Jerusalem – The custom of kapparot, where a live chicken is taken and ritually lofted over a person’s head before it is slaughtered, has been absent so far this year from the streets of Jerusalem, and other locations where the practice is commonly observed, due to strict regulations from the Ministry of Agriculture it was claimed on Wednesday.
However, it is thought that arrangements are in place that will enable the rite to be performed on Thursday.
For those who practice kapparot, which means “atonement,” it is supposed to be done before Yom Kippur and is meant to symbolically transfer the sins of the person performing the ceremony to the chicken. Once slaughtered, the chicken is usually given to a charity for use in the preparation of meals for the needy.
It is a controversial practice and concerns are frequently expressed about suffering caused to the birds before and during the ritual. Chief Rabbi David Lau spoke out against the practice last year.
The radical Eda Haredit organization, and others, claimed this week that the Ministry of Agriculture had issued strict animal welfare guidelines to farms and delivery companies for the chickens being used in the custom, designed to all but prevent the practice from taking place.
According to the claims, the ministry’s guidelines have scared off suppliers from delivering chickens for fear of falling foul to heavy fines if the animal welfare standards are not met.
At least two designated sites for kapparot in Jerusalem were not in use on Wednesday and the custom has been virtually impossible to fulfil during the past week according to various well placed sources.
The Veterinary Service of the Ministry of Agriculture did issue specific guidelines about the conduct of kapparot on August 19, but categorically denied that the practice had been banned, and said the regulations that were published were not new but had simply been made clearer and more coherent for every relevant actor in the kapparot process.
The guidelines stipulate that vehicles transporting the chickens be authorised to transport livestock; that there be a delivery supervisor during the period of transportation; specific locations only be used for the ceremony; that the chickens be brought directly from the farm to the kapparot location and from there directly to the slaughterhouse without interim stops; that there be shade from sun and shelter from rain for the birds and air flow for the cages; and a prohibition against slaughtering the chickens where the kapparot takes placeץ
In addition, the birds must not be slaughtered more than eight hours after the performance of the ceremony and the times of delivery to the kapparot ceremony location and subsequently to the slaughterhouse recorded by the delivery supervisor.
A source in the Eda Haredit claimed that the terms for kapparot were designed to be so strict as to prevent the practice from taking place and said it was a gross infringement on freedom of religion.
A public notice which appeared in Jerusalem on Wednesday said that “since the evil regime forbade the people of God the haredim from fulfilling the custom of kapparot with live birds in accordance with the customs of our fathers, we announce that anyone who can fulfil the custom with chickens should do so and anyone who cannot because of the decrees of the government should fulfil the custom this year with money and donate it to charity.”
At one site in Jerusalem designated for kapparot, an agent said that despite the difficulties experienced so far he expected that birds would be supplied on Thursday and said that his site would be facilitating the ceremony all day long.
The HaPeles haredi daily newspaper reported on Wednesday that “rabbis” had expressed their sorrow for the ministry’s behaviour and told the newspaper that “the State of Israel is joining an ‘honorable’ list of countries that forbid the fulfilment of religious commandments in public under ‘humane’ excuses, and Jews will be forced to fulfil the ancient custom in secret and darkness,” adding that “no-one should think that such obstacles would prevent Jews continuing the custom practiced by their fathers and great-grandfathers over hundreds of years.”
The kapparot rite is meant to symbolically transfer one’s sins onto the chicken, although the practice is not mentioned in the Torah or the Talmud, and is believed to have originated among Jewish communities in the 9th century in Babylon.
Animal rights organizations have frequently reported that the birds can be left for hours and even days in small cages, frequently without food and water, and often outside in the sun.
The ritual cab also be performed by substituting the chickens with money which is donated to charity afterwards.
Several important rabbinic figures have opposed the practice with chickens, including the 13th-century Spanish sage Nahmanides and Rabbi Yosef Karo, a 15th century scholar who lived in Spain, Turkey and Israel and is renowned for his comprehensive guide to Jewish law, the Shulchan Aruch.
Karo wrote that the tradition of using a chicken for Kapparot should be avoided, out of a concern that it was originally a non-Jewish practice.
Rabbinic authorities from Ashkenazi communities nevertheless approved of the custom and ruled that it should be continued.
Content is provided courtesy of the Jerusalem Post