“Today, the custom is absolutely avoda zara [idol worship]…People believe they can commit sins during the year and on the eve of Yom Kippur [they can] take a chicken and swing it around over their heads and they are done. [The sins are removed.] This is nonsense.”
Israeli Rabbi Condemns Kapparot
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Rabbi Avi Zarki, the chief rabbi of North Tel Aviv, has condemned kapparot done with live chickens.
In the kapparot ritual, on the eve of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) an individual waves a live chicken over his head to ‘transfer’ his sins to the bird. The chicken is then slaughtered and it’s meat is supposed to be given to the poor. In reality, many birds die from maltreatment before they can be slaughtered and many of the slaughtered chickens are thrown in the garbage because there is no way to clean and process them all. This is sometimes justified by claiming that the price paid by each person to buy a chicken to use for kapparot is enough to cover the cost of the chicken, the kapparot operation including the ritual slaughter, and the operator’s profit, while still leaving something extra to give to the poor.
But the ritual – which has the status of a disputed custom, not a law – can also be done by substituting money for the chicken, and then giving that money to charity after the ritual is completed.
Rabbi Zarki argues that the custom of doing kapparot with live chickens leads to violations of halakhot, Jewish laws, against being cruel to animals.
“There is…the issue of tza’ar ba’alei hayyim [cruelty to animals], and for this there is no mechila [forgiveness]. The birds are pushed and shoved into the cages and they are too crowded. They are literally stuffed in, often without any food or water,” Zarki said. Therefore, using live chickens should be avoided. Instead, Zarki said, money should be used.
But Zarki went even further than that.
“Today, the custom is absolutely avoda zara [idol worship]…People believe they can commit sins during the year and on the eve of Yom Kippur [they can] take a chicken and swing it around over their heads and they are done. [The sins are removed.] This is nonsense,” Zarki rsaid, basing his opinion on the rulings of several major medieval rabbis.
Zarki is a popular figure in Israel who also works as a mohel (ritual circumciser).
He sparked a furor in April when he Tweeted a remark about the size of a baby’s penis he had recently circumcised.
Almost all hasidic groups and many other haredim insist on using live chickens for kapparot, despite the halakhic problems – and the unneeded cruelty – involved.