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Swinging Chicken Ritual Divides Orthodox Jews
npr.org ^ | September 26, 2009 | BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY

Posted on 10/01/2009 8:37:31 AM PDT by Nikas777

Swinging Chicken Ritual Divides Orthodox Jews

by BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY

September 26, 2009

Rabbi Shea Hecht in Brooklyn, N.Y., demonstrates how Orthodox Jews wave a chicken three times over their heads and say the prayer of Kapparot (or Kapparos, depending on heritage) in the days leading up to Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Shea Hecht plucks a chicken off a truck parked behind a synagogue in Queens, N.Y., and demonstrates how to swing a chicken.

"You take it by the wing," says the white-haired Hecht, careful not to get the chicken's feathers or anything else on his black suit and tall black hat. "You put one wing over the other wing. See? It's very relaxed. And you swing it very softly over your head like this."

Hecht holds the bird, waves it three times above his head, and says the prayer of Kapparot (or Kapparos, depending on heritage). He prays that his sins will be transferred to the bird and he will escape the divine punishment that he deserves. The prayer is more than 1,000 years old, and countless Orthodox Jews will recite it in the days before Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, which begins at sundown Sunday. Hecht says waving the chicken isn't the point of this ritual.

"The main part of the service," he says, "is handing the chicken to the slaughterer and watching the chicken being slaughtered. Because that is where you have an emotional moment, where you say, 'Oops, you know what? That could have been me.' "

Wave Money, Not Chickens

But David Rosenfeld, who is also an Orthodox Jew, has a different message.

"Kapparos!" he calls out to passersby. "Use money, not chickens."

Rosenfeld and his friend Sam Schloss have set up a table next to a kosher bakery in Brooklyn. They have pamphlets and a cage of fake chickens — which causes some confusion.

"How much for chickens this year?" a woman asks, thinking they're selling chickens for Kapparot.

"No, we want people to use money," Rosenfeld says, explaining that waving money around her head is just as religiously acceptable as waving a bird. "We think it's very cruel to the chickens. We're trying to get people to not buy the chickens at all but use money instead."

She nods and says she'll use money this year.

It's not easy undoing a millennium of tradition, one chicken at a time. And it's lonely. Rosenfeld knows he's at odds with his friends at synagogue.

"It is a kind of double world for me because I love all these people I'm with and I'm part of their world," he says. "I wear a yarmulke; I'm with them; they're wonderful people. But I disagree with them on this point."

And so each year he and Schloss — who is also Orthodox — search out Kapparot sites in Brooklyn.

Police Arrests, Fines

On Monday, NPR went on the search with Schloss.

"Yup, there's a sign right there," he says, pointing to a small blue and white poster with a chicken on it.

For years, Schloss has been covering up these posters with his own that show filthy and starving chickens in crates. One year, Schloss found a garage full of chickens that had been abandoned after Yom Kippur.

"They were emaciated chickens mixed in with dead chickens," he recalls. "There was no food, there was no water — it was hot during the day, cold at night. There was rain. It was just a torturous thing for these animals to go through."

The police arrested the organizer for animal cruelty. And the city has fined others for leaving public places looking like a slaughterhouse, with blood and dead chickens all over the site.

Grab It By Two Wings

At a small operation in Boro Park, there are maybe 100 chickens. The man running the site eases a bird from its crate and hands it to a customer. She waves it three times over her head. The operator says he trucks in these chickens for the week, and makes a small profit. He's clearly nervous. He won't give his name — and he complains the sacred ritual has been unfairly tainted by a few rotten apples.

"It's very easy for people to condemn the Jewish people. But you can stand here now for the next few hours. You watch how I hold the chicken. I am careful; I hold the chicken with two wings."

He says if you grab it by one wing, the wing could break. That would cause the chicken pain and it would no longer be kosher. He shows NPR a bag of bread, soaked in water, which he gives to the chickens so they don't get hungry or thirsty.

