Contact with a human corpse, or even being together with a corpse under the same roof, renders a person ritually impure. The purification procedures for such a person include his being sprinkled with the "waters of purification," which contain the specially prepared ashes of a parah adumah, a red heifer.
For the duration of the galut, until the coming of Moshiach, all Jews are in a state of impurity caused by corpses. We no longer have ashes of a parah adumah to purify us, and new ones can be prepared only in the presence of the Sanctuary (Befit Hamikdash).
Our present impurity is not only a Halachic condition determined by legal definitions. It is also a spiritual condition, for it is sin and spiritual defilement that brought about the current state of galut, as it says, "Because of our sins, we were exiled from our land..."
Both the "red heifer" and the Messianic redemption result in purification. The ashes of the "red heifer" are used to remove a legal state of impurity. The redemption will purify the entire people of Israel (including those who halachically are pure) from any trace of deficiency in the bond with our Father in Heaven.
Maimonides cites a Mishnah with the following words: "Nine 'red heifers' were prepared from the time this precept was ordained until the Second Temple was destroyed: the first was prepared by Moses our Master, the second Ezra prepared, and there were seven from Ezra to the destruction of the Temple. The tenth will be prepared by King Moshiach - may he soon be revealed, amen, may thus be (G-d's) Will!"
Candle lighting time in NYC is on Friday before 8:13 PM