Kapparot (Hebrew, atonement) a term used in the folk custom of Judaism; it means the practice of attaining atonement before the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, so that a more severe judgment will not be reached on that day.

On the day before Yom Kippur a live fowl is taken (a cock for the man and a hen for the woman) and is swung by the neck around the person who says: «This is my atonement, this is in exchange for me, this is my substitute.»

The fowl is then slaughtered and it, or its value, is then given to the poor, while its disembowlled interior is given to birds as a further act of charity. Rabbis opposed the custom, but recognizing the power of folk religion, they suggested that at least a monetary substitution for the fowl of eighteen coins be made, and in that form the custom is still present.

In Yiddish, a bad event is often met with the words: Oyf kapporos, meaning, may this be an atonement, a sufficient punishment to remove the need for anymore. A.G.H.


Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 534