Rabbi Adam Frank, based in Jerusalem, is a little embarrassed by Judaism’s chicken-twirling tradition.
For those not in the know, Kapparot is a Jewish ritual, performed on the eve of Yom Kippur, in which a self-identified sinner swings a live chicken over his head three times, while reciting “This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement.” What does that do, you ask?
It transfers the person’s sins to the doomed bird.
I swear I’m not making this up. Afterwards, the chicken is slaughtered — and YHWH, we are left to infer, is just pleased as punch.
Frank says that the whole thing bothers him because he’s seen the birds get neglected, starved of food or water, in the days before it’s even time to swing and kill them. Also, he says,
“Christianity took the idea of sacrificing a live something for the sake of humanity and Judaism finds that an anathema, and yet kapparot is that very thing — transferring sins onto a chicken and sacrificing it.”
Good point. But most of all, I was heartened by this objection of his:
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