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Text of Kapparot

Text of Kapparot

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At dawn or early in the morning before Yom Kippur, take a live chicken, fish or money which will then be given to charity and recite the following three times. Recite the first paragraph, pass it over your head three times and then recite the paragraph again, etc.

Children of man who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, bound in misery and chains of iron --- He will bring them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and will sunder their bonds. Foolish sinners, afflicted because of their sinful ways and their wrongdoings; their soul loathes all food and they reach the gates of death --- they cry out to the Lord in their distress; He saves them from their afflictions. He sends forth His word and heals them; He delivers them from their graves. Let them thank the Lord for His kindness, and [proclaim] His wonders to the children of man. If there be for a man [even] one interceding angel out of a thousand [accusers], to speak of his uprightness in his behalf, then He will be gracious to him and say: Redeem him from going down to the grave; I have found expiation [for him].

When reciting the first twelve words below, pass the chicken, fish or money over your head three times.

This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my expiation. This chicken shall go to death and I shall proceed to a good, long life and peace.


Click here for Hebrew and English text in printable PDF format (courtesy of Kehot Publication Society).

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המקום נשרף יושף רם October 12, 2016

The chicken "shall" go to its death, whereas we pray for G-d to forego punishing us. The "shall" is important as it demonstrates that by human nature, we make up our minds and have a very difficult time changing it. But G-d is not limited in this or any other sense, so we are beseeching Him in His attribute of Compassion and Mercy, because He is able to relent. Reply

Anonymous montreal October 6, 2016

This custom adds an aspect of reality that our sins do not disappear by themselves. You cannot simply transfer your sins to a Chicken. You must believe in your heart that you will change your ways and not repeat these actions again. Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman September 12, 2013

Yes, the custom is quite controversial. But Rabbi Karo is certainly not the last word in halacha, especially for Ashkenazim.

Rabbi Moshe Isserles composed a gloss on the Shulchan Aruch of Rabbi Karo, and Ashkenazim generally follow his decision. In this case, he writes, "There were those of the ge'onim who wrote in support of this custom, as well as many later authorities. This is the custom in these lands, and it should not be changed, because it is a strong custom."

Many sefardic Jews also keep this custom, especially since the Ari, Rabbi Yitzchaak Luria, provided many teachings concerning it. Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman September 12, 2013

With all due respect, it is difficult to see the connection. The Haitian woman is doing this as some sort of magic. Kapparot are being done as a symbol of atonement.

I do agree that people should take care when handling the chickens. Those that are not adept at handling them should have someone else do so for them. Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman September 12, 2013

We are quoting from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch—the standard abridged code of Jewish Law 131:1. Not all the customs are quoted in the machzor itself. Reply

Anonymous September 12, 2013

Thank you,
I have a better understanding of the symbolism.
To say it in one's mind is easy, but to mean it we must transform it into a mitzvah. Reply

Chabad.org Staff September 12, 2013

Yes! You can use a fish instead of a chicken or use charity, wrap up a bill in a napkin, and swing it around your head. Reply

Anonymous September 12, 2013


Is there a substitute we could use instead of the chicken if one does not have access to one , nor the skills / knowledge e.g. could we give money to charity ? Reply

steve abraham new york September 12, 2013

quote... "Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the Code of Jewish Law, called the practice “heathen, foolish and superstitious."
When I went to Yeshiva, we were taught to look to the Code of Jewish Law for answers to questions. How do you avoid this quote, please?
And I will continue to find more sources . what are your sources for your information ? Where do you find any justification for this cruel ritual ? Reply

Anonymous new york September 12, 2013

I was sent a photo of a voodoo woman in Haiti, swinging a chicken around over her head and saying a prayer. Wow, it looked so barbaric. When a voodoo person does it, we decry the cruelty and also the logic of using a live animal, saying, "Would a loving and caring G-d want us to swing a live chicken around and forgive us because of this act?" Yet, when we, as orthodox jews do this, we are spiritual? What is the difference, please. Reply

steve abraham new york September 12, 2013

Nowhere does the Machzor say "In the case of Kapparot, the chickens are given to feed the hungry, or are redeemed for charity money and eaten by the ones who used them for Kapparot, so that their true redemption and atonement is achieved through additional acts of kindness." So my question is, where did you get this interpretation from?
The true quote above is "This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my expiation. This chicken shall go to death and I shall proceed to a good, long life and peace." When we look at the actual quote, it really sounds like it is the chicken that is going to it's death, and in exchange, I am proceding to a long life. There is absolutely no mention in the Machzor of redemption coming because of donating the dead chicken to charity. It is not written there.
Where is your source of information regarding your interpretation?
" Reply

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein Chabad.org September 12, 2013

I don't believe the article (or the liturgy) refers to transferring sins to the bird. Rather, it speaks of exchanging the bird for oneself, similar to the idea of sacrifices in Temple times. The person who sinned would watch the slaughter of the animal, and repent, thinking that that could have been him, but for the grace of G-d. In the case of Kapparot, the chickens are given to feed the hungry, or are redeemed for charity money and eaten by the ones who used them for Kapparot, so that their true redemption and atonement is achieved through additional acts of kindness. Reply

Anonymous san jose September 8, 2013

Why kill a poor innocent animal? I hope we all exchange this savage 'custom' for something equally symbolic that is loving, kind, and does not require bloodshed. Reply

Yisrael new york city September 3, 2013

How is this different from the Catholics who say their wafers are the body of their god and their wine is the blood of their god? Does anyone in their right mind think that they can use a chicken to transfer their sins and ask for repentence? It sounds like a Monty Python skit? This is a joke and those that do this are mocking their own religion. Can we transfer our sins somewhere by giving the Rabbi a lot of money (re indulgences of the middle ages). Is a bigger chicken able to carry out a larger amount of transferred sins? Perhaps we can ask our biology professors to clone extra large chickens to carry more sins? Reply

Kim Lawernceburg, Ky October 7, 2011

I am happy that there is a site I can come to and find the words in English Have a graet new year Reply

Mrs. Chana Benjaminson October 7, 2011

We substitute the words 'this chicken will go to its death" with, "this money will go to tzedakah" the rest of the text remains the same. Reply

Anonymous October 6, 2011

what's the prayer for kaparot on money??? Reply

karen sumter, sc September 16, 2010

living in a rural community with little to no strong jewish organizations, your site keeps me informed... thanks, G-d bless you and happy new year. Reply

Scott Cary, NC October 19, 2008

Thank you for your shared thoughts and experiences. Reply

Kelly Rae Sydney, AU October 17, 2008

In order to be 'kosher' the chickens must be slaughtered only by a trained shochet using a special method of slaughter, shechita (Deuteronomy 12:21). The meat would otherwise be rendered 'unclean'

As I had mentioned above, the fowl was donated to the yeshiva shul for the students meals. We did not eat the chicken nor watch it being slaughtered - we went home to begin our fast.

It is perfectly acceptable, and obviously preferable in your case because of your strong views, that you practice 'schlogg kapporos' Say someone was a practicing vegetarian, not only because of their health but because of not wanting to cause the death of an animal? What matters is the symbolism. Without repentance, it would not matter if you rotated 10 chickens or a million dollars over your head. Just like for Tashlich, we walk to a body of water, hear the shofar again, daven and then symbolically cast our sins off. Reply

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