In the course of Jewish studies, you will come across the kapparot practiced as part of Jewish tradition. The ceremony is performed just before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement in Jewish tradition. The kapparot is based on the belief that a person’s sins can be erased by being symbolically transferred to a fowl.
In the kapparot of Jewish tradition, a rooster represents a man while a woman is represented by a hen. The ceremony starts with selections from Isaiah, Psalms and Job being recited. The rooster or hen is held above the person’s head and swung around three times while the person says a prayer that goes: “This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement; this rooster/hen shall go to its death, but I shall go to a good, long life and to peace”. The bird is then donated to the poor for food and it is the belief that it has assumed any misfortune that would have happened to the person because of his or her sins.
There are many critics of this practice and scholars point out that neither the Torah nor the Talmud mention the kapparot in their Jewish studies. Many famous rabbis have gone as far as to call it “a foolish practice” and is an infiltration of pagan rituals into Jewish tradition. The major issue with the kapparot has focused on animal rights.
Animal rights advocates point out that kapparot contravenes the concepts and prayers of the Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur period where compassion and sensitivity are the central points. They point out that Jewish tradition is full of admonitions to be kind to animals citing the commandments not to muzzle an ox while it is plowing, or not to hitch strong and weak animals together as is the requirement that both humans and animals should rest on the Sabbath day.
To try and resolve this dispute, the practice of substituting money for the fowl is now practiced by Jews. The money is placed in a handkerchief and swung around the person’s head while he/she intones a similar prayer, replacing the word “rooster/hen” with “money”. This way, the sense of atonement and the spirit of charity are retained without harming any animals.
With typical Jewish ingenuity, a solution to a sticky question has been found. Religious objections and the concerns of animal rights proponents are addressed while Jewish tradition remains intact.