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Kapparos or Kaparot (Hebrew: כפרות‎, "atonements") is a traditional Jewish animal sacrifice that takes place on the eve of Yom Kippur. Classically, it is performed by grasping a live chicken by the shoulder blades and moving around one's head three times, symbolically transferring one's sins to the chicken. The chicken is then slaughtered and donated to the poor, preferably eaten at the pre-Yom Kippur feast.[1] Preferably, a man should use a rooster, and a woman should use a hen for the ritual.

In modern times, Kapparos is performed in the traditional form mostly in Haredi communities. Members of other communities perform it with charity money substituted for the chicken, swung over one's head in similar fashion. There is an ancient and little known tradition of Egyptian Jewry to use plant life.[2] Other Orthodox Jews simply prefer to not participate in the custom.

The ritual is preceded by the reading of Psalms 107:17-20 and Job 33:23-24.

As the chicken (or money) is swung about the head, the following paragraph is traditionally recited three times:

This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement. (This rooster (hen) will go to its death / This money will go to charity), while I will enter and proceed to a good long life and to peace.[3]


The custom has been strongly opposed by some rabbis, such as Maimonides, who generally considered sacrifice to be inferior to prayer and philosophical meditation. Other rabbis, such as Nahmanides, Solomon ben Adret, and Joseph Caro considered it a pagan ritual in conflict with the spirit of Judaism, which knows of no vicarious sacrifice. But it was approved by Asher ben Jehiel and by his son Jacob ben Asher. The ritual appealed especially to Kabbalists, such as Isaiah Horowitz and Isaac Luria, who recommended the selection of a white rooster as a reference to Isaiah 1:18, and who found other mystic allusions in the prescribed formulas. Consequently the practice became generally accepted among the Jews of eastern Europe.

Rabbi Yosef Karo wrote in his Shulchan Aruch (the major authority on Jewish law) that the custom had parallels to polytheistic rites and ought not to be practiced. Rabbi Moses Isserles' commentary to that section disagrees and encourages the practice.[4] In Ashkenazi communities especially, Isserles' position came to be widely accepted. The late 19th century monumental work Kaf Hachaim approves of the custom for the Sefardic community as well.

Some Jews also oppose the use of chickens for kapparot on the grounds of tza'ar ba'alei chayim (unnecessary pain to animals). [5] On erev Yom Kippur 2005, a number of caged chickens were abandoned in rainy weather as part of a kapparot operation in Brooklyn, NY; some of these starving and dehydrated chickens were subsequently rescued by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.[6] Jacob Kalish, an Orthodox Jewish man from Williamsburg, was charged with animal cruelty for the drowning deaths of 35 of these kapparot chickens [2]. In response to such reports of the mistreatment of chickens, Jewish animal rights organizations have begun to picket public observances of kapparot, particularly in Israel.[7]

See also


  1. Shulchan Aruch Rama O.C. 605:1
  2. This website offers a fuller exposition of the Kapparot history, including an interesting Shulkhan Arukh manuscript not mentioned here. [1]
  3. The Complete Artscroll Machzor: Yom Kippur, p.4
  4. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 605:1
  6. Horrigan, Jeremiah (2005-10-22). "Abandoned chickens saved from death". Times Herald-Record. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  7. Sela, Neta (2006-09-28). "Rabbis cry 'fowl' on ritual use of chickens".,7340,L-3309121,00.html. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 


External links

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