The Eglah Arufah:
Looking the Other Way
Most Bible students are aware of the role of the Red Heifer, or Parah Adumah. The search for a perfectly red heifer has been in religious and even secular news for decades. There is another heifer in Scripture that is linked to the Red Heifer; she is the eglah arufah, or "broken-necked heifer."
The ashes of the red heifer, P
, mixed with pure water, cleansed from contact with a corpse, especially in a "tent."
The Eglah Arufah's broken neck over running water
cleansed those closest to the crime from the bloodguilt of a corpse in a field, like Abel's. The relationship between the two is something of a mystery until we travel back to Sinai. It was there that the Israelites worshiped another calf, a golden bull-calf. In Jewish tradition, part of the Red Heifer's role was an atonement for the sin of the golden calf. It is there at Sinai, after an incident of idolatry and an orgy, that the clue may be found.
the LORD spoke to Moses, "Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.
turned aside from the way
which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said,
is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!' "
LORD said to Moses, 'I have seen this people, and behold, they are
There are more references to the Israelites as an obstinate (stiff-necked) people in the succeeding chapters. Following the calf-corruption, t
hose who were guilty of openly worshiping and participating in the orgy were killed by the Levites, but there was still a great number who turned away from the orgy. How is this bad? They should have spoken up and reproved their brothers, who jeopardized the entire nation with their behavior. Those who turned away without speaking up were stiff-necked, for they turned their backs of their necks to the open sin:
Obstinate, stiff-necked = oref ksheh, the back of the neck
A stiff-necked person is not necessarily stubborn, but one who turns his back on sin when he or she has the power to speak up. The Torah portion links the stiff-necked Israelites to the calf whose neck must be broken by placing it in context with a "tree of the field" that is cut down like a human being. This brings to mind the first murder in the field, Kain killing Abel. Note the common context between these two seemingly unrelated topical next-door-neighbors:
you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down.
For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you? Only
the trees which you know are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, that you may construct
against the city that is making war with you until it falls
. (Dt 20:19-20)
, pierced, as with a knife) person
is found lying in the open country
in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess, and it is not known who has struck him
your elders and your judges
shall go out and measure the distance to the cities which are around the slain
shall be that the city which is
to the slain man, that is,
the elders of that city
, shall take a heifer of the herd, which has not been worked and
which has not pulled in a
and the elders of that city
shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which has not been plowed or sown, and shall break the heifer's neck there in the valley.
the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the LORD your God has chosen them to serve Him and to bless in the name of the LORD; and every dispute and every assault shall be settled by them.
All the elders of that city which is nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley;and they shall answer and say, 'Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it.
Your people Israel whom You have redeemed, O LORD, and do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Your people Israel.' And the
shall be forgiven them.
you shall remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the eyes of the LORD
. (Dt 20:19-21:9).
The elders declare that their "hands" are not guilty, neither did they "see" the innocent bloodshed. In order to turn the back of one's neck to a crime, one first had to see it. The Levitical priests are called in to adjudicate this crime of a "pierced one" as at Sinai when the Levites pierced with the sword the most blatant participants. Elohim Himself dealt with the stiff-necked Israelites who escaped the sword by letting them wander 40 years (the spies merely confirmed the Israelites'
oref ksheh), just as Kain had to wander, building cities but never living in them permanently. Similarly, the Torah portion sets up refuge cities for the fleeing manslayer, who will live in the city awaiting the Jubilee or the death of a high priest.
The "tree" analogy in the previous chapter connects a similar type of "manslaying." A man-tree that produces good fruit may not be cut down. Trees don't have to be cut down with a sharp metal implement; they can be cut down with the tongue:
מָ֣וֶת וְ֭חַיִּים בְּיַד־לָשֹׁ֑ון
וְ֝אֹהֲבֶ֗יהָ יֹאכַ֥ל פִּרְיָֽהּ
and life are in the
those who love it will eat its fruit
One's tongue can destroy a person producing good fruit in the Kingdom, or one can preserve a person and all his potential good fruit by refusing to look the other way when the fruit tree is attacked "in the open field." In fact, the pattern is that those who are closest to the attacked "tree" are most responsible for reproving the deadly sword of the tongue raised against him or her. The city elders had to literally measure the distance so that those closest would be absolved of guilt, for as with Kain and Abel, Elohim knew who was closest to the Abel when he fell in the field.
In essence, we eat the fruit of our tongues, either life or death. In the nation of Israel, there is added responsibility: one who does not speak up or intervene in either literal murder or slander will be "stiff-necked," and guilty of turning his or her back to the crime. An eglah arufah will not help the guilty; she is a good-faith statement that turning one's eyes away from a crime did NOT occur.
