Tradition! Tradition? Chickens Die to Save People From Their Sins

Not an actual chicken

  • Not an actual chicken

Every year before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, the tradition of Kapparot is observed by some members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Gothamist has video of this year’s Kapparot enactment which includes footage of activists demonstrating against this tradition.

Why are they demonstrating? Well, for those who don’t know, Kapparot is the act of “swinging chickens, brought to the site in hundreds of packed crates, above [the participant’s] head three times before the animals’ throats are cut, drained of blood in upside-down cones, and supposedly donated to charity. Sins, [the participants] believe, are transferred to the unhappy birds and vanish when they die.”

Oh. Hmmm. I wish I had known it was that easy to get rid of my sins. I wouldn’t have to spend so much time apologizing to all the people I’ve screwed over. I could just get a chicken and be done with it.

Gothamist notes that the act of Kapparot is performed every year in Crown Heights, but that protesters do not always come out in full force. This year was different: “Monday’s protest drew over 30 people—enough that the NYPD erected a holding pen for them, packing them in like, well, like chickens.” What ensued was a lively debate on the merits of killing chickens as a way to absolve yourself of sin. Naturally, Godwin’s Law was invoked.

But, in the end, it was all for nothing. The chickens were slaughtered, the sins were presumably absolved, and life goes on for everyone. Except, you know, the chickens. Which, I guess, it wouldn’t have gone on for them for very long anyway. They would have been eaten one way or another. And for those who don’t like what happened? Gothamist quoted one young Kapparot-observer, who diplomatically said, “They can do what they want, and I’ll do what I know is right, and they can go jump in a lake.”


Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen


  1. Sorry you guys, you are not absolving any of your sins, in fact, you are collecting them. These pointless rituals are prolonging your struggle on the path of pain. It is time to wake up.


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