Zeh Kaporosi – The Custom Of Kaporos
by: Avrohom Reit
by: Batya Medad
The Minhag of Kaparos is widely practiced, often discussed, and occasionally criticized. Interestingly, it is usually misunderstood – even by those who perform the ritual every year.
With an amazing depth of scholarship and research, and an engaging easy to-read style, Avrohom Reit has created another masterpiece: full of new information and sources for the scholar, practical suggestions and tips for the practitioner, and inspiring explanations for the beginner. This volume will change your perspective, enrich your practice, and deepen your entire process Stendra of coming back to Hashem.
The Tekufas Hashanah series provides a refreshing, hands-on approach to certain mitzvos that have not been easily accessible to the layman. The books are distinguished by the clarity of their language, their down-to-earth style, the beauty of their photography, their eye-catching layout, and most of all their purpose: the demystification of mitzvos that people might otherwise be hesitant to approach. The reader, led along by a master teacher, emerges from the experience well informed and empowered.
Since my mother’s death, my jewelry has suffered.
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.
Posted on: http://shilohmusings.blogspot.co.il/2013/08/kapora-kapora-getting-priorities.html
by: Rabbi Ari Enkin
Rabbi Avrohom Reit has just released his latest work: Zeh Kaporosi: The Custom of Kaporos. The author, a noted talmid chacham and close confidant of Rav Dovid Feinstein, might just be the first person to compile a work that deals exclusively with the enigmatic custom of Kaparot. The presentation is exceptionally crisp, clear, and comprehensible. Complementing the text are small sized real-life photographs (some of which might not be for the squeamish!). It is a one-stop shop for everything Kaparot.
The sefer opens with the origins of the kaparot custom. Readers may be surprised to learn that Kaparot –in some form at least- might date back to the Talmudic era, with Rashi testifying about a custom to use a plant for Kaparot. The author presents the relevant literature from the Talmud, geonim, and rishonim that discusses the performance and evolution of the ceremony. Indeed, there is a full explanation and commentary on all the aspects of Kaparot from start to finish. Readers will learn that there are many different aspects to the Kaparot ceremony, including symbolism and association with korbanot, blessings, “distracting the Satan,” the akeida, and more. One will certainly come away from this sefer realizing that Kaparot is far more than simply “transferring one’s sins to a chicken.”
Although the text is essentially well-balanced –- as it must be for a somewhat controversial topic such as this — the author is somewhat obsessive in his pro-Kaparot agenda. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that some readers might come away with the impression that those who do not perform Kaparot are not fully observant. He also makes it clear that, in his opinion, the legitimacy of Kaparot performed with anything but a chicken (to the exclusion of fish and money which have become popular in many circles) is questionable at best. Indeed, even in the chapter on using money for Kaparot, there is a veiled accusation that the “minhag” to do so is essentially baseless and canonized by none other than the 1987 edition of the Artscroll Siddur.
Footnotes are generally limited to primary sources and those which are most accessible. There is a useful Hebrew appendix at the back of the sefer which contains many of these and other sources in their original. In addition to the main topic of Kaparot, there are also sections that deal with the issues of tza’ar baalei chaim, a general overview of the mitzvah of kisui hadam, and a very thorough step-by-step practical guide to kashering chickens at home.
I would like to take this opportunity to comment on some of the interesting halachot discussed in the chapter on kisui hadam. The author states that one who recites the accompanying blessing after performing kisui hadam has recited a bracha levatala. Although the blessing should certainly be recited before performing the kisui hadam –in accordance with normative halacha– it might be inaccurate to say that one who recited the blessing after covering the blood has recited a bracha levatala.
In the opinion of the Behag, and others, the blessing should actually be recited after performing the kisui hadam. This is because these authorities are of the opinion that from the start of the shechita until the kisui hadam is completed is one long continuous mitzva. According to this approach, when one begins to cover the blood after the shechita, one is essentially in the middle of the mitzva! And a blessing is never recited when one is in the middle of performing a mitzva! In other words, the blessing recited on the shechita is essentially the “bracha rishona” of this one long mitzva, and the blessing recited after all the blood has been covered is the “bracha achrona”.
As mentioned, however, normative halacha is not in accordance with this view, as most authorities rule that the shechita and the kisui hadam are two distinct and independent mitzvot. According to this approach, the blessing should definitely be recited before performing kisui hadam. Nevertheless, the Pri Chadash takes the view of the Behag into consideration and rules that one who accidentally went ahead and covered the blood before reciting the blessing may nevertheless recite the blessing afterward. This also seems to be the view of the Yeshuot Yaakov 19 and Shaagat Aryeh 26.
Additionally, while the author correctly notes that one is not required to ensure that every last drop of blood is covered when performing kisui hadam, it is interesting to note that the Chinuch 187 and others do indeed require that the blood be entirely covered. An extra handful of sawdust should make complying with this opinion quick and easy.
Finally, the issue of whether or not one should recite shehecheyanu when performing the mitzvah of kisui hadam for the first time is also an intriguing topic. The Rema, YD 28:2 and the Mateh Efraim are of the opinion that shehecheyanu should indeed be recited when performing kisui hadam for the first time. On the other hand, the Shach, YD 28:5 and the Pri Chadash, YD 28:5 rule that it should not be recited. Although Rabbi Reit advises against reciting shehecheyanu, he offers readers the option of preparing a new fruit (or presumably a new shirt) for those who wish to do so. According to this approach, when reciting the shehecheyanu one should have in mind that it is intended to cover both the mitzva of kisui hadam as well as the new item.
Although chickens around the world have already come out in fierce opposition to this new sefer, do not be swayed by their claims of Amorite influence. The sefer is exceptionally well done and superbly written for all audiences. With its supplementary sections, it is sure to serve well as a reference guide throughout the year and not just during the Kaparot season. Whether you’re the type that considers Kaparot to be on par with issues such as Shabbat, Kashrut, and Nidda or alternatively, on par with issues such as upsherin, nittel nacht, and silly red strings, this is certainly a valuable sefer and a worthwhile contribution to the world of Halacha and Minhag literature in English.
Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, who performs some form of Kaparot in most years, is a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh and a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of “The Dalet Amot Halacha Series” (5 Vol.) among other works of halacha. He welcomes books of a halachic nature for review. email@example.com