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Lubavitcher Responds to Criticism of Kaporos

In an op-ed published in the New York Daily News, Crown Heights resident Eli Federman responds to the criticisms of ‘animal rights activists’ regarding the ancient Jewish tradition of Kaporos, laying out in clear and concise terms why they should leave the pre-Yom Kippur practice alone:

This week, thousands of Orthodox Jews around the world will slaughter chickens in a symbolic atonement ritual known as Kaparot. The meat, and money raised, will be donated to the poor. Many Jews will donate money instead of killing fowl.

Every year animal rights activists and others protest, and call for a ban on the practice. The graphic display of blood and squawking chickens on city streets in Brooklyn and other densely populated areas is why this ritual is selected for outrage. Even some Jewish groups condemn the ritual as a barbaric relic of the past.

The outrage is selective and misguided since every year billions of factory-farmed chickens suffer the same, or worse fate, as they are hung upside down in shackles, throats cut, and immersed in scalding water.

According to USDA records, due to throat-cutting machine misses, “millions of chickens every year are still completely conscious when they are dunked into the scalding-hot water of the defeathering tanks.”

Religious slaughter involves a trained rabbi quickly slitting the trachea, esophagus, carotid arteries and jugular veins in a single motion, with a pre-inspected razor sharp nick-free knife. This is arguably more humane than the factory-farm methods.

That’s not mere speculation; there is research to support this. After assessing the “neurophysiological studies relevant to the assessment of pain,” the Veterinary Record concluded that ritual slaughter is a “painless and humane method.”

But ultimately facts don’t matter to opponents, because factory killing takes place behind closed doors, whereas Kaparot takes place on city streets. The Humane Society kills 3-4 million cats and dogs every year with little fuss from the animal rights crowd.

Click here to continue reading at the New York Daily News.

19 Comments

  • 1. Uncle Mendel wrote:

    Great Response ! The PETA (which stands of Please Eat Tofu Already) are typical tree hugging hippies, as Eric Cartman is fond of saying.

  • 2. s.c. wrote:

    Clear, short and to the point.
    History proves that anti-Semitic action against Jews often start with condemnation of Jewish ritual slaughter. We should always be cautious when such protests take place… what is the true source of their “compassion” for animals, caring for the animals or something subconsciously more sinister?

  • 3. This is not about Kaparos wrote:

    I don’t know if this kaparos debacle is worth commenting on because- if it’s not one thing it will be another and to paraphrase the Alter Rebbe- when you wrestle with muddy people you become soiled yourself. That being said, at kaparos I saw a wealthy looking middle aged woman right in the middle holding up her camera at the shochet, trying to get photos each time he slaughtered a chicken in his booth. She was not taking photos of kaparos itself, because things were quiet and she apparently was unable to find the notorious torture of animals taking place. So she focused on the shochet. Aside from her ill-judged choice of clothing- she was wearing a fancy genuine leather jacket (yes I do know my couture), I had to wonder whether she goes on state-wide tours of all farms and abatoirs to defend the life of the chicken.. or if her presence here was not so altruistic. So I went over and said pleasantly, “If you enjoy taking photos of animals being slaughtered you’ll find much more going on at the large commercial farms upstate”. From my short ‘conversation’ with her and her husband or friend I realized, first of all, that the liberated, liberal woman neither so liberated nor liberal. She had no problem making a spectacle of herself to make a statement and gain attention, but when she was challenged (politely) to explain her views she literally hid behind her husband or male friend so as not to have to respond to a perfectly logical question. These are not very smart people and they cannot hold a rational give and take academic discussion because they cannot here another side and their own statements do not reflect their actions- they say they are defending chickens but have no argument when asked why they don’t demonstrate at abatoirs. They say that shechita is ‘cruel’ but appear never to have actually done unbiased research about the way animals are killed in general abatoirs as opposed to kosher shechita. They cannot admit to even themselves that the sad truth is that these people- some of whom are of mature ages with a great deal of their lives behind them- just get a kick out of hounding the popular media scapegoat- the Jew, and have been brainwashed into justifying their demeaning behavior; it’s just a night out for people who have no life. So I now think that when people say ‘just ignore them completely’ they’re right. You can’t argue with a fool.

    • 5. Milhouse wrote:

      1. No, it is NOT TzBCh
      2. Even if it were, TzBCh does not apply if something is done for a purpose
      3. Who says you can use money? Tell me the source that permits this.

    • 6. CH'er wrote:

      Chaim you are right, but so was the Kohen as he did the Karbonos and other services in the Bais Hamikdash, I would assume you pray each day for that to one day return,

      oh wow, Chaim, you must be a hypocrate, please practice what you preach, Gmar Tov

  • 7. MaidofCH wrote:

    Liberals seem to be angry at the real world, or something — I’m not sure. They cannot handle the truth. They see something & come up with their own ideas. If these people went to Lakewood & saw all the white (mostly Ashkenazic) men, they would probably use this to claim that Judaism is racist. Arguments are futile, since they are wedded to their defenses. Probably the truth would destroy them.

  • 9. Yocheved wrote:

    This is not about factory farming, that’s avoiding the issue. You can’t partake in cruelty and animal torture on the streets of NYC and justify what you’re doing by saying that animals are treated worse in slaughter houses. This chicken swinging custom is a disgrace and brings negative attention to the Jewish people. That’s unacceptable!!

    • 10. CH'er wrote:

      Ooooohhh

      Lets hide our Tzitzes, its so sloppy and unfashionable.

      A disgrace and Chillul Hashem,

      Woopps my Bad Yocheved you dont wear them

  • 14. jason wrote:

    “The Humane Society kills 3-4 million cats and dogs every year with little fuss from the animal rights crowd.”

    This is an empty and inaccurate argument. 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized throughout the United States on yearly basis due to pets which are too sick, adoptable (aggressiveness) or over population (lack of proper spay and neutering) and yes PETA does protest this as well on their website by discouraging improper animal ownership. The Humane Society has worked to decrease this number from 15 million in the 1970’s by encouraging spay and neutering pets and community wide action. They also only encourage humane euthanasia by injection as a last resort. Your statement about the Humane Society is simply irresponsible and wrong.

    • 15. Michoel wrote:

      Jason you missed the authors point by cherry picking one particular argument. Also, would you say the same about humans? They only kill 3-4 million humans instead of 15 millions. Come on. If animals have rights killing any of them is wrong for any reason. Shouldn’t society (especially PETA and Humane Society) do everything in its power to stop this? Human euthanasia? That is costly which is why most are gassed! Tell me that is more humane than a slit to the throat? Federman did a great job with this piece.

    • 16. Shocking Photos: PETA's Secret Slaughter... wrote:

      Google “PETA kills” and click on the “Huffington Post” article- it has documents and pictures. They should give copies of it to the protesting fools next year-we do it for the mitzvah and the food goes to people, they just use their “shelters” to con money from people and kill for no reason(96% are killed within 24 hours,the remaining few are given to people). Here is the start of the article:
      People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an organization that publicly claims to represent the best interest of animals — indeed their “ethical treatment.” Yet approximately 2,000 animals pass through PETA’s front door every year and very few make it out alive. The vast majority — 96 percent in 2011 — exit the facility out the back door after they have been killed, when Pet Cremation Services of Tidewater stops by on their regular visits to pick up their remains. Between these visits, the bodies are stored in the giant walk-in freezer PETA installed for this very purpose. It is a freezer that cost $9,370 and, like the company which incinerates the bodies of PETA’s victims, was paid for with the donations of animal lovers who could never have imagined that the money they donated to help animals would be used to end their lives instead. In fact, in the last 11 years, PETA has killed 29,426 dogs, cats, rabbits, and other domestic animals.

      “Most animal lovers find this hard to believe. But seeing is believing. And if it is true that a picture speaks a thousand words, the following images speak volumes about who and what PETA really stands for.”
      the pictures and official gov’t. documents are unbe4liveable-this is real ZB”H, wait till you see them

  • 17. Milhouse wrote:

    Does anyone know what is the source for doing kaporos on money? I went looking for it yesterday, and as near as I can tell the only source is the Chayei Odom, which in Lubavitch is not considered a man-de’omar. And even he seems to offer this only as a very bedieved alternative, if one can’t find a competent and G-d-fearing shochet; a situation that Boruch Hashem does not apply in Crown Heights, where the shochtim are under strict supervision all night.