"This is probably the best one I've seen," Schloss says. "I mean it's not the best thing for the chickens, and you can hear that in their voices. But it's as good as I think we're going to get."

Schloss hopes his efforts and the bad publicity have forced changes like these. But he doubts the practice will ever be outlawed.

And that's just as it should be, says Hecht.

"What I've told my local police department and my local government is, 'I'm an American. We have freedom of religion.' "

That may be why anti-cruelty groups like the ASPCA declined to talk for this story. Instead, it issued a statement saying that it opposes any practice in which animals are made to suffer in the name of religious beliefs or tradition.

A Division Among Orthodox Jews

But for many Orthodox Jews, the problem with Kapparot is not about animal rights or even the law. It's about religious interpretation, and this is dividing Orthodox rabbis themselves.

"We value Jewish tradition enormously, except when it collides with the fundamental principles of our Torah," says Brooklyn Rabbi Shlomo Segal.

"The Torah prohibits Jews from causing any unnecessary pain to living creatures, even psychological pain. It says in the Book of Proverbs, 'The righteous person considers the soul of his or her animal.' "

Segal is among the Orthodox rabbis urging believers to use money instead of live animals. But that makes for thin spiritual experience, counters Hecht. He says there's something visceral, and sacred, about holding a live animal in your hands just before it dies for your sins.

"I know and I can speak for myself and my family members, and thousands of people in my community, who say that this Kapparot service has moved them and has given them a realization that, 'Hey, I have to make changes. I have to improve myself. ' "

And Hecht is ready to help them. Come Saturday, the sidewalk in front of his yeshiva will be packed with believers. It will be loud; it will be bloody. And 4,000 chickens will pay the price of atonement.


TOPICS: Current Events; Judaism; Prayer; Worship
KEYWORDS: kapparos; kapparot; ritualslaughter; sins
I prefer the blood of The Lamb for the forgiveness of my sins over the blood of a swung chicken.
1 posted on 10/01/2009 8:37:32 AM PDT by Nikas777
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To: Nikas777

I don’t want to know what this is about, but it may explain Madonna’s sudden enthusiasm, and any future mass convcersions in places like San Fran and P-town.


2 posted on 10/01/2009 8:41:58 AM PDT by the invisib1e hand ("Isn't the Golden Mean the secret to something," I parried? "Yes," Blue replied. "Mediocrity.")
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To: Nikas777
I prefer the blood of The Lamb for the forgiveness of my sins over the blood of a swung chicken.

I thought Eastern Orthodoxy rejected the Western concept of J*sus' death as a "sin offering."

It makes little sense for one ritualistic religion to criticize another one (especially an older one). Fundamentalist Protestants who reject all ritual I can understand, but for ritualistic chr*stians to criticize Jewish rituals? That's just the pot calling the kettle black.

3 posted on 10/01/2009 8:42:26 AM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Basukkot teshevu shiv`at yamim; kol-ha'ezrach beYisra'el yeshevu basukkot.)
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To: Zionist Conspirator
I condone this practice as I am a member of PETA.

People Eating Tasty Animals

4 posted on 10/01/2009 8:43:40 AM PDT by Nachum (The complete Obama list at www.nachumlist.com)
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To: Nikas777
And what would happen to those chickens without this ceremony? They would be butchered and sold. This way, they are butchered and given to the poor.

There has been a campaign going on for years against Jewish ritual sacrifice. This anti-kapporos campaign is simply another tactic used in this war.

5 posted on 10/01/2009 8:44:45 AM PDT by Piranha (Obama won like Bernie Madoff attracted investors: by lying about his values, policy and plans.)
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To: the invisib1e hand
"...but it may explain Madonna’s sudden enthusiasm..."

LOL.

I was once told that the difference between "sensual" and "perverted" is that "sensual" is when you use a feather, and "perverted" is when you use the whole chicken.

