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  • Writer's pictureLIBEVC

Rethinking the Kapparot Tradition with Love for All Creatures

chicken, yom kippur, kapparot

Kapparot is a Jewish custom performed in some communities in the days leading up to Yom Kippur, the annual Day of Atonement. In the tradition, an individual passes a chicken around their head three times while saying the appropriate blessing. The idea is that this person is asking God to atone them for their sins. In modern times, the majority of Jews no longer practice Kapparot. They ask for forgiveness instead by donating to charity, and through prayer. Unfortunately, however, some people do still use a chicken, and here at LIBEVC we’ve seen many instances where the custom has gone haywire, causing unjustified pain, suffering, and death to an enormous amount of chickens.

We tend to dozens of chickens brought to us through animal rescue organizations, helping them heal from injuries and amputations. The small, crowded, and cramped cages that the chickens are kept in causes them to suffer from starvation, dehydration, and disease. Many chickens never make it to the kapparot ceremony itself because they die in the cage. Each year, we are swamped at the clinic during this time as we try to help as many injured chickens as possible. We are doing the best we can, but there are limitations, and we have very limited funding to support this volunteer effort. That’s why we want to do our part to urge people to practice “tshuvah” (repentance) in a way that causes no harm. The pain and suffering these chickens endure is completely avoidable, and moreover it goes against the important Jewish value of “tzaar ba’aleh chaim” - the Jewish commandment to honor the life of all living creatures.

We respect those who wish to maintain a religious tradition, and therefore we believe that the best thing to do in this case is to help promote the alternative. Though someone’s intentions with Kapparot may be to hold onto an ancient tradition, modern Rabbinical authorities state that you can give charity instead. It is possible that some individuals are unaware of this alternative, and we want to encourage everyone to spread the word and share alternative options that are legally sound. There is another way.

In the weeks leading up to Yom Kippur, we are collecting donations to help us care for injured chickens. If you would like to donate, please click here. Shana Tova - a Happy, Healthy New Year to all.

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