USING CHICKENS FOR KAPPAROS? How to Avoid Three Torah Prohibitions Before Yom Kippur

Shlugging kapparos in the streets of Meah Shearim (Yehuda Boltshauser & Co. / Kuvien Images)

(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

Rav Nachum Yavrov zt”l of Bnei Brak, who passed away but ten weeks ago, was one of Klal Yisroel’s greatest Poskim.  The depth and brilliance of all 18 volumes of his Divrei Sofrim series have made them the outstanding sefer in virtually every discipline of halacha. Whether it is Aveilus, shechita, yichud or treifos, the sheer comprehensive and deep nature of his scholarship has earned this work its place on the shelf of virtually every Talmid chochom in the world.  Rav Elyashiv zt”l himself stood in remarkable awe of Rav Yavrov’s works.

Although he was not the first to mention it, Rav Yavrov zt”l was quite concerned about chickens that were shechted at Kapparos.  Essentially, if three precautions are not taken during kapparos – there are three possible full-fledged Torah prohibitions that can be violated.  The underlying issue is called “Tzmikas haRaiyah – shrinking of the lung,” and when caused by man – three Torah prohibitions could kick in.

Tzmikas HaRaiyah is discussed in Chullin 54a and in Yore Deah Simanim 29 and 36.  Essentially, when a chicken is significantly frightened by the actions of human, there are physiological changes that take place – one of them is a shrinking of the lung.  When a chicken is swung around in a non-careful manner – there is no question that it undergoes fear.  Is it enough of a fear to cause definite treifos?  Rav Yavrov zt”l informed this author approximately five years ago that it is very questionable.  The fact that there are many chicken droppings associated with Kapparos is indicative of an underlying fear that the chickens experience.

For those who would counter – We have been doing kaparos for hundreds of years, why bring this new thing up now? – the answer is very obvious.  In the centuries that we have been doing kaparos we have also grown up around chickens.  We had always treated them nicely and never held them in painful ways.  Recently, two things have changed: 1] We are no longer around farm animals and 2] There has been a huge commercialization of chicken raising.  In the past we treated our animals carefully.  Now, the lack of exposure to the chicken has caused a very different scenario.

The three Torah prohibitions are:

  • Feeding treif chickens to the poor – In America, the lungs of chickens are not checked by shochtim as is required of larger animals.  In Israel, however, most slaughter houses do check the lungs of chickens as well.
  • Lifnei Iver lo sitain michshol –There is a Torah prohibition of feeding non-kosher meat to those who think that they are eating kosher meat.
  • Tzaar Baalei Chaim – the fear that a chicken experiences has been declared as Tzaar Baalei Chaim by numerous achronim – Responsa of Beis Ephraim Yore Deah #26, Rav Yavrov, Divrei Sofrim YD 36:14, Rav Ovadiah Yoseph cited in Yalkut Yoseph Kitzur Shulchan Aruch SIman 17.

The Sefer Mitzvas HaShechita, by Rabbi Eliezer Nidam has approbations from Rav Shternbuch and Rav Nissim Karelitz.  In that sefer (page 148), the author writes:

“I cannot hold back my pen on the prohibition of tzaar baalei chaim when they carry the chicken upside down with its feet upward.  Who would see or hear of such a thing among the Holy Nation of Israel in previous times??

There is no question that the Gedolei HaPoskim who lent their names to this sefer in glowing approbations would have voiced their dissent if they disagreed with this assertion.

Rav Moshe Brandsdorfer quotes his father zt”l (BeNesivus Hahalacha p. 80) who was horrified that Mosdos would sell chickens for kapparos and sell them back to the chicken wholesaler.  His father was quite saddened by it and said that there is a concern of gezel, genaivah, onaah and tzaar baalei chaim.  His brother added that many of the chickens die in transport and that this is a concern of tarfus as well tzaar baalei chaim.

So how are these three prohibitions avoided?  There are three things that need to be done:

  • The first is that the chicken should not be held precariously and swung wildly over those who are undergoing the kapparos.
  • