Feathers fly as fugitive fowl frustrates Pico-Robertson
For most of last week, a fugitive chicken mystified and delighted residentsof the traditionally Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood.
Rumors of its provenance flitted about for days, then came to perch on anespecially good story:
The chicken, according to neighborhood resident Rabbi Joel Rembaum, belongedto a local mashgiach, or kosher supervisor. Every year around Yom Kippur,the mashgiach, like many traditional Jews, buys a chicken in order toperform the ritual of kaparos, which means atonements. This year, it flewthe coop.
If true, that’s one smart chicken.
Early in the morning on the day before Yom Kippur, groups of Jews gather tohold squawking chickens by the feet and twirl them over their heads whilechanting a prayer. After the twirling, the chickens are ritually slaughteredand given to the poor.
The ritual dates back to the Middle Ages.
The idea was that since the Hebrew word for man (gever) and rooster were thesame, a man’s sins — and his punishments — could be symbolicallytransferred to the rooster, in the same way that during the times of theTemple, people brought animal sacrifices as penance for their sins.
Therefore, while slinging the chicken during kaparos, the person chants,”This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement. Thischicken shall go to its death, and I shall proceed to a good, long life andpeace.”
For several reasons — not the least of which is its obvious cruelty — thecustom has fallen out of fashion. Some people perform kaparos by swinging abag of money over their head and then donate that money to charity.
The fugitive chicken — black and white with a rust-colored spot and abright red cockscomb — roams from lawn to sidewalk, from rooftop todriveway.
“I think one family is feeding it,” a resident said.
But the story of the chicken’s provenance proved as flighty as the chickenitself. Calls to local stores with and without mashgiach’s met with denials.
Speculation centered on Eilat Market, where giant Farsi-language postersadvertise for kaparos on behalf of Natan Eli Hebrew Academy. A marketemployee said all chickens were accounted for.
“Everyone has seen it,” a local rebbetzin said, “but no one knows who’s itis.”
In the meantime, local animal rights groups and vegetarian activists havegeared up an annual campaign to protest traditional kapparos rites. In apress release entitled, “Jewish chicken-killing ritual Kapparot is illegal,inhumane and unnecessary. It is animal cruelty,” the activists call for animmediate end to the practice. The press release citesJewish as well as other sources as opposing the ritual.
It quotes General Manager of LA Animal Services and ex-pastor Ed Boks asstating, “Some of our nation’s healthiest animal husbandry practices andlaws originated in the ancient traditions of the Torah. Nowhere is thepractice of Kapparot even mentioned in the Torah. It is a pagan traditionthat has been muddled into the religious practices of a small Jewish sect.Kapparot should have no place in the 21st Century Los Angeles community.”
Via the Internet, activists are circulating notice of a protest againstkapparot to be held Sunday, Oct. 1 in front of Ohel Moshe temple at 8644Pico Blvd from 10-12:30 p.m. “begging people not to kill the chickens.”
As for the fugitive chicken, as of press time, no one had claimed it, and noone had rescued it either — leaving the bird to fend for itself in a cityof speeding cars and hungry cats.
Now that’s a sin worth atoning for.
— Staff Report