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August 29, 2015 / 14 Elul, 5775
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Kapora, Kapora, Getting Priorities Straight

Since my mother's death, my jewelry has suffered.
The rite consists of taking a chicken and waving it over one's head three times while reciting the appropriate text.

The rite consists of taking a chicken and waving it over one's head three times while reciting the appropriate text.
Photo Credit: Dima Vazinovich / Flash90

One of my very favorite, and relatively new, earrings disappeared during the Shabbat of the shiva. I suddenly realized that it wasn’t on my ear, and I never found it.  Then two weeks ago, again on Shabbat I was very tired Friday night and went to sleep wearing my earrings.  In the morning I discovered that one, the remaining of a pair I once had to break to get out of my ear, got stuck and began causing a very uncomfortable infection.  After Shabbat I went to neighbors who are jewelers, and we finally removed it by straightening and cutting.  It took almost two weeks for my ear to heal.  Finally yesterday, on Shabbat, I was able to change the earring in the newly healed ear.  At shul a neighbor noticed that a piece of gold was missing from one of the earrings.

That’s three gold earrings lost or damaged in just over two months.

There was a time in my life when even just one such even would bother me, but not now.

Kapora!”  Yes, Kapora is all I can say.

Nu?  What does that mean, “Kapora?”

I’ve davka been reading Zeh Kaporosi – The Custom Of Kaporos, Mosaica Press, by: Avrohom Reit a book about the Jewish minhag, custom of Kaparot.

 

 

It is customary to perform the kaparot (symbolic “atonement”) rite in preparation for Yom Kippur.


The rite consists of taking a chicken and waving it over one’s head three times while reciting the appropriate text. The fowl is then slaughtered in accordance with halachic procedure and its monetary worth given to the poor, or, as is more popular today, the chicken itself is donated to a charitable cause.
We ask of G‑d that if we were destined to be the recipients of harsh decrees in the new year, may they be transferred to this chicken in the merit of this mitzvah of charity. (Chabad.org)

One thing I really like about the book is that it begins by explaining that as important the author and many other Torah observant Jews find this custom, it is just a custom.  As a married woman there are halachik, restrictions according to Jewish Law concerning my learning and adopting minhagim and chumrot, customs and stringencies.  So, I’m reading this book as a reviewer, without feeling any obligation to adopt the custom.

Zeh Kaporosi – The Custom Of Kaporos is an attractive and easy to read book about a difficult subject.  It’s the perfect book for a family that wants to make it clear, even to young children.  It’s also excellent if you’re not all that familiar with the custom and really want to observe it.  It doesn’t end after swinging the chicken over your head and then handing to a shochet, ritual slaughterer.  It gives a fantastically clear series of pictures and easy explanations of cleaning and koshering the chicken, something that few people are familiar with in the modern Jewish world.

As an enthusiastic, though amateur Hebrew linguist, I really appreciate the explanation of the root of the word, כ,פ,ר which can mean, cleanse, replace or cover/shield.  This is connected to the holiest day in the Jewish year,  יום הכיפורים Yom HaKippurim, the Day of Spiritual Cleansing, Replacing our Sins with Blessings and this should Shield us from harm.

Observers, followers of the custom of Kaparot see the chicken (*or fish can also be used) as the replacement to receive their punishment, which then cleanses them from sin and shields them from harm.

And what does this have to do with my missing, broken and destroyed earrings?

The very first time in my life I heard the term and concept of “Kapora!” was from a friend who had said that his bicycle and special all-weather cycling clothes had been stolen.  I responded shocked and horrified for him, but he carefully corrected me.

“I’ve been cycling long distances on roads for a long time.  I’ve never been in a accident. Kapora! The loss of the bicycle and outfit are nothing compared to what it would mean to be injured or killed, G-d forbid.”

That was an excellent and important lesson for me.  We must get our priorities straight.  If it helps someone to focus on teshuva, repentance by practicing the Kaparot custom, that’s fine.  And if G-d wants to remind me that the loss or breaking of  a gold earing holds little importance compared to human life and health, I accept the lesson, the reminder.

It may be a little too early to say this, but I wish you a

גמר חתימה טובה
G’mar Chattimah Tovah
A Good “Grade” From G-d

*Many years ago a visiting cousin came to us with a live fish for the Kaparot ceremony, which we did on our Jerusalem merpeset, balcony.

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About the Author: Batya Medad blogs at Shiloh Musings.

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