Jewish Chicken Ritual: Allowed or Abolished?

Posted on December 11, 2016 by


Kaporos also known as Kapparots, are religious rituals that the Jewish will engage in as the new year is approaching. What occurs in this ritual is something that many people are very against. People may see it as animal cruelty, considering that a chicken is waved and circled above one’s head while stating a prayer. Through this ritual, it is believed that the person saying the prayer, will have their sins taken away, and their sins will go into the chicken in hopes that if they were potentially going to die that next year, it will not happen, but rather the chicken will be killed in place of them by a rabbi and the meat is then given to the poor. These rituals are taken place in many public areas. Because of this, people have a problem. They believe it is unsanitary, it is cruelty, and that the public eye just should not have to witness such a thing. But a lot of controversy occurs because the ones practicing the ritual see no harm considering it is their natural and usual practice. Throughout this essay, I will analyze how many articles and people see it as cruelty, how people have tried to stop the practice from re-occurring, how people defend their religious practices, and if it will or will not be changing over the years. Not only are the chickens neglected during the ritual, they are also neglected previous to even being put into the lands of the one doing the ritual. They are sold on streets out of crammed cages, and there is an unhealthy amount of chickens being kept in each cage. Once the chicken is purchased, it is then taken to be used in the ritual. Throughout the ritual, as mentioned before, the chicken is held either by their legs, wings, or mid-section and is then twisted and circled above one’s head while proclaiming their prayers. After the praying is complete, the chicken is then slaughtered in sacrifice of the one that gave the ritual. Throughout nearly every part of this process, the chicken is in some way treated unjustly. Many stories, articles, and documentaries have been made in response to this ritual. From the information just given, it shows that people are nearly disturbed by the idea of having to kill an animal in order for one’s own sake. Some articles lean very much so towards making the process sound horrific and insanely inhumane. Other articles will tell the process just how it is and bluntly explain what goes on without using the harsh words that are typically used. Some people say that it is no bother to them if someone wants to do the ritual, as long as there is no animal harmed in the process. It has before been recommended maybe trying the practice using money as a substitute. So, looking at some sources, you may interpret the story going more towards totally abolishing the ritual, and some may want to try and find something in order to make everything work out so that those doing the ritual still can carry on with their religious traditions. There are multiple articles to be found about people filing lawsuits against the Jewish ones doing the rituals. They usually are radical animal activists who are completely against this act. They want to stop them from doing any type of harm to animals. Judges have many times denied their request and let the Jewish do as they want, as long as there is not harm to the human population as a part of the right to religion. If anything, they will make it so they cannot do it during the time of when the ritual is usually meant to occur. The majority of articles lean more towards the activist side where they completely want it all over with. Many activists would try and relate it back to God in the sense that He would not be happy with them killing innocent animals for “selfish” reasons. For example, Jenny Brown, a manager of a farm animal sanctuary once said, “I just don’t know what kind of compassionate God would be okay with it.” There is not much information that is coming from the Jewish side defending why they do what they do. I infer that is because the ones doing the rituals just simply believe in what they do and why they do it and that they should not have to be stopped doing something that means so much to them for the past centuries. Outsiders may think that when the Jewish are performing their ritual, they feel completely comfortable doing it like it is a normal thing. In some cases as mentioned before, that may be, but it is not always the case. As children do the ritual, it could be very traumatic. They know that hearing the chicken suffer is not okay and it often makes them not want to do continue to go through with the ritual. There are multiple articles were someone of the Jewish community tells their story about how the feel when it comes to the ritual and whether they decided to stay with it or not. Leil Leibovitz in his article “In Defense of Kapparot,” he describes how growing up he hated having to do the ritual and how he felt guilty every time he had to partake in it. So, the older he got he started to transfer over to using money rather than the chickens. But, then even over more years, he decided it was for the best to revert back to using the chicken. He felt even though society had many problems with the practice, he wanted to do it. He looked at it that animals are slaughtered every day for simple reasons just for eating, when he could slaughter the chicken in an act of religious cleansing. In the end of the article stating, “Tonight, as I swing the chicken over my head, I will likely feel, quite literally, guilty as sin, and I will likely chase away that feeling, that leaded sadness settling in my throat, by observing the suffering I am causing very carefully and promising to keep it in mind next time I order my meal or shop for stuff or make any other decision I would not have normally paused to contemplate.” Others like Esther C. Werdiger, are always confused on whether they want to use the chicken, or if they would rather use a substitution. So, this ritual has many different views. There are many assumptions that the public have, and this act may never be fully accepted by the public but will more or less just have to be worked with over time.




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