As you can see from the photos – I’m being quite literal. Today was the first day of Machane Yehuda’s annual Kaparot Market. Every year, Jerusalem’s central market hosts this temporary slaughterhouse where those that follow the Kaparot ritual can go and kill them some chickens.
The ritual, which is performed between the end of Rosh Hashana and the beginning of Yom Kippur, involves reading Psalms, then buying a chicken, waving it around your head three times while saying 3 times “This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement. This rooster chicken will go to its death, while I will enter and proceed to a good long life and to peace.” It’s kind of a controversial ritual and Rabbis are divided regarding whether or not one should do it with Maimonides saying no and the Arizal (Isaac Luria) saying yes.
But me? A dedicated vegetarian? Why do I do it? Well, I don’t eat the chicken. I give it to charity. That alone justifies Kaparot. But more importantly, if these images make you squeamish, then good! For those of you meat eaters who think this is barbaric, think about that next time you chow down on a plate of wings. As a society we eat so much meat and never think about where it comes from, how it gets to our plates – that a living creature was bred and killed so that you could enjoy a yummy meal. We think even less about the environmental impact of our meat consumption.
But not me. I saw that chicken die. I was there, and while it was kind of gross, I appreciated its sacrifice and was thankful that it gave up its life so that I could do a mitzvah and help a poor family eat a meal.
Gmar Chatimah Tova!
PS: Be thankful I didn’t bring a video camera