Ted Gross’s beautiful short 16-page tale, reminiscent of I. L. Peretz’s masterpiece “If not Higher,” dramatizes in a very pleasant way that the Kapparot ceremony, when many Jews transfer their misdeeds to a chicken, is not a magical ceremony, nor is it effective in itself. It is symbolic, designed to prompt Jews to recall their misdeeds and determine not to repeat them again.
Gross’ “Kapparot” is one short tale from his collection of short stories entitled “Ancient Tales, Modern Legends.” each tale can be bought separately in Gross’ “One Story @ A Time Series,” which are available in e-book form on Amazon. This tale cost me 99 cents.
While Gross tells the tale beautifully and no description of it does it justice, briefly, it is about a shochet, a ritual slaughterer of animals, who came to Medzibezh, Podolia to see the famed Baal Shem Tov, the first man of the Hassidic Movement. He approached the holy man and begged him to allow him to see how he who was close to God performed the Kapparot ceremony. Baal Shem Tov told him that he would do better. He would arrange for him to see a simple man perform the ceremony. One does not have to be a holy man to do what should be done.
When the shochet returned to his hotel, he found Baal Shem Tov’s wagon which took him to a distant Inn run by an unlearned Jew. The innkeeper agreed to give the shochet a room for the night on the condition that he not leave his room until morning. The shochet realized that the Innkeeper did not want him to see what he would do. He did not leave his room, but he opened his door and watched as the innkeeper spent the night reading aloud from two books.
The first contained a list of his many misdeeds, committed despite his promise last year not to do them again. The second book listed all the divine promises to help people, which were not fulfilled. Towards morning, after reading the long lists, the innkeeper said, I will forgive you God, if you forgive me.
Later, when he returned to Medzibezh, Baal Shem Tov explained to the shochet that the Kapparot ceremony is only the beginning of the process of repentance.