The Mishnah explains that the elders are really saying
is not the case that he came to us and we dismissed him, or that we saw him and let him go
Jerusalem Talmud (
9:6, 23d) offers two different possibilities:
- The explanation attributed to the rabbis of the Land of Israel (themselves), is that the elders' declaration refers to the murderer. They are affirming that they, the elders, had never apprehended nor even seen the murderer and then subsequently released him or allowed him to
is not the case that he [the murderer] came to us and we dismissed him without execution, nor did we, acting irregularly in the judgment of his case, see him and let him go
to this understanding, the ceremony reminds the elders of their responsibility for pursuing justice. If they are lax in their attempt to apprehend and convict a murderer, it is as if they themselves spilled the blood of the victim
. THEY MUST EXAMINE WHETHER THEY WERE STIFF-NECKED AND LOOKED THE OTHER WAY.
- The explanation attributed
saying that they were not guilty of having neglected the needs of the murder
is not the case that he [the murder victim] came to us and we let him go without food or that we saw him and let him go without accompaniment [as he left the city]."
understanding suggests that the ceremony reminds the elders and all Israelites that they are responsible for the social welfare of the vulnerable. Whenever poverty causes a person's death, the community bears some of the responsibility.
, in his commentary to the Talmud
explains how the community's
failure to give food to a poor person
could have been the root cause for his murder
hands did not shed...": He was not killed on account of our malfeasance. [It was not the case that] we sent him off without food, such that he had to become a highwayman [in order to eat] and thus he was killed
Public officials MUST EXAMINE THEMSELVES FOR STIFF-NECKEDNESS, which amounts to being a bribed judge. Doing nothing can be a payoff just as much as taking money or goods in exchange for a favorable judgment. How many thousands...hundreds of thousands...millions...of people have suffered and died because "judges" looked the other way during the crimes of murder or neglect? The Apostle James (Yaakov) reminds us that even though there are elected and appointed officials of government and law enforcement who will bear bloodguilt, we are all judges and Israelites:
James was an elder and judge of the Jerusalem Council. He gives the rabbinic context "B" of stiff-necked leaders:
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that
If someone comes into our congregation who is hungry or needs warm clothes, we are obligated to render that aid. This is "good fruit" that testifies to a living tree, and it testifies that the poor person is still alive, still able to bear good fruit as long as he is alive. Someone who is losing the ability to be considered a fruit tree is one who is ambitious and jealous of others:
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth
wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly,
jealousy and selfish ambition
exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and
, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace
did not sow pure seeds; therefore he reaped earthly, natural, demonic fruits, which were rejected on the altar. His bitter jealousy led to his murder/manslaughter of Abel in the open field. He cut down a "fruit tree" because of selfish ambition to be respected at the altar...his "synagogue." He wanted Abel at his "footstool." There is an unfinished sentence describing Abel's death:
told Abel his brother... And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. (Ge 4:8)
Kain told his brother what? The text doesn't say! It was an unfinished argument, perhaps a slander left hanging and uncorrected in the company of their parents or brothers and sisters, then ending later in the field without human witnesses. No one made peace between brothers, so there was a general fruit failure.
Religious ambition is DANGEROUS! It will lead eventually to bloodguiltiness and wandering from city to city, never finding a resting place. Economic ambition can also lead to death:
Come now, you who say, "
Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit."
you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.
You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."
as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin
James references the Torah portion, for if a person knew he would be murdered between cities, he would not boast of how much money he'd make in the next city. He references the guilt of the stiff-necked, applying it to the personal decision-maker's bragging tongue, not only the judges and elders. A person who draws excessive attention to himself will attract predators. Arrogance can lead to death, making one disappear like a vapor, which is what Abel (hevel) means.
Is it possible that Kain was wandering from the straight path long before he killed his brother?
My brethren, if any among you
from the truth and one turns him back
let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of
An official of the post-Edenic community should have spoken up. It is not likely that Kain and Abel brought their sacrifices alone. They would have celebrated firstfruits with their family. Adam and Eve should have spoken up, counseled their sons before they went into the field alone, but perhaps once again, Adam remains silent when an impending war threatens to chop down a fruit-producing tree, a human being made in the image of Elohim, a human being who will wander away from the Tree of Life and one whose blood will cry from the ground.
So who was the
The stiff-necked elders and judges who
looked the other way while crimes were committed?
took the bribes of favor to rule unfairly?
The sinful wanderer with no one to turn him back when he strayed from the path onto untilled soil?
The traveler who boasted of his riches but couldn't carry them to the real "tomorrow"?
