What May One Use for Kaparot?

There is a widespread Jewish custom known as Kaparot, in which chickens are raised above one’s head and a prayer is recited. The idea is that if one is deserving of harsh punishment, that it should be transferred to the chicken instead, which is then slaughtered. Kaparot are performed between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and the Arizal (Sha’ar HaKavanot) writes that the ideal time is to do it on the eve of Yom Kippur before daybreak. Interestingly, the Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 605:1) says that this custom should be abandoned as it may have idolatrous roots, yet it is still a widely accepted custom.

It is written that if the cost of providing one chicken per household member is prohibitive, one may purchase one for the male members and one for the female members. In Sefrou, Morocco, due to the high number of chickens being slaughtered for the Kaparot, there were questions raised about the Halachic validity of the slaughter. As such, the rabbis of that city decreed that each family was entitled to only one male and one female bird. Furthermore, if one does not have access to chickens, one may recite the Kaparot prayer over money and then give it to charity.

Today, the 8th of Tishre, corresponds to the Sefira of Hod, beauty or illumination. All one’s endeavors should be done to add light and positivity in the world.

Summary:   One may rely on using one hen for all female family members and one rooster for all males. If one cannot use chickens one may use money for Kaparot.

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