unclean at whose hands He was betrayed. That also was an intentional run-on sentence. Just when you thought this author was going to answer this question for you, I am not. I do not know. G-d is good, and G-d seems to like to plant seeds and clues for us to find. He has an infinite process of discovery regarding H-mself planned for us. We spend all of our lives learning and wondering about G-d, and yet even for eternity we shall continue to learn and appreciate the wonders of G-d. The heifer is red, thought to represent sin, even though it has not known sin. This beast and this sacrifice is unique. Even the rabbinical commentators have but few ideas to explain the mystery of the red heifer. The Mishnah maintains that the site outside of Jerusalem which was used for the burning of the red heifer was the mount of olives.
The cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet/crimson thread mixture is the same used with the offering to cleans a leper (Vayikra 14:4). The cedar wood is mysterious. Perhaps it burns clean or smells clean, the answer is not known. Hyssop is commonly thought of as a purging agent, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean,” (Tehillim 51:7). It is even medically used as a purging agent which causes a person’s body to become hot and to sweat out impurities when taken orally.
According to the Talmud, G-d publicly indicated His acceptance of Israel's sin-offering and their forgiveness through the use of a scarlet thread at Yom Kippur. The basic purpose of the scarlet thread was to "display publicly" to the people of Israel that G-d had forgiven their sins, based on the verse in Yeshayahu 1:18, "though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow."
The talmudic discussions in tractate Rosh Hashanah of the Gemara claim that the thread was originally tied to the outside of the door of the Temple. Apparently the people would gather to see if the thread had turned white. If it did, "the people rejoiced, and if it did not turn white they were sad." Therefore the Sages ruled that the thread should be tied to the inside of the door, out of view of the public eye. However, the people "still peeped in and saw." Once again, "if it turned white they rejoiced and if it did not turn white they were sad" (Rosh Hashanah 31b).
Rabban Johanan ben Zaccai was one of the survivors of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C. E. He was among the leading Pharisaic Sages who laid the foundation for the establishment of rabbinic Judaism following the collapse of the Temple and its sacrificial system. He was alive around the time of Yeshua's death and resurrection (c. 27-30 C.E.). In the continuation of the same section of the Talmud, the text says that during Rabban Johanan's lifetime:
"For forty years before the destruction of the Temple the thread of scarlet never turned white but it remained red." (Rosh Hashanah31b)
According to this source during the forty years following Yeshua's death up until the destruction of the Temple when the sacrificial system ceased the scarlet thread never turned white. This indicated that G-d no longer accepted the sacrifice of the scapegoat to atone for Israel's sins. This might make one wonder how one could study the Talmud and NOT become a believer in Yeshua as the Mashiach, as Rachmiel Frydland did.
Rahab tied a scarlet thread at her window, indicating she recognized her need for the salvation of the G-d of Yisrael, and she received that salvation, her and her whole family.
Today some Kabbalists maintain a scarlet thread on their wrist (or at least "California Kabbalists”). Perhaps we, followers of Yeshua, should have a white thread on ours. Just food for thought.
The following is a link to the Messianic Literature Outreach, the ministry launched by Rachmiel Frydland and continued today by Elliot Klayman. It is worthy of your investigation. Enjoy!