Kaparos Controversy Riles Chabad Rabbonim

With Israel’s draconian lockdown preventing many from fulfilling the custom of Kaparos, some rabbonim came up with a novel solution, but it isn’t without controversy.

By Anash.org reporter

A shliach, money or a fish?

Every year on Erev Yom Kippur, yidden around the world fulfill the custom of kaparos, which involves swinging a live chicken over one’s head, then having it slaughtered and giving the chicken, or its value, to poor people. This year, however, many in Eretz Yisroel will be unable to fulfill the custom in its classic format.

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in the Holy Land, a lockdown was placed on the entire country, limiting gatherings and unnecessary travel. The lockdown began before Rosh Hashana and will continue until after Sukkos.

In an announcement published earlier this week, Machon Halacha Chabad, an organization founded by a group of Chabad Rabbonim, wrote that they had found a solution.

“For those who are unable to to kaparos, the best option for him is to appoint a shliach who will perform kaparos and shecht the chickens,” they wrote. “On the other hand, the [often-mentioned] possibility of doing kaparos with fish or money is not mentioned in the Arizal’s writings or in the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch.”

The announcement quickly raised a furor. Other Lubavitcher rabbonim quickly pointed out issues they had found in both halves of the statement.

Rabbi Dovid Meir Drukman, chief rabbi of Kiryat Mozkin wrote that the concept of a shliach for kaparos was previously unheard of.

“There are certain concepts about which the poskim say that if one never saw it happen, the ‘not seeing’ itself is a proof that the custom isn’t valid,” he said. “We have never seen or heard previously, at least in Ashkenazi circles, the concept of appointing a shliach for kaparos.”

Others pointed out that in a booklet titled ‘Kiddush U’Teffilos’ edited by the Rebbe himself and printed in 5703, there appears the option to do kaparos with money. Surely, they said, the Rebbe would not print such an option if it contradicts the Arizal’s writings.

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  1. As someone who has looked up the subject, I just want to clarify something. The minhag of kapores is a very very old minhag. The concept is to take the chicken, shecht it, that it be instead of you, i.e. it’s going l’ibud instead of you. That concept of something going l’ibud doesn’t exist with money, for the money is not going l’ibud, the money is going to tzedakkah. Where does the concept of money for kapores come from?

    The first source for money as kapores, is in the chayei adam. He writes that there were people in towns that didn’t have chickens, and they came up with this hergesh to do kapores with money. In other words, this idea about money as kapores is not part of the ancient minhag, it’s this new minhag that came about around two hundred years ago, that if you can’t do kapores with chickens, do it with money instead.

    In summation, 1) money as kapores is not part of the minhag of kapores, it’s another minhag for the same purpose. 2) the idea behind them is different, one goes l’ibud, and one goes to tzedakkah.

    So now to get to the article. I can’t comment on the idea to use a shliach, what I want to comment on is the last paragraph, which wants to say that money seems to be a good option, from the fact that the booklet kiddush utfilos brings it as an option. However, based on the above introduction you can understand why that’s not at all a good assertion. It makes sense that the booklet brings it, because the fact is, there is such a minhag to use money (if you are in a situation that you can’t use chickens). However, that by no means means that using money is just as good as kapores and has the same effect. And yes, true it doesn’t go against anything the arizal wrote, however, it has nothing to do with what the arizal wrote either.

  2. 1. Having a shaliach for kapores reminds me of the idea of the business man who is looking to appoint a shaliach to sit Shiva for him.

    We even try to have each family member his/her own and not being “yoitze” from the parents. Mitamol someone comes with a new idea.

    If the option of shaliach existed, it would have been used long ago. It is not the first time in history some Jews don’t have chickens.

    2. The sidur the rebbe checked, although it uses the money option too, but it doesn’t mention it in the guiding notes. It is highly probable that the rebbe only put notes on a more existing sidur.

    Bot what rabbi Drukman and what *chaim commented are true. Moreover, chayes adam could have mention the idea of shlichus instead of validating the money option.

    I however didn’t get why kapores are “wasted” (l’ibud) (as opposed to tzedoko being given, to poors) , since as we know, chickens are also donated to charity and eaten.

    1. This is chaim, from the previous comment. I will clarify why I used the term l’ibud. I’ll explain it with two points.

      1) When I say l’ibud, I don’t mean we throw it out. I mean that we kill it, thereby getting rid of it’s life. Hence the concept we’re getting rid of it instead of you (zeh chalifasi…). The reason I’m using the more general term of l’ibud, is to also include in the classification the case that the chayei adam brings from Rashi as possibly being a different form of kapores, with a plant. With a plant, a more specific term such as kill won’t apply. That’s why I used the more general term of l’ibud.

      2) This that we give the chicken to the poor afterwards, seems to be a separate thing from the etzem inyan of kapores. I.e., there’s the concept of “this one instead of that one”, then there is another concept, that afterwards what do we do with the chickens, we give them to the poor. In other words, the whole concept of kapores is not to give chickens to the poor, rather, there’s a concept in and of itself to shecht the chicken. Once we shecht the chicken we decide also to give it to the poor.

      So when I use the term l’ibud, I’m referring to the main inyan of kapores, that we get rid of this one instead of that one. And the reason I use the more general term of l’ibud is because of point one. Sorry for any confusion.

  3. B”H
    There are many poskim as brought in rav Yerkavitchs letter and in rav Avishads letter that mention and explain doing kaporot by way of a shliach. Also Rabbi Broin gave a tshuva some time ago with some of these poskim and he explained that we do not find the custom of doing kaporot with money in the reshonim.

    It is found however in a few later poskim. the question is which one is best, which are lichatchila and which are bideeved.

    1. B”H

      Rav Broins site ask the rav changed the answer to imply that one should do in both shliach and on cesef.

  4. In Hamelech B’mesibo it brings the Rebbes response when asked about kapporos on money being done as a replacement for chickens.

    The Rebbe said that this custom has been recorded in many seforim. But al pi kabala it is preferable to use specifically chickens.

  5. In 1944 how many Jews of the 5 million did Kappros with chickens in the USA
    So the Rebbe is trying to encourage it or at least give money to Tzdoko before Yom Kipper, since there are some that do it.
    It doesn’t mean the Rebbe is endorsing it.

  6. It is obvious from the language of the Alter Rebbe’s Siddur that the main point of Kaporos is the Shechita. In fact he completely omits the swinging minhag.
    Although the minhag is to swing, but why say it is a critical component?

  7. Something to think about:
    If someone cares about and respects a Ravs opinion, then what’s all this arguing with the Rav about? You ask a Rav because you don’t know what to do. So you then question him??

    If you know better, why ask, or care about what, the Rav says?

    “Asei lecha Rav”.

    A Rav is not like some open ended meeting, or “democratic” process where we get to argue and ‘vote’ on what the Rov has said. It’s Torah. Halacha.

    Arguing with a Rav or debating him makes sense if you are a Rav yourself, and are living in a different Kehillah, and have authority to make and support your own positions.

    Otherwise, what is the argument about?

    1. In response to Kshi:
      Good point. True.
      I want to point out however, that the discussion here seems to be a Torah discussion (which I actually appreciated much to hear more thoughts and sources on the matter). I don’t think anybody here is paskening what you should do lipoel. Just doing what yiddin have been doing for forever – discussing a inyan in Torah.

      Again, being that this is an open forum, I think you are bringing up a valid clarification.
      Gmar chasima tova. Moshiach now!

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