Kaporos—A Story for Yom Kippur by Sholem Aleichem
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – The word “Kaporos” is a Hebrew word which refers to an old religious custom among the Jews, the ritual of the scapegoat. The ritual of Kaporos is performed in the home before the eve of Yom Kippur. A live chicken is held by its feet and turned round and round over one’s head, while a prayer beginning with the words “Let this be my scapegoat” is recited. The idea behind this ritual is that the person’s sins are somehow transferred to the chicken. After the saying of the prayer the fowl is thrown under the table as a sign that the sins have been thrust away from the person.
Nowadays, while most Jews no longer observe this ritual, Kaporos is still practiced among the Ultra-orthodox of Eastern European origin.
(United Poultry Concerns, a non-profit organization founded in 1990 in the United States to promote the respectful treatment of domestic fowl, has been trying to stop this practice for nearly 20 years, and in 2010 formed the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos with other animal rights activists.)
This story, Kaporos, was written by Sholem Aleichem and appears in the anthology Yiddish Stories for Young People by Itche Goldberg. (In 2003, Erica Silverman wrote a children’s book called When the Chickens Went on Strike: A Rosh Hashanah Tale , which is based on this story.)