The righteous victim of envious, bitter human predators?*
Maybe the broken-necked calf represents all of these. Our public officials must bear the guilt of looking the other way when crimes are committed or obstructing justice. The difficulty today is that our communities are typically so populous that finding the closest officials to hold responsible is a challenge. The number of murders exceed the ability of officials to investigate and find the murderers, which is why this practice was abandoned in the Second Temple era. The number of murders made it impossible.
What can the Israelite lay-judge do? Simply put, don't turn our necks to crime. Become involved in the election of public officials. Identify candidates who seek justice, not a higher position. The more humble the candidate for position or office, the more likely he or she is to be resistant to bribes of favor or to turn his or her neck to crime. Write letters to your representatives. Email them. Show up for town halls. Vote. Run for office. Encourage Spirit-filled young people to seek careers in law enforcement, law, or government. Urge justice for those who have no voice. Feed and clothe the poor. Be salt and light to your closest neighbors. Make peace. Forget the silly political posts on social media and GO to places where your zeal for righteousness will stop broken necks before they start. Kudos to Dr. Dinah Dye for becoming involved in local politics and trying to restore justice in her community.
Life and death are in the hand of the tongue. We are all judges, and we will eat the fruit that our tongues pluck. Choose life.
*According to tradition, Miriam's son Hur was murdered by the idol-worshipers when he spoke up against the Golden Calf.
Spotlight on Israel
Put Sukkot 2020 in Israel on Your Calendar!
With each trip or tour to Israel, we meet amazing people and build lifetime friendships. We're highlighting some of those people who have been such a blessing to the tours and The Creation Gospel ministry. One of those people is Barbara Tipping. She writes:
I first travelled to Israel in 2013 with a tour group that did not share my doctrinal beliefs, but did share my love for Father and his people.
It was amazing that after only a few hours in the land we moved from strangers to friends.
We visited all the tourist sites and a few extras, enjoyed the amazing food and fun shopping experiences.
W experienced tender moments in the Garden of Gethsemane and Holocaust Museum. At the close of this tour, I thought I would never go again thinking that no other tour would measure up. But.....
In 2017 Holissa Alewine announced they were doing a small tour in March, and wow!!!! My life has never been the same.
Bonding was immediate!
The people were amazing! The sites took on new meaning for me traveling with a group of people who shared my doctrinal beliefs as well as my love for Father and His people and land. We went to some out-of-the-way amazing places, enjoyed so many teachings, and were able to rest in beautiful Tamar, a place of reflection and restoration for me.
I returned in 2018 and 2019 for Passover with the Alewine group, and now I know that every tour she does draws in the most amazing people and every tour has its own sweet flavor.
I cannot wait for this Sukkot tour.
I cannot wait to be back on the Galilee.
I cannot wait to walk again through the old city, and enjoy the sights and sounds of a city of many cultures.
I cannot wait to cover my head and praise Father at the Kotel.
I cannot wait for the many sweet conversations and teachings I will enjoy.
I cannot wait to see good friends again and meet all of you that I don't yet know.
Finally, there will be sweet moments for each of us that no words will ever describe...I can't wait!!
A New BEKY Book is Coming!
I finally finished the manuscript of the Resurrection book,
50,000 DEGREES AND CLOUDY. Now it's off for formatting, a cover, and then publication.
The rough estimate is four weeks from now to publication.
The first section is extensive, but concise, proof texts from the Torah portions. The second section is devoted to what happens when we die. Here is the Table of Contents:
Section I: Clouds of Glory
Words in the Hood
The Pharisees? Are You Kidding Me?
"Rapture" Texts in Jewish Tradition
Going Up or Settling Down?
The Garden, the Cloud, and the Dead
Firemen and Robes of Righteousness
Yeshua in the Exodus Cloud
Portions in the Cloud
The Red Shadow
Section II: What Happens?
Beware the Wizard
Gateway to the Garden
Into the Garden
Respect for the Dead
Enoch and Elijah
How High Will We Fly?
The Righteous and the Intermediates
The Tunnel, the Light, and Beyond
The Resurrection Offering
Rivers of Living Water
Song of Songs for Passover
I don't think you'll find a better TORAH-BASED book on the ingathering. Perfect for those who are grieving over loved ones. Just in time for the high holy days! We'll post here when it is ready for order.
A good preparation is Pharisee: Friend or Foe? in paperback, which traces the development of the resurrection doctrine from the Torah, Prophets, and Psalms at Pharisee paperback ,
the REVIVE TV series at
Pharisee Video Series
or on ROKU.
LaMalah Children's Centre
SPECIAL NEWS COMING!
We have updates from LaMalah that we will share with you soon in a special edition of our newsletter. If you would like to donate to the Children's Centre or other Torah-based orphanages through The Creation Gospel, click on the link below.
We could also use your help to fund the Sukkot celebration for Torah-believers around Kenya.