6 posted on 10/01/2009 8:48:19 AM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum)
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To: Nikas777

7 posted on 10/01/2009 8:49:40 AM PDT by Alex Murphy (...We never faced anything like this...we only fought humans.)
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To: Nachum
I condone this practice as I am a member of PETA.

People Eating Tasty Animals

LOL! They are tasty!

8 posted on 10/01/2009 8:50:27 AM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Basukkot teshevu shiv`at yamim; kol-ha'ezrach beYisra'el yeshevu basukkot.)
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To: Zionist Conspirator
It makes little sense for one ritualistic religion to criticize another one (especially an older one).

Eastern Orthodox Christianity is older than what is called Judaism. Modern Judaism only goes back 1,000 years as this article also mentions. Even the Bible used by "modern Judaism" is younger (and much edited/altered) than the much older version the O;d testament the Orthodox use.

9 posted on 10/01/2009 8:58:30 AM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: Nikas777

Just so as you all know, this is not normal in Judaism. This is a pretty small bunch that do this.


10 posted on 10/01/2009 9:02:48 AM PDT by babble-on
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To: Nikas777

LOL


11 posted on 10/01/2009 9:03:48 AM PDT by babble-on
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To: Joe 6-pack

Well at least these folks are only swinging a chicken rather than “choking the chicken” LOL


12 posted on 10/01/2009 9:18:34 AM PDT by brooklyn dave (Where's the birth cert?)
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To: Zionist Conspirator

I’m not sure that it was a criticism of the ritual so much as a comparison.

I was friends with some Mesianic Jews when I lived back east. They participated in traditional jewish ceremonies and related them to how they related to Christ in whom they believed. I was awed by the depth and wisdom of the jewish custom and although I am satisfied with being a gentile christian, felt I had much to learn about my God from them.


13 posted on 10/01/2009 9:27:52 AM PDT by dangerdoc
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To: Zionist Conspirator
It makes little sense for one ritualistic religion to criticize another one (especially an older one). Fundamentalist Protestants who reject all ritual I can understand, but for ritualistic chr*stians to criticize Jewish rituals? That's just the pot calling the kettle black.

So Satanists, witches and pagans get a pass because they use "rituals" too, just like some Christians? Can we include Islam, also? That's "ritualistic" isn't it?

Depending on the type of ritual, it makes plenty sense for one ritualistic religion to criticize another. A ritual of praise to the devil is not the same as a ritual of praise to God, for example.

14 posted on 10/01/2009 11:04:19 AM PDT by marshmallow ("A country which kills its own children has no future" -Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
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To: babble-on; Zionist Conspirator
Most modern Jews trace their tradition - including the Bible they use to The Masoretic Text written between the seventh and tenth centuries AD which matches the article's claim that this chicken swinging tradition in Judaism is a thousand years old only.

The Orthodox Church uses the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the original Hebrew made in the 3rd to 2nd centuries BC. There is no older surviving version of the Old Testament than the Greek language Bible.

That is the basis of my claim refuting Zionist Conspirator's claim of this brand of Judaism being "an older one" than the Orthodox Church/Apostolic Churches.

15 posted on 10/01/2009 11:29:49 AM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: dangerdoc
I was friends with some Mesianic Jews when I lived back east. They participated in traditional jewish ceremonies and related them to how they related to Christ in whom they believed. I was awed by the depth and wisdom of the jewish custom and although I am satisfied with being a gentile christian, felt I had much to learn about my God from them.

Did you ask them where these “traditional jewish ceremonies” came from? Most likely they came from rabbinic Judaism hundreds of years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many of these traditions were given to demonstrate to Jews, 1) why Jesus is not the Messiah of Israel, and 2) how to remain Jewish without the temple and sacrificial system of the old covenant.

16 posted on 10/01/2009 12:15:42 PM PDT by topcat54 ("Don't whine to me. It's all Darby's fault.")
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To: marshmallow
So Satanists, witches and pagans get a pass because they use "rituals" too, just like some Christians? Can we include Islam, also? That's "ritualistic" isn't it?

Depending on the type of ritual, it makes plenty sense for one ritualistic religion to criticize another.

Tell you what then--you just go ahead and take all the time you need to explain how the laws and customs of Judaism were "replaced" with the laws and customs of chr*stianity. Then you can explain how Paul only means Biblical rituals and customs when he attacks "the works of the law" but leaves out post-Biblical chr*stian ones.

A ritual of praise to the devil is not the same as a ritual of praise to God, for example.

I'm going to be nice and assume that you weren't calling kapporet a ritual of praise to "the devil."

17 posted on 10/01/2009 12:26:54 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Basukkot teshevu shiv`at yamim; kol-ha'ezrach beYisra'el yeshevu basukkot.)
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To: Nikas777; babble-on
Most modern Jews trace their tradition - including the Bible they use to The Masoretic Text written between the seventh and tenth centuries AD

The Masoretic Text refers to the vowel points and punctuation marks which have never been present in the kosher Torah Scrolls used in Jewish worship. The Written Torah consists of consonants only; the Tiberian Massoretes merely came up with vowel and punctuation marks for writing out the text so it could be learned by the reader who has to read an unpointed text. Before the Tiberian Massoretes other groups (such as the Babylonian Jewish community) also had their own marks for creating tiqqunim, or "practice" texts. The Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia is also one of these "practice" texts. The original Torah is preserved only on the kosher scrolls used in Jewish worship, and these have no vowels or punctuation whatsoever.

which matches the article's claim that this chicken swinging tradition in Judaism is a thousand years old only.

Kapporet is a minhag (custom), not a mitzvah (commandment), of either the Torah or the Rabbis. As a matter of fact it is, as the article states, controversial. One rabbi (I forget which one) said that not only should it not be done, but people should go out and forcibly prevent others from performing it. I am not competent to decide in such matters.

The Orthodox Church uses the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the original Hebrew made in the 3rd to 2nd centuries BC. There is no older surviving version of the Old Testament than the Greek language Bible.

The Greek language Bible was translated from what? From an unpointed text or from a pointed tiqqun text? Do you know? If from the former then it had to have been from the same unpointed Torah text used by all Jews from Sinai down to this day. If a pointed text--well, different groups used different marks, and there were always heretical groups like Qumran who changed the text to push their own ideology. Of course, translating the word "anointed" to the Greek christos in and of itself, I suppose, makes the text seem "more chr*stian" if one doesn't know any better.

That is the basis of my claim refuting Zionist Conspirator's claim of this brand of Judaism being "an older one" than the Orthodox Church/Apostolic Churches.

Then your claim has flopped. Besides, as I said earlier, as an Eastern Orthodox you don't believe in J*sus's death as a sin offering to begin with but as a ransom paid to "the devil"--correct?

18 posted on 10/01/2009 12:39:33 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Basukkot teshevu shiv`at yamim; kol-ha'ezrach beYisra'el yeshevu basukkot.)
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To: topcat54

I remember a long discussion about passover.


19 posted on 10/01/2009 12:41:04 PM PDT by dangerdoc
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To: Zionist Conspirator

If you can find an older copy than the Septuagint translation feel free to let me know.

History is history.


20 posted on 10/01/2009 12:48:50 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: Nikas777
If you can find an older copy than the Septuagint translation feel free to let me know.

I just told you that the text of each and every kosher Torah Scroll, which is unpointed and unpunctuated, goes all the way back to Sinai. Naturally it is older than any pointed text. And that's what the Massoretic text is--a pointed text. The Massoretes never wrote or rewrote the Hebrew Bible.

History is history.

Unfortunately for you.

21 posted on 10/01/2009 12:52:35 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Basukkot teshevu shiv`at yamim; kol-ha'ezrach beYisra'el yeshevu basukkot.)
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To: Nikas777
"You take it by the wing," says the white-haired Hecht, careful not to get the chicken's feathers or anything else on his black suit and tall black hat. "You put one wing over the other wing. See? It's very relaxed. And you swing it very softly over your head like this."

