Swinging Chickens

Yom Kippur is tonight. Most of you probably know that means observant Jews will stop eating, drinking, bathing, fucking, and wearing hedonistic leather and head to synagogue for the next 25 hours to pray their guts out. What you might not know is that some of them will be swinging live chickens over their heads to atone for their sins in a ritual call kapparot.

If you’re a bit weirded out it’s because the custom is a bit weird. Episode 5 guest Esther Werdiger, who hangs out somewhere on the Orthodox spectrum, grabbled with this ritual in a beautiful post on Tablet:

I’ve done kapparot in gardens, slaughterhouses, city streets, and shul parking lots. I’ve done it with my family, with other peoples’ families, with friends, and alone. I’ve done it during the day, before sunrise, and in the middle of the night. I’ve followed the ritual with vows to never eat chicken again, and I’ve also followed the ritual with a meal of chicken. But the thing is, I hate kapparot. It’s a jarring and nauseating experience—extremely unpleasant, to say the least.

For Esther, kapparot is an incredibly complicated practice. It’s at once extremely upsetting, an entree into the world of ethical consumption, and a way to connect with the vanishing past of her lineage. But don’t take my word for it, go read the article.

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