SECTION 605 The Custom of Kaparos on Erev Yom Kippur. (1–6)

סימן תרה מִנְהַג כַּפָּרוֹת בְּעֶרֶב יוֹם כִּפּוּר וּבוֹ ו' סְעִיפִים:

1 In these countries,1 on the day preceding Yom Kippur,2 it is customary for a male to take a rooster and a female to take a hen, for the ceremony of kaparah (atonement).

[While holding the chicken] one says: “This is my exchange; this is my substitute; this is my expiation.” ([The acronym comprising the initial letters of the Hebrew words for “exchange,” “substitute,” and “expiation”] forms the word חתך meaning “cut,” [recalling the phrase from the liturgy that praises] G‑d “Who apportions [lit., ‘cuts’] life for all the living.”

The chicken should be circled [over] one’s head. One should recite [the passage beginning] Bnei Adam. This is done three times.3

One should place his hands on [the chicken] in a manner that parallels the practice of semichah that was performed for the sacrifices.4 [The chicken] should be slaughtered immediately thereafter, as the sacrifices were slaughtered directly after semichah was performed. There are, however, some who refrain from placing their hands upon [the chicken], so that it will not appear that they are consecrating an animal as an offering and slaughtering it outside [the courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash].5

[In truth] this is no cause for concern, because chickens are not fit to be offered on the altar. If, however, one does not have chickens [available] and he takes a different creature for a kaparah, he should not take turtle-doves or fledgling doves, for they are fit to be offered on the altar. If he were to place his hands on them, it would in fact appear that he was consecrating sacrifices and slaughtering them outside [the courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash].

א נוֹהֲגִין בְּאֵלּוּ הָאֲרָצוֹת1 לִקַּח בְּעֶרֶב יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים2 תַּרְנְגוֹל כַּפָּרָה א לַזָּכָר וְתַרְנְגֹלֶת לַנְּקֵבָה,ב וְאוֹמְרִים עָלָיו "זֶה חֲלִיפָתִי זֶה תְּמוּרָתִי זֶה כַּפָּרָתִי וכו'",ג (רָאשֵׁי תֵּבוֹת חת"ך) זֶה הַשֵּׁם הַחוֹתֵךְ חַיִּים לְכָל חַי,ד וּמַחֲזִירוֹ סְבִיב רֹאשׁוֹ,ה וְיֹאמַר "בְּנֵי אָדָם כו'",ו וְעוֹשִׂין כֵּן ג' פְּעָמִים.ז,3

וְסוֹמְכִין עָלָיו יְדֵיהֶם דֻּגְמַת סְמִיכָה בְּקָרְבָּן,4 וְשׁוֹחֲטִין אוֹתוֹ מִיָּד דְּתֵכֶף לִסְמִיכָה שְׁחִיטָה.ח וְיֵשׁ נִמְנָעִין מִלִּסְמֹךְ עָלָיו יְדֵיהֶם, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא נִרְאֶה כְּמַקְדִּישׁ קָדָשִׁים וְשׁוֹחֲטָן בַּחוּץ.ט,5 וְאֵין לָחֹשׁ לָזֶה, כֵּיוָן שֶׁהַתַּרְנְגוֹל הוּא דָּבָר שֶׁאֵינוֹ רָאוּי לַמִּזְבֵּחַ.י אֲבָל אִם אֵין לוֹ תַּרְנְגוֹלִים וְלוֹקֵחַ שְׁאָר בַּעֲלֵי חַיִּים לְכַפָּרָה – לֹא יִקַּח תּוֹרִים וּבְנֵי יוֹנָה שֶׁהֵם רְאוּיִים לַמִּזְבֵּחַ, וְאִם יִסְמֹךְ יָדָיו עֲלֵיהֶם יְהֵא נִרְאֶה כְּמַקְדִּישׁ קָדָשִׁים וְשׁוֹחֲטָן בַּחוּץ:יא

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2 White chickens should be chosen, to recall the verse,6 “[Even] if your sins are like scarlet, they will become as white as snow.”

When does the above apply? When white ones are at hand; then they should be chosen over others. If they are not presently available one should not seek them out,7 for this would resemble “the way of the Amorites,” who used to seek out white chickens for their idolatrous sacrifice.8 And [we are commanded],9 “Do not follow their statutes.”

ב וּבוֹחֲרִין בְּתַרְנְגוֹלִים לְבָנִים,יב עַל דֶּרֶךְ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר יג,6 "אִם יִהְיוּ חֲטָאֵיכֶם כַּשָּׁנִים כַּשֶּׁלֶג יַלְבִּינוּ". בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים? כְּשֶׁהַלְּבָנִים מְזֻמָּנִים לְפָנָיו אָז יִבְחַר בָּהֶם מִבַּאֲחֵרִים, אֲבָל אִם אֵינָם מְזֻמָּנִים לְפָנָיו – לֹא יְחַזֵּר אַחֲרֵיהֶם בְּדַוְקָא,7 מִשּׁוּם שֶׁזֶּהוּ כְּעֵין דַּרְכֵי הָאֱמוֹרִי,יד שֶׁדַּרְכָּם לְחַזֵּר אַחַר תַּרְנְגוֹלִים לְבָנִים לְהַקְרִיבָן לַעֲבוֹדָה זָרָה,טו,8 וּכְתִיב טז,9 "וּבְחֻקּוֹתֵיהֶם לֹא תֵלֵכוּ":

3 Some people are accustomed to include several males [in the kaparos ceremony performed] with one rooster and several females [in the ceremony performed] with one hen. According to this custom, only one rooster and one hen are taken for a pregnant woman. For if the fetus is male, a rooster was taken, and if it is female, one hen will suffice for the fetus and the mother.

Others follow the custom of taking a kaparah for every person individually. According to this view, three chickens should be taken for a pregnant woman, two hens and one rooster.10

ג יֵשׁ נוֹהֲגִין לִפְטֹר כַּמָּה זְכָרִים בְּתַרְנְגוֹל אֶחָד וְכַמָּה נְקֵבוֹת בְּתַרְנְגֹלֶת אַחַת,יז לְפִיכָךְ אֵין לוֹקְחִין לִמְעֻבֶּרֶת אֶלָּא תַּרְנְגוֹל אֶחָד וְתַרְנְגֹלֶת אַחַת,יח דְּאִם הָעֻבָּר זָכָר – הֲרֵי יֵשׁ כָּאן תַּרְנְגוֹל אֶחָד, וְאִם הָעֻבָּר נְקֵבָה – דַּי לָהּ וּלְאִמָּהּ בְּתַרְנְגֹלֶת אַחַת.יט וְיֵשׁ נוֹהֲגִין כ לִקַּח כַּפָּרָה לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ, לְפִיכָךְ לוֹקְחִין לִמְעֻבֶּרֶת ג' – שְׁתֵּי נְקֵבוֹת וְזָכָר אֶחָד:10

4 It is customary to give the [chickens used for] kaparos to the poor. However, it is preferable to redeem them with money and to distribute the money among the poor, so that they will not be embarrassed by being given chickens that were used to secure atonement.

ד וְנוֹהֲגִין לִתֵּן הַכַּפָּרוֹת לָעֲנִיִּים.כא וְיוֹתֵר טוֹב לִפְדּוֹת הַכַּפָּרָה בְּמָמוֹן וּלְחַלֵּק הַמָּמוֹן לָעֲנִיִּים, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִתְבַּיְּשׁוּ הָעֲנִיִּים בְּמַה שֶּׁנּוֹתְנִים לָהֶם הַתַּרְנְגוֹלִים שֶׁלָּקְחוּ לְכַפָּרָה:כב

5 In some communities it is customary to visit the cemetery [on the day preceding Yom Kippur]11 and to give tzedakah generously there. This is a desirable custom.12 Since the charity donated there is intended to redeem the kaparos, it is appropriate to give an amount equivalent to the value of the chickens that served for kaparos in one’s home.

[At the cemetery, one] should not recite any supplications other than those instituted by the sages of the early generations, because [the supplicatory prayers collectively called] Tachanun are not recited on this date.13

ה וְיֵשׁ מְקוֹמוֹת שֶׁנָּהֲגוּ לֵילֵךְ עַל הַקְּבָרוֹת כג,11 לְהַרְבּוֹת שָׁם בִּצְדָקָה, וּמִנְהָג יָפֶה הוּא.כד,12 וְהַצְּדָקָה שֶׁנּוֹתְנִים שָׁם הוּא פִּדְיוֹן הַכַּפָּרוֹת,כה וּלְכָךְ רָאוּי לָתֵת כְּפִי עֵרֶךְ הַכַּפָּרוֹת שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ בְּבֵיתוֹ.כו וְלֹא יֹאמַר שׁוּם תְּחִנָּה, רַק מַה שֶּׁמְּיֻסָּד מִקַּדְמוֹנִים, שֶׁהֲרֵי אֵין אוֹמְרִים תַּחֲנוּן בְּיוֹם זֶה:כז,13

6 The intestines, the liver, and the kidneys of the kaparos are customarily strewn on the roofs or in the courtyards, from which they can be taken by birds [of prey]. It is appropriate to show mercy to creatures on this day, so that G‑d will show mercy to us.

ו וְזוֹרְקִין הַבְּנֵי מֵעַיִם כח וְהַכָּבֵד וְהַכְּלָיוֹת כט שֶׁל הַכַּפָּרוֹת עַל הַגַּגּוֹת אוֹ בֶּחָצֵר מָקוֹם שֶׁהָעוֹפוֹת יְכוֹלִים לָקַחַת מִשָּׁם, לְפִי שֶׁרָאוּי לְרַחֵם עַל הַבְּרִיּוֹת בְּיוֹם זֶה כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּרַחֲמוּ עָלֵינוּ מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם:ל