Make love, not kapparos

Most sensible Jews (and all left-wing poultry) are opposed to kapparos, the High Holiday tradition of transferring one’s sins to a live chicken by twirling it over one’s head. I agree that it’s a practice that ought to be retired, or at the very least done much farther away from newspaper photographers than seems to be the current practice. But, I must admit to loving chickens. It’s hard to give up an opportunity to incorporate a chicken that is neither roasted nor boiled into my Jewish practice, even a bird that will shortly meet its maker (and would that be the chicken….or the egg…?) and a bad case of vertigo.

I was inspired by my interview with Rabbi Susan Schnur to consider another fowl-centric method of acknowledging and leaving behind our misdeeds from the past year. Today, my entire kindergarten class visited the chicken coop of one member of the class. We met the three beautiful birds, and had a chance to whisper our “sorries” in a hen’s ear. At least I think it was the ear.
I’m not sure that my students really understand much more about the tradition of kapparos, or even that much more about teshuvah. But they learned that chickens are gentle, and quite beautiful, and are somehow linked to the High Holidays – and not just for eating.
IMG_4478 chanina whispers.JPG
Gmar Chatimah Tovah from my homeshul to yours.
And tell me you’ve read the chicken book, right?
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posted September 16, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I love to read your blogs – they are always so interesting, informative, yet personal, and the pictures are always terrific.
Your “homeshuling” is a wonderful way to teach your lovely daughters about Judaism and our heritage.

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posted September 16, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I LOVE this. So sweet – the kids, and the chicken!
Personally, I think we need to change kaparot to swinging a live, full-grown goat over your head, if you really want to transfer your sins.
It will reduce the practice, and/or make our people stronger. And burlier. And maybe covered in goat poop, which isn’t such a bad way to atone, now that I think of it…

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Kelly Hall

posted September 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

What an interesting idea! My next-door neighbors have chickens, so I’m tempted to ask them if we can do this today. I wonder, though, if it gives kids the idea that chickens can talk to G-d (and give our “sorries”) in a way that we can’t.

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posted September 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Kelly, I think kids are smarter than that! In all seriousness, we compared it do tashlich and throwing bread into the water….that these are symbols, but the real work is saying sorry and changing our behavior.

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posted September 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm

I’m totally with you on redefining kapparos and exalting the chickens! We swung stuffed animal chickens. The kids are still talking about it. With little kids I feel like it’s all about making lasting memories connected to the holidays. Once you swing a (stuffed) chicken you never forget.

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Karen Davis

posted September 22, 2010 at 3:53 pm

These photographs of the children with the sweet hen are lovely. They are an image of the kind and caring world we can create if we have the will to do so. Kaporos chicken “swinging” and slaughter makes the world a sadder, more distressing and unhappy place. Chicken kaporos is all the more repugnant given that it is not necessary to the observance of kaporos.
Thank you for your kind words and beautiful photos. I hope this kindergarten experience inspires lifelong compassion for chickens and other fellow creatures.
Karen Davis, President
United Poultry Concerns

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Karen Davis

posted September 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Thank you for the lovely photos and story of the kindergarten children with the sweet hen.
I hope this experience stays with these children and that they will be kind to chickens and other creatures through their whole lives.
Karen Davis, President
United Poultry Concerns

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