Many Jews believe that a chicken can bear the sins of a Jew, and then be killed to serve as the atonement for those sins. It is done in a ritual called Kaparot that is hundreds of years old. The ritual is done in assemblies, during the ten days of Rosh Hashanah leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This year Yom Kippur will begin at sundown on October 8th.
How it works:
In the ninth century Jew scholars decided that since the Hebrew word gever meant both “rooster” and “man,” it followed that a chicken sacrifice could serve as the atonement for a Jew’s sins.
A white chicken is preferred. A rooster for a man, and a hen for a woman. First a selected Old Testament verse is read aloud, generally from Psalms 107:17-20 or Job 33:23-24. The chicken is then held by the legs, or by pinning the wings back and gripping it under the shoulder blades. The Jew then swings the chicken in a circle above their head three times, while reciting this chant: “This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement; this rooster (or hen) shall go to its death, but I shall go to a good, long life, and to peace.” That’s it, and the ritual atones for an entire years worth of sins! The chicken is then handed to a Jew butcher who cuts its throat and vocal cords, for kosher reasons and so that the chicken can not squawk in pain. At this point the chicken is sometimes shoved into an inverted traffic cone to drain it of its blood. Finally it is thrown into a trash bag with other sacrificed chickens. The chicken’s death from loss of blood releases the sins, and the Jew is then cleansed of their sins.
Animal rights activist and others, including some Jews, think that the ritual is cruel to chickens. It is legally practiced in America under the right to freedom of religion.
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