The Season of Flying Chickens

24 Sep

What do chickens and Yom Kippur have in common?

No, there’s no special commandment to eat chicken (or anything, for that matter) on the Day of Atonement, but there is a custom called kaparot that takes place before the holiday. Kaparot is a ritual in which one swings a live chicken in circles in the air, symbolizing the passing of one’s sins unto the chicken. The chicken is then slaughtered and donated to the poor. It has been a topic of controversy from the time is was created, and even recently in the Orthodox community. A group called the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaparot will be holding protests this week in Crown Heights. The group argues that kaparot violates the law of tzar ba’alei chayim, the Jewish law that prohibits unnecessary cruelty to animals.

Chickens are used because they are easy to find, inexpensive, and was not an animal used for Temple sacrifice. ( Some Jews choose to honor the tradition by substituting money for the chicken or simply giving to charity instead. Even in ancient times, children used plants instead of chickens to symbolize repentance.

Is the kaparot ritual still relevant in our day and age? Do you see it as archaic, even barbaric? If so, how do you feel about adapting traditions like this to fit our modern world?

Chicken or no chicken, we wish you an easy fast and a g’mar chatimah tovah – a good signature [in the book of life].


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