people and unfortunate chickens in the picture to the
right are participating in the ritual of kaparos. The
term kaparos is the root of the word Kippur, and carries the same meaning: atonement.
On the eve
of Yom Kippur, men take roosters and women take hens; they place the birds in their hands and whirl them around
above the head, saying : "This is my substitute, this is my exchange, this is my atonement. This fowl will go to death, and I will enter upon a good and long life." The ritual has its origins in the Babylonian exile and
since that time has been condemned as pagan.
After the ritual, the chicken is then slaughtered. Its entrails are given
to the birds as a sign of compassion and the slaughtered
chicken is given to the poor. This ritual resonates with
the ancient Temple practice that originated the idea of
the "scapegoat." The sins of the people of Israel were placed
on a goat that was sent to wander in the wilderness (though
some say the goat was pushed off a cliff to its death).
the ritual of kaparos was a symbolic shedding of sins.
But while tashlich is widely observed, many fewer Jews
do kaparos. Because it is a custom and not a commandment,
many give charity instead.
If you like the physical nature of kaporos but don't
want to deal with a live chicken for ethical or sanitary
reasons, you should know that in ancient times, children
planted seeds early in the month before Yom Kippur and
twirled the young plants over their heads in place of