Yom kippur is said to be the holiest day of the year, the day of atonement. Since the beginning of my adult life, I waited with hope and curiosity, to get disappointed year after year, by the same old, reoccurring pattern in some closed-up communities. Something changed in the past years though. Traditional and social media captured this ritual called kapparot, for the masses and intensified the quest for change and debate. Before Yom kippur, it is an orthodox custom to take a white chicken, turn it in circles three times above the head, which is covered by a plastic bag or towel, while saying a prayer. In short, this chicken will go to death (and atone for the mistakes), while I will continue to live. Pregnant women even perform this ritual using three chickens. The idea is that those animals will be slaughtered afterwards and fed to the deprived.
Many spiritual systems will explain the phenomenon of atonement in such a way and focusing on such inner work, that these sorts of legs and arms rituals if you will, will not be required. However, who is anyone to decide on other people’s spiritual paths and belief systems? If an orthodox person wants to keep this ritual, it is not for anyone to attack, judge or work against. However, the manner in which this custom is performed, is a collective matter. Closed-up communities may cling to the part of closed-up, but the times we live in will make sure that only the part of communities will hold and will be made inclusive. Outside of those communities, humans should not close their eyes to what is happening around them, for instance under the pretense that they have to focus on individual growth, that (negative) matters in society are just too much to handle, or that society has had too many issues that could never be influenced by the individual, so why bother? The enlightened people were never the ones looking away from mechanisms that did not serve anymore. They were not perfect in order to act. They cared and just did.
You want to do the kapparot? Got it. Your path. Your decision. As a child, I used to have to do this myself, but not by abusing chickens. My mother sent me to the supermarket at the end of the street, to collect eighteen coins per person, which we then put in plastic bags, turned above our heads while saying the prayer and then gave to charity. As a little girl, I used all the charm I could find to explain this weird, Jewish ritual to the civil salespeople of the shop, who needed those coins at the cash registers. Why not always use coins instead of living creatures? I even discovered some orthodox leaders, saying the sound of the shofar would be sufficient.
You still want to keep your chickens for atonement? How about not transporting them in wooden carts that awfully look a lot like the ones towards concentration camps? How about not grabbing them brutally by some part of their bodies, hurting and scaring them? How about not binding their bodies tightly, throwing them like disposals on the streets after the ritual and leaving them in despair? How about not doing these rituals on the streets at all and not bothering other members of planet earth that have nothing to do with this? How about not making fun of those chickens, for instance by putting cloths on their frail limbs? How about not keeping them in bags or boxes, without air, food and water? In short, how about not staying at the level of lower frequencies, in the name of traditions that mostly used to be kept in a delicate and honoring way throughout centuries anyways?
Do not kid yourselves. This is no atonement. It shames orthodox human beings that do act with respect and all members of the human family. Protests, for instance in New York, are not enough to influence those closed-up communities in which other rules still apply, compared to the civil world. Yet, do not kid yourselves. It takes members of the civil world to supervise. Again, do not kid yourselves. Those chickens are not handled by farmers. Mostly, it takes leaders of those closed-up communities to transform their followers, because they are the only ones taken seriously by those people. Once more, do not kid yourselves. Those people often are aware of their actions, but do not give a f*ck, in the name of G’d. There. The times we live in will make sure that they will. If not us and now, then who and when? It will change, because it will, with grace.