kaparot 5769

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

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About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


  • I took my girlfriend yesterday to do Kapparot. It was her first time. She handled it like a champ, I was impressed. Hmmmm… that can almost be worked into a Haiku

  • Shame on you ck! Justifying killing the chicken because it goes to charity and because its a mitzvah. You could have easily performed kapparot with money, which would have also gone to charity. Or alternatively, you could have revived an ancient tradition and swung legumes over your head (http://koltorah.org/ravj/kapparot.htm). Think about the message you’re sending when you write “dedicated vegetarian” kills chicken. Just because it was a mitzvah doesnt mean it was ok to abuse the chicken (in raising it or swinging it over your head). Plus isn’t there some sort of rule that you can’t do a mitzvah with a desecrated item? Given how that chicken was probably raised, I’d say it was probably desecrated (at least once).

  • The Rambam and Joseph Caro were both opposed to it (which is why, I assume, the Rambam advocated the legume method, for those who wanted to use a living organism in lieu of money). The Orthodox tell us they’re two of our most important authorities, we’re obligated to do and believe everything they tell us to – until they tell us something we don’t like. Then, all of a sudden, they aren’t infallible.

  • Jeff Eyges: The Rambam? Really? I know this Maimonides guy was opposed to it too, so I guess that’s pretty tough.

    OK, I’m kidding. But still, there were Rabbis opposed to it and Rabbis who say it is permitted. Nothing in Judaism is so straightforward.

    As for you Isaac… *sigh* the point wasn’t the mitzvah. I know I could have used money or legumes. The point was to make a statement and a plea. It boils down to a call to people to think about where their food comes from and how it gets to their plate. I know it’s kind of counter intuitive, but hopefully it might work a little bit.

    And as for you TM… call me when you have a chance. VERY important. 917 338 7570. And I neither marinated, cooked nor ate that chicken.

  • Isaac’s comment has my vote. What you did wasn’t counterintuitive. I’m not sure what it was, maybe illogical. Surely there are ways to get people to think about where their food comes from that don’t involve vegetarians offing poultry.

    BTW, I really liked your “it boils down to.” Chicken? Boiling? Good one.

  • I thought kapparah was Ashkenazi shtuss. There are Sepahrdim who do it too?

    If I could shecht my own chickens I would definitely give it a try.

    Loves me some wings.

  • We once did it with a fish.
    You’re right. I don’t know why people get all upset, when the chicken is for food. Also the animal sacrifices in the days of Biblical Shiloh Tabernacle and later Holy Temple were really big-time “cook-outs.”

  • Ephraim wrote,

    “If I could shecht my own chickens I would definitely give it a try.”

    Oh, well, no surprise there.

    ck, do you really believe that these chickens make it to poor families mouths? Cause they don’t in Brooklyn. They get thrown out. It appears a scam, ck.

  • I hear your point ck, but the fact remains that you set a dangerous precedent by saying, lets kill a chicken (and by default support the industry that grows them) in order to get people thinking about its life cycle. Growing yourself some legumes and swinging those would have said much more about life cycles. Hell, you could have even grown your own chicken for the event. At least then you wouldn’t be supporting the poultry industry. I think 50 “al chates” and 10 “ashamnus” will do 🙂

  • DK: I saw them give my chicken to an old lady. She then sat down right there and plucked it – she could have paid the 5 shekels it cost to put the chicken through the plucker, but why bother? It looked like she’d been plucking chickens all her life.

    Isaac: I appreciate the concern BUT what dangerous precedent am I setting? Now all Jewish vegetarians who run popular Jewish blogs have permission to kill a chicken in the interests of promoting greater awareness about where our food comes from? How many more chickens will die as a result of my dangerous precedent?

    Uh… but we’re still friends right?

  • isaac, not that ck needs my help, but are you one of those fabric-shod, who wouldn’t sit on a comfy leather couch nor sleep under a warm feather quilt?

    If not, ….

  • Alrighty, I’ve done a little more reading. It is an Ashkenazi custom that has got no Talmudic roots whatsoever. At the time it gained popularity, it already was highly controversial. Now, let’s take a more theological approach to the issue than the cheap polemics of being pro- or contra vegetarianism.