    • 18. Kaporoh only from Hashem wrote:

      As I wrote in my reply to you in the previous posting about Kaporos: “As for the use of Tzeduka money as an alternative to the chicken-style kapores… for starters it is an open Posuk “Chato’och B’tzidkoh Pruk” (Daniel 4:24) [here I’m correcting my previous transliteration], and as we say in the Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur davening “U’teshuva u’tefila u’tzeduka ma’avirin es ro’ah hagezeira,” and this is explained in many places.”

      Regarding the Chayei Odom, a very highly regarded contemporary of the Alter Rebbe, why do you say “in Lubavitch is not considered a man-de’omar”? I believe you can find his Sefer in just about very Lubavitch yeshiva. He is cited in many Halachic works, and what he says about using money instead of chickens (especially due to concerns about unkosher shechita, but also for other issues) is cited by the Mishnah Berura and is very well respected by the entire Frum Jewish world.

      Also significantly, see what he writes inside and you will find that he says that using money instead of chicken is not his original idea, but rather a longstanding custom of the people – he is just reporting that this indeed is the custom, to use money instead of chickens. It turns out that you refuse to recognize another longstanding Jewish custom.

      Further, it seems you refuse to consider that in many places chickens are indeed shechted improperly and they are indeed mishandled by people including causing Tzar Balei Chaim. Why can’t you face up to those facts, as I asked you in the previous posting and you never answered? It seems you prefer to live in a never-never land, but refuse to grow up and face the real world where the rest of us live, and where the Torah commands us to live.

      — Oh, by the way, since you are so concerned about following every minhag, please tell us how you enjoyed spread the guts of your Kaporos chicken on your roof as the Seforim say it was the custom to do. You did carefully follow that holy minhag too didn’t you? If you didn’t do it, then kindly tell us why not. I’d really like to hear your answer, and I’m sure others would be interested to hear your reply as well.

    • 19. Kaporoh only from Hashem wrote:

      Another question Milhouse: Have you ever learned in any Chabad Seforim about the overwhelming efficiency and effectiveness of Tzedaka at averting Dinim, “Teduka Tatzil MeMohves” and bringing Geulah, both individual and for all? Why do you so disparage the minhag of using money as Kaporos the way you do? Clearly it is the Tzeduka aspect of the Kaporos minhag that is the main thing, and indeed all the Seforim say this. It is the Tzeduka that we do that is the main thing that leads to Hashem granting the Kaporoh and the Geulah.

      Granted, watching an animal be slaughtered and die as in the minhag with chickens certainly presents a person with most graphic arousal to Teshuva and Yiras Shomayim, leaving nothing to the imagination, with the realization that he deserves for this to be done to him because of his very grave misdeeds. Those who think there is a need for this extremely graphic arousal to Teshuva are probably better off visiting an actual slaughterhouse, on Erev Yom Kippur or anytime in the year, where they will get a real eyeful of killing, with warm red blood being spilled, and blood and guts spurting out in all directions. It is not a pretty sight to see, hear, smell or touch, and many have returned from such experiences with such a high level of Teshuva and Yiras Hashem that they resolve to become fully committed vegetarians, with no need to ever see such disturbing sights ever again.

      But Teshuva without practical results is clearly not the ultimate goal. It has to be channeled into action in reality, in the practice of giving Tzeduka and doing good deeds, and this spirit of giving money and life has to extend to all of Hashem’s creatures.

      Similar minhagim for Erev Yom Kippur and the Ten Days of Teshuva that highlight increased arousal to Teshuva include the custom of visiting cemeteries and gravesites, which also provide a very graphic reminder of what will be one’s fate, and arouse people to do Teshuva and have Yiras Hashem. Spending time and energy visiting hospitals and tending the sick certainly provides similar reminders and arousal to Teshuva, and these activities are certainly much more beloved by Hashem than swinging and schecting a chickens. Clearly we should concentrate on the main goals, not on the trivialities from other times and places that are not appropriate for our circumstances.

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