One ritual that is under particular scrutiny is the slaughter of chickens. An AP story says that for generations, ultra-Orthodox Jews have marked Yom Kippur by swinging live chickens over their heads while saying a blessing, then slaughtering the birds as a symbolic way to rid their souls of sins.
"Now some rabbis are decrying the practice as animal abuse. These rabbis say the ritual, along with the cruel conditions the chickens are kept in, violate Jewish law, which has strict rules on the care and slaughter of animals."
Rabbi Joseph Karo, one of the major codifiers of Jewish law, called it a "foolish custom" reminiscent of pagan practices. Since his 16th-century pronouncement, Jews of Sephardic, or Middle Eastern, origin have tended to perform kaparot without animals, sometimes swinging sacks of coins above their heads before donating the money to charity.
Those following Ashkenazi, or European customs, have continued to use chickens, however.
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