Well ... I guess now we know why Orthodox Jews always wear hats....

22 posted on 10/01/2009 12:55:08 PM PDT by r9etb
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To: Zionist Conspirator
I just told you that the text of each and every kosher Torah Scroll, which is unpointed and unpunctuated, goes all the way back to Sinai.

No it does not. History is the study of written words and you have no such evidence.

23 posted on 10/01/2009 1:13:00 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: Zionist Conspirator; Nikas777
I just told you that the text of each and every kosher Torah Scroll,

Where is the oldest extant “kosher Torah Scroll?”

24 posted on 10/01/2009 1:13:34 PM PDT by topcat54 ("Don't whine to me. It's all Darby's fault.")
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To: Zionist Conspirator
Tell you what then--you just go ahead and take all the time you need to explain how the laws and customs of Judaism were "replaced" with the laws and customs of chr*stianity. Then you can explain how Paul only means Biblical rituals and customs when he attacks "the works of the law" but leaves out post-Biblical chr*stian ones.

Sorry, I won't be going over that well-traveled road today. I'm addressing one particular point you made about rituals. Specifically, that it made no sense for one ritualistic religion to criticize another. I assume you've now realized that your initial statement was ridiculous. All religions embrace some sort of ritual whether they admit it or not. Ritual is an integral part of religious worship. Prayer, the singing of hymns, the reading of Scripture, preaching. These too, are rituals. Some rituals are more formal, some are less so. Some rituals occur in places specially set aside for worship. Others occur in less sacred settings.

I'm going to be nice and assume that you weren't calling kapporet a ritual of praise to "the devil."

Did I say it was?

I was making what I thought was a specific and self-evident point; all rituals are not the same. They take many forms and involve the worship of a wide range of entities; some holy and Divine, some diabolical and some imaginary.

It follows naturally from this that the efficacy of rituals is not identical. In addition to the nature of the entity to whom the ritual is directed other factors may also affect its efficacy; the origin of the ritual (man-made or Divine) as well as the intensity of interior participation by those engaged in the ritual.

It should also be noted that if God instituted a ritual, He can also end it. At His pleasure.

25 posted on 10/01/2009 1:44:58 PM PDT by marshmallow ("A country which kills its own children has no future" -Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
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To: topcat54; Zionist Conspirator
The oldest bits and pieces of parchment/papyrus in Hebrew/Aramaic are not older than the Septuagint though they agree with the Septuagint more than they do the much later crafted text the Massoretes around 700 to 1000 AD.

That is a historical fact.

26 posted on 10/01/2009 1:46:43 PM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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To: Nikas777
If you can find an older copy than the Septuagint translation feel free to let me know.

You might want to check out the Samaritan Pentateuch. This seems to date from about the 2nd century AD, and so antedates the canonical Masoretic text by more than half a millennium. In addition, where LXX and the MT disagree, the Samaritan version in almost all cases accords with LXX.

This is pretty good proof that (a) the Septuagint is an accurate version of an older tradition, which the MT changed, and (b) the changes in the MT are certainly post christian. All of which is further historical confirmation of your claim.

27 posted on 10/01/2009 10:07:27 PM PDT by John Locke
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To: Nikas777
History is the study of written words and you have no such evidence.

Right again. The oldest known example of written Hebrew, the Gezer Calendar, dates from the 10th century BC, or about 500 years later than the traditional date of the Exodus. It is written using the Phoenecian alphabet - it would be another 500 years before the block script Hebrew alphabet came into existence.

28 posted on 10/01/2009 10:15:02 PM PDT by John Locke
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To: John Locke

Thanks!


29 posted on 10/02/2009 6:19:53 AM PDT by Nikas777 (En touto nika, "In this, be victorious")
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