Photo Credit: Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90
Orthodox Jewish man performs the Kaparot ceremony, September 13, 2021.

Somebody should tell the folks at the Tel Aviv municipality that Jews do not slaughter animals, roosters and hens included, on Yom Kippur – not since the year 70, give or take a year. Because this year, as it has done for several years, the TA city hall has gone out of its way to exhibit how much it cares for the well-being of animals, and how little they know of Jewish traditions and laws.

Here’s the screenshot of a celebrative web page announcing “The municipality’s preparation for the 5783-2022 holidays.”

Tel Aviv municipality bans slaughtering chickens on Yom Kippur, September 19, 2022. / Screenshot

It reads:

Prohibition of Slaughtering Kapparot Roosters on Yom Kippur

The Municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo announces that this year too, it will not allow the slaughter or other harm to animals to carry out the custom of Kapparot in open places and the public space. As a leading city in the protection of animal rights, the municipality considers itself obligated to prevent harm to them and to take care of their rights, which is why it also banned the use of animals in circuses.

Wiki says Kapparot or Kappures is a customary atonement ritual practiced by some Jews on the eve of Yom Kippur, whereby a chicken or money is waved over a person’s head and the chicken is then slaughtered following halachic rules. The meat is often donated to the poor.

In one variant of the practice of kapparot, a rooster (for males) or a hen (for females) is swung overhead while still alive, and the person under the bird recites: “This is my kappara (exchange), this is my substitute, this is my atonement. This rooster (or hen) will go to its death, while I will proceed to a good and long life and peace.”

The fathers (and mothers) of the City of Tel Aviv don’t want this ritual to take place in public – although they are normally conducted in the afternoon of the day before Yom Kippur, usually in the back yard of the local shul.

Now, although I’ve heard of cases where the birds were slaughtered on the spot immediately following the ritual, they are very rare, and the city didn’t have to use a special pre-holiday proclamation to prevent them, the health code doesn’t allow slaughtering in un-designated areas, year-round.

But the notion that religious Jews would slaughter those birds on the most solemn holiday of the year suggests that the folks at city hall have either never been to a kapparot service, or a Yom Kippur service, or neither.

More from Wiki (so you won’t have to): on Yom Kippur eve 2005, caged kapparot chickens were abandoned in rainy weather in Brooklyn, and an Orthodox Jewish man from Williamsburg was charged with animal cruelty for the drowning deaths of 35 of the. Since then, Jewish animal rights groups have been picketing public kapparot rituals, particularly in Israel, where every single English-language report on these protests has to have the words “Cry Foul” in the headline.

Proponents of the kapparot ritual in the United States argue the practice is protected by the constitution as an exercise of freedom of religion. In a 1993 Supreme Court decision in the case of Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, the court upheld the right of Santería worshippers to practice ritual animal sacrifice. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, stating: “Religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.”

Shulchan Aruch on Kapparot / Screenshot

Major poskim objected to the kapparot ritual, including the Shulchan Aruch that warned that it was a custom of vanity (the quote was reportedly dropped from later editions). The Ramban and others opposed it because it was rooted in pagan customs. For a riveting discussion of this issue please visit the National Library Blog, “השולחן ערוך כינה את מנהג הכפרות שטות – וצונזר”.

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