An ultra-Orthodox man performing the kaparot ceremony in Jerusalem in 2008.
An ultra-Orthodox man performing the kaparot ceremony in Jerusalem in 2008. Photo by Archive / Tomer Appelbaum
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Ahead of the Yom Kippur holiday, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel last week launched its annual information campaign against the ritual slaughter of chickens. That campaign just received a boost from an unexpected source, as one of religious Zionism's most influential rabbis joined the call against the practice of kaparot, in which an individual's transgressions are ceremonially transferred to an animal or inanimate object.

Shlomo Aviner, head of Jerusalem's Ateret Yeshiva and rabbi of the settlement of Beit El, has spoken out in the past against the contentious rite. This time, however, he acceded to the SPCA's request and issued a religious ruling that, rather than slaughtering an animal, giving money to the poor is a better method of absolving oneself of transgressions.

"Because this is not a binding obligation but a custom, in light of problems related to kashrut and the suffering of animals, and given the edicts of the aforementioned rabbis, a recommendation must be made to favor performing kaparot through money, by performing the great mitzvah of providing for the needy," Aviner wrote, citing religious decrees by rabbinical authorities from various periods throughout Jewish history.