As the evening of Yom Kippur neared, It was time for my family to "shlug kappores". To shlug kappores (yiddish) literally means to beat a scapegoat. There's no real scapegoat, but there is something that takes your place and absorbs your sins.
Some people use a chicken and others use money in exchange for sins. Good deal. But putting your sins into money isn't so dramatic. That's why many people choose the traditional kappores chicken.
In America, we went on the eve of Yom Kippur to my Shul in order to do kappores.
There were two mountains of cages side by side - blue cages and red cages. Many of each color were filled with squawking chickens.
We stood in line, paid our money and then a nice yeshiva Bochur (young man) took out a male chicken from a blue box for each man/boy and a female chicken for each girl.
He held the chicken for the shlugger if s/he wanted, or if s/he was brave enough and not repulsed by wildly waving wings and hysterical chickens, he handed the fe/male shlugee chicken to the shlugger.
After the appropriate blessing and a triple-circled shlug, each chicken was then moved to the mountain of red boxes.
Everyone knew that the chickens in the red boxes were going to be donated to a needy yeshiva. That made us feel very good. So not only were we getting rid of our sins, we were doing an extra good deed by donating the chickens. We never imagined the interim stages of preparing the chickens, but we knew the chickens would miraculously become yom tov (holiday) dinner for the yeshiva boys.
We moved to Israel 19 years ago just in time for the High Holidays, and therefore exactly on the eve of Kappores Shlugging time.
Meanwhile, Kappores had changed to Kapporot. There were a few more changes in store.
I asked around our new neighborhood about a shlugging spot, but folks said I had missed Kapparot by Beit Chabad, and the best place to find chickens for Kapporot was Machane Yehuda, Jerusalem's fresh produce shuk.
Okidokie. We popped all the kids in the car and drove to the shuk.
It was packed, bustling, exciting.
We got on a long line in a shuk alley waiting for the chickens.
We edged closer and closer, and suddenly I noticed that a man in a black apron was just handing folks chickens. 40 NIS. Boom, chicken. Next, 40 NIS. Boom, chicken.
I told my husband to finish waving his chicken quickly before the apron man came to me with my chicken. He said, okay.
But then there was another surprise (read: shock) for me. We drew closer to the table. The boys in front of us waved their chickens with lots of energy and handed them to the man behind a table. But instead of putting the chickens into red cages, he took each one and right then and there, lopped off its head.
Did you understand that? There were no red cages, only headless chickens.
I almost fainted on the spot. In fact, perhaps I did faint, because everything after that is a little hazy. I remember the chickens being de-feathered on a spinning wheel, and then place in a bag.
We were handed bags of dead chickens and walked in a daze to the car. Actually the boys were fine, but I was barely conscious. My husband smiled, "Fresh chicken for the holidays."
I retorted, "What are you talking about? I can't eat a chicken that I know personally." The chickens lay for weeks in the freezer. Eventually my husband put his foot down and demanded we eat the perfectly good chickens. I don't remember how or if I brought myself to eat the chicken I had held in my hands. She had made the ultimate sacrifice. She gave her life for me.
I have never done chicken Kapporot in Israel again. I prefer money now. The money goes to charity and is kind of like the chicken in the red box.
While I prefer just about every aspect of Jewish life in Israel than in the Diaspora, my weak stomach prefers the Pre-Yom Kippur Swing of my old home.
I believe the "red boxed chicken" will go to a good cause, and there's nothing yuchhy involved. Then again...I surely know the headless chicken gives you the real feeling of "who shall live and who shall die", but I'll just try to keep doing good things so that I can pray to be blessed and sealed in the Heavenly Books to live, live, live. Shana tova. A happy healthy prosperous and peaceful new year.