    The controversy constitutes in the practice being of heathen origin, hence a violation of avodah zarah. Chicken being soulless creatures in Jewish theology in addition to having no understanding of sin (as they cannot sin themselves), nor having the ability to deliberately say “yes” or “no” (which, according to the Talmud, differentiates human beings from animals), they cannot atone on behalf of some person as they cannot deliberately take that person’s sins onto themselves. The Septuagint legend tells us that divine will can be assumed when perfect agreement occurs, which is not the case with kapoires animal sacrifices. Analogously, divine mandating cannot be assumed in this case. So what happens is that humans decide that chicken will substitute in the deity’s eyes, which means, bluntly put, that humans decide / claim to know god’s will, which qualifies as blasphemy (as it equals to the anthropomorphic theologies e.g. Ancient Greeks had which Judaism overcame). The killing of the animal as such can be considered an unneccessary violation of creation (environmentalism is a core Jewish concept) if they get thrown out. Since sacrifice animals are per se not kosher for consumption by Jews, they used to be given to poor non-Jews in shtetl times.

    To sum it all up, sacrificing kapoires chicken is a heathen tradition with strong blasphemic tendencies.

  • Yes Froylein. Except the relevant Rabbinic authorities are divided on this issue. Many well respected Rabbis including no less than the Arizal himself supported the practice. I don’t think for a second that killing the chicken helps me atone for my sins. Killing the chicken does not absolve me of anything. I still have to ask God for forgiveness and ask each individual person against whom I committed a sin to forgive me. The only thing the chicken did for me was to help me provide a meal for a person or family of limited means – and to let people know that one ought to at the very least be more thoughtful about the impact of their meat consumption and where it comes from.

    Ok? I’m not a pagan or a heathen. Sheesh. All sacrifices, even those conducted in the Beit Hamikdash were based on heathen tradition. You think God really needed animal sacrifices for sustenance? It was a method that allowed people to worship in a way that they could relate to. Kaparot is kind of similar in that it allows folks to understand the consequences of their sin.

    Of course there is no causal relationship between sin and punishment in this world. But if there were, how many of us would merit death? That ought to give folks pause for thought next time they, for instance, publicly embarrass someone. It ought to make us as a society think about our lifestyle choices and the impact these have on the environment and the lives of other people – global warming kills people. The destruction of the ozone layer kills people. Rampant consumerism kills people. Pollution kills people. And to whatever extent we contribute to these and other things, we have helped to cause death and misery and are thus culpable.

    The death of that chicken allowed me to contemplate these issues in a very real way. I should have been the one getting his throat slit. I’ll think of that this coming year (assuming I make it of course) as I make my choices and consider how they will impact others.

    Aint nothin’ heathen about that. Oh and one last thing – Raboysai! Please eat less meat!!

  • Your thoughts may not have been heathen, but expressing them through such practice was. Afterall it was Judaism that came up with the distinction between the physical manifestation of its theology in symbolic gestures as opposed to icons (though, admittedly, the lines are not always that clear to draw). Ancient animal sacrifices, while undoubtedly of heathen origin, at least were accounted for in the scriptures. The kapoires chicken is not. As I also stated above, the practice has been controversial for its, as I elaborated, decidedly non-Jewish background and theology. Told you, chicken were valuables in the shtetl; killing a chicken meant going without meat for a month to most families. Back then it was a real sacrifice, a loss people could feel. That’s why, as the Jewish Encyclopaedia notes, richer families would sacrifice a ram. So, if you want to experience what those people experienced (since you’re vegetarian), I suggest you skip on a favourite dish for a month but not replacing it by anything else and donate the money you saved. Or skip on something else really meaningful to you for a month.

    I’ll quit eating meat as soon as my carnassials grow back. Cause I’m retarded.

  • OK froylein. We disagree. Now you’re getting repetitive. The chicken is dead. We can’t bring it back. What have we learned beyond the tiresome Kapparot debate?

  • yoav: Le poulet m’a coûté 50 shekalim, plus ou moins 13 dollars. J’ai vu la vieille femme qui l’a pris à la maison. Ce que j’ai fait est aussi la tsedaka, non?

  • ck: You asked what dangerous precedent we are setting by killing the chicken, so here goes. The way I see it, if we can do Kapparos in a way that doesnt kill one of God’s creations, puts our sins in perspective, and gets us thinking about our lifestyle choices (i.e. using legumes you personally grew) it makes no sense in the world and is decidedly un-Jewish to go and kill a chicken. If we let ourselves slip in such an obviously inappropriate situation then what comes next? Do we allow major kosher slaughterhouses to violate halacha and all standards of decency yet retain their hechsher? I’m of the opinion that we should uphold the highest Jewish standards in all the things we do.

  • OK Isaac. You’re not getting the point. I’m a vegetarian. I don’t eat meat. I’m not even a big fan of kapparot. The whole point of this was not to support kapparot. It was to have people think about stuff by using a ritual that is going on now.

    Froylein. I did not commit avodah zarah. Get that through your head. I engaged in a ritual that some Rabbis disapprove of and others don’t. I did not worship a false idol. I bought a fucking chicken and gave it to a poor lady and used the opportunity to photograph it for the purpose of engaging in productive discourse. Of course your depiction of the historiocity (yes I made up that word) and controversy of the ritual is accurate. Of course Isaac is right as well. But its all besides the point.

    And my killing the chicken has nothing at all to do with Rubashkins! I am a vegetarian because of the standards of decency that I felt were not being maintained. For me the hechsher granted to Rubsahkins was worthless. Not only that, but all hechshers granted by any Rabbinical authority that considers Rubashkins kosher are similarly worthless. To me. I love meat! LOVE. IT. But Rubashkins made all meat treif for me. I don’t begrudge anyone the right to eat duly certified meat if they want to. That’s why I bought that woman a chicken. She looked hungry.

    But until I see some significant action by the Rabbis to make sure that there is no unnecessary suffering inflicted on the meat we eat, well, I won’t eat it. And even then, people need to be conscious about what slaughter entails, both to the animal and to the environment and to our health.

    I could have just taken a picture of a killed chicken, but so what? I’d still be complicit in its death. So I bought a poor old lady a chicken and wrote about it.

    Again, I am not encouraging others to do the same. Kaparot does not absolve you of sin. It does nothing. But at least it will hopefully make you think.

  • I’m kinda with Isaac on this one. I think it’s a tad hypocritical to kill a chicken to show that (in your opinion) killing a chicken is wrong. And no offense but I was a little put off by the self- righteous tone of the “but not me… I saw that chicken die” comment. You’re not the only one who’s aware of how meat gets to our table you know. Personally I have no problem with killing any animal to eat in order to survive; my main complaint is the horrible conditions most animals are raised under and what they have to endure before they’re killed. I think vegetarianism is a great and noble choice that benefits not only said animals, but also your health, your pocketbook, the economy and the environment… but I don’t agree that it’s the only option; if people limit their meat consumption, do their research on which farms/processors are certified humane and demand that “kosher” meat processors adhere to strict ethical standards (like the Conservative & Reform movement is doing in response to the Agriprocessors scandal), I think that shows a pretty good amount of consciousness on the part of the consumer.
    But when you beat people over the head and simply say, “killing animals for meat is bad!” and then kill a chicken to feed an old lady to prove your point… I dunno, you lost me.
    On a lighter note, I suppose your moniker now stands for “Chicken-Killer”? 🙂

  • p.s. ck I posted this while you were responding to someone else, so I guess you already addressed a lot of the of the points I brought up… I hate when that happens!

  • ck, the entire ritual is avodah zarah even though you probably were / are the one least likely to connect its performance to pacifying a deity.

    BTW: his·to·ric·i·ty (hÄ­s’tÉ™-rÄ­s’Ä­-tÄ“)
    n. Historical authenticity; fact.
    “historicity.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 06 Oct. 2008. .

  • I’d add that at this time of year, they have the cages sitting out for hours in the sun, and probably don’t provide food or water. Plus, there have been accusations that, when they get busy, they’re moving so quickly that the shechting isn’t being done properly (an accusation that has also been made against Agriprocessors) – so it’s a problem from the frum perspective, as well.

  • ck, I get the point and I think the idea your trying to raise is right on. I simply disagree with the way you used the ritual to make your point. You could have just as easily used legumes or money instead of killing the chicken (and in so doing support the industry that raises and abuses them). From that angle you not only would have been able to use Kapparot as a springboard for the message/conversation you’re trying to cultivate, but also avoid all the hypocrisy of killing a chicken. Understand?

    And yes we’re still friends (right?).

  • Froylein. The ritual is not avodah zara. Not when no less a luminary than Isaac Luria, the Arizal, one of the leading lights of Jewish mysticism says it isn’t. So cut that out. You’re wrong. Avoda Zara is a serious charge and ought not be made lightly. You can say “I consider it Avoda Zara” – that would be ok. But your declaratory tone, as if it’s a done deal, is simply factually incorrect. And the word I made up was not historicity. It’s historiocity. And here’s my definition:

    his·to·rioc·i·ty (hĭs’tə-rĭos’ĭ-tē)
    n: The combination of hunger and annoyance.
    “historiocity.” The Abitbol Heritage® Dictionary of the My Language, Eighteenth Edition. Christ Killer Company

    Would it help if y’all thought of it as fucking performance art??

  • Gevalt. In this case the means were not that horrible. That chicken was going to die one way or another. The slaughter wasn’t rushed as I had gotten there early and there were no crowds. A poor woman got a meal out of it. No one would give a rat’s ass if I just ragged on unlimited meat consumption. But we can agree to disagree Isaac. My tendency is to be a bit provocative. What can I say? No one would pay attention to me otherwise. 😉

    Froylein: So you’re cool with Maimonides 13 articles of faith as well? You find those pretty convincing?


  • You can say “I consider it Avoda Zara”

    OK. I consider it avoda zara.

  • I’m happy to agree to disagree, but in case you were taking a tally I wont the debate 🙂

  • ck, I find Maimonides’ reasoning in this very case more convincing as well as his effective history. But I’m retarded, as you know.

  • Isaac: Is it really about that? Winning? I never took you for an Alpha Male Commenter type. Yes. Froylein likes Maimonides reasoning in this case, but pretty much disagrees with his bedrock 13 articles of faith. Great. She and Jeff are suddenly more Catholic than the Pope and deem Kapparot to be nothing less than Avoda Zara (!!) – wowie! And everyone misses the point. Totally.

    So bravo. Good job. You win a Pyrrhic victory. We’re on the same side in case you haven’t noticed. With just one small difference. A chicken.

  • Clearly you are a chicken lover rebelling against your own inherent want to fuck chickens. Kinda like that south park episode.

    What’s appalling about this is not that you killed a chicken, but that you killed a chicken because you actually believe that this helps you with God. That any reasonable God will be the kind of person who’d say ‘sure he did bad shit, but at least he killed some chicken…’

    All due respect, it makes you brutal AND stupid.

  • Oh Muffti. Read before jumping to conclusions. There were many very real world motivations for killing that chicken – blog fodder for one. And if I am brutal with my one dead chicken… well, think about that for a minute. Also, I never denied I was stupid. And I am definitely brutal as you will soon find out in person. Jewlicious Festival is rapidly approaching which means I’ll be coming up to see you with a special delivery package for your head waiting in my pocket.

    Heh. Mmmm. Tandoori chicken Deutchland style!

  • Are you a vegetarian on top of everything else, DK? Or just a self-righteous asshole?

    Of course you have to get all huffy and offended by the idea that, chas v’shalom, a Jew might want to shecht the meat he eats. Because that’s, like, barbaric, right? Leave it to the murderous, bloodthirsty right-wing Zionist fanatic to want to murder chickens, right?

    You had better the fuck be a vegetarian dickface. If you eat any kind of meat at all, or wear leather products, then STFU.

  • Muffti hopes hat special delivery package is a dead chicken. yum. And say what you want about carnivores, but killing a chicken for blog foddor? whoa. And muffti though agriprocessors were cruel 🙂

    this is good time to tell you, however, taht muffti can’t make jewlicious festival this year.

  • Is gollus-boy a vegetarian, ck? I expect you would know.

    If he isn’t, he’s a fucking hypocrite.

    Gotta go. Got a moose hunting date with Sarahcuda Palin. She’s got some kick-ass Gatlings on her helicopter.

    And we might even waste some cute little bunnies, too.

    Just for fun.

  • Muffti: I knew that already. I hope Sam’s speech will make for a scintillating replacement. I’m still gonna come up there and kick your ass. Calling me a stupid chicken fucker… Good thing I am in the east and you are in the furthest west.

  • ck, I prefer tandoori chicken or chicken tikka masala over Ashkenazi-style chicken or matzoh ball soup any given day. And I’m not the American type – my spice rack isn’t there to cover a stain on the wallpaper. Also, it contains more than a pitcher of salt. Suppose I’ll have to take a pic for you after cooking.
    BTW, I’m not going to the festival either. Will you also drop by to kick my tuches?

  • CK, the stupid chicken fucker, is welcome any time he likes at Muffti’s place. Even if it’s for ass kicking reasons.

    Told ya you were brutal.

  • chickens are good people. you never hear about a chicken going home and beating his hen. that’s because chickens are good people.