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Chickens and prayer: How some observant Jews prepare for the Day of Atonement

Oct 12, 2016

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It’s the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Many Jews spend the day praying and fasting, seeking forgiveness from God and fellow man.

A woman prepares to perform kapparot.
Credit Menachem Kaiser / Michigan Radio

In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, some observant Jews perform kapparot, a ritual involving live chickens.

Each person swings a chicken over their head and says a prayer. Afterward, the chickens are taken elsewhere to be processed and donated as food for those who need it.

“The purpose is so that people become familiar with the customs of Israel,” said Rabbi Chaim Moshe Bergstein. “Upon coming to the temple, one would recognize the folly of the physical – just living only for the physical, for the temporary world. And so when you see that there’s a beautiful animal that one second is here, the next second is gone, you realize that the physical life by itself cannot be the purpose of one’s existence, and therefore the person would dedicate himself to a higher purpose.”

Hear the full audio postcard from Chabad above.

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