Jewish custom: Chicken swinging????

I saw this posted on another forum, pleae tell me this was made up by anti-semites.
Because that is…urgh.

It’s true. The ritual is known as Kaparot, but most Jews don’t do it at all, or if they do, money wrapped up in a white cloth is used in lieu of a chicken, and then donated to charity. Using an actual chicken is increasingly condemned by those within the non-Orthodox community.

I’m not absolutely certain - and since it’s Saturday we probably won’t get a decent answer until tomorrow - but the ritual has no basis in the Torah, is not required in any way, and is quite possibly not kosher. One of the things that has to happen for a slaughtered animal to be certified kosher is it must be killed in a humane manner.

I don’t believe it’s actually terribly controversial, at least not in the US, because it’s pretty rare.

I’m a Jew and I’ve never even heard of this (and I’ve spent quite a bit of time with haredim, even), so it can’t be particularly common. Fucking hell, that’s horrible.

I know that Saturday is their holy day, but surely internet posting is not counted as toil.

It’s absolutely true, and I know some Orthodox Jews who know those who do it. Curiously, they have not told me if they do it or not. It is not common, and it depends on their tradition.

Internet posting is certainly toil. When I used the phrase “Waving a dead chicken” to a colleague of mine (geeks use the phrase to mean doing something ritualistic even though it can have no effect), he explained the whole ritual to me and explained the significance (which is that load your sins onto the chicken and swing it round to banish them). It was news to me, although I had enough of a Jewish education to have a Bar Mitzvah and it certainly sounds barbaric. On the other hand is the symbolism any worse than that of the eucharist?

Hey, that’s how my grandma used to kill 'em for the pot (only she’d swing the chicken by the head, of course.)

It is. Using electronics is considered to be equivalent to “striking a spark”, so it’s forbidden. There’s actually an SDMB law about it, called Zev’s Law, which states that any question about Orthodox Jewish practice will inevitably be posted between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday. (Obviously, “Zev’s Law” is confirmation bias, because we just don’t happen to notice when most questions about Orthodox Jewish practice are posted, unless it’s posted during those times.)

FYI, here’s a recent New York Times article about this custom.

It’s true that there is a tradition to have a chicken circle above our heads at some point prior to Yom Kippur. I and my family did this two weeks ago. That said, the description quoted in the OP is horribly inaccurate or out of context.

Is this different from any other treatment of chickens being shipped for slaughter? Unless one is opposed to chicken-eating in general, it’s absurd to single out Kapporos as the cause of cruelty. Also, as to the “sun” thing, any Kapporos place I’ve been to has it under a tent of some sort, not in the open sun.

I don’t know if this is universal, but any Kapporos place I’ve been to has us pick up the chicken behind its wings. And it’s not swung over the head in the whiplash-like image that the OP’s quote brings to mind, merely moved in a circle above the head while held that way.

Completely wrong. The chicken’s throat is cut completely for immediate death, not partially and left to bleed to death. If the cut is not done properly (in a manner that will cause instant death), then the chicken is not kosher to eat, and the whole point is defeated. This method of slaughter is about as painless a method of slaughter as exists, and furthermore, is no different than the method always used for kosher slaughter of chickens, not something specific to the Kapporos ritual.

Just this part alone makes me question the accuracy. This sounds like the sort wild exaggeration of a PETA-esq story.

How is being in the hot sun all day any different from any other day in the chickens life? The chickens we raised seemed to run around and scratch at the ground & peck at bugs all day long, even in the hot summer days. Didn’t seem to bother them at all, and none of them ever died from it.

And the horrified quote “no air conditioning of any kind” – is it common for Israeli farmers to have air conditioning in their chicken coops? I have never, ever seen such a thing on any American farm! And how would it work anyway? The chickens go outside and run around during the day.

My great-aunt used to slaughter her chickens in this manner (although they were free-range and not subjected to the horribly cramped conditions described). She would swing the chicken around her head before chopping off its head. When I protested cruelty she said that it was actually a kindness as it disoriented the chicken and made it dizzy so as not to realize its fate.

Furthermore, every time someone brings it up, there have already been a number of accurate responses from people who aren’t Orthodox Jews.

Oh, my grandmother just broke its neck with the swinging - it was so you didn’t have that unpleasant “headless chicken running around” thing. Nobody wants to catch dinner twice, you know.

Reform congregations have switched to cat tennis.

No cite at the moment but unless my imagination is playing me horribly false I read a story a few years ago about a guy who offered/planned to put a couple of chickens in his Cessna and buzz a few turns around some Israeli city so as to effect expiation for the entire town.


I’m Jewish, and have never heard of this ritual (the chicken thing, not cat tennis).

My great grandmother chopped the head off a chicken once and lost the body. How? Apparently, after executing the bird she had to return to the house to get something she forgot and the headless bird ran off before she returned!

Then again, it could’ve been a weasel or a fox. :wink: But that’s not as interesting a story.

Anyone ever hear about Mike the Headless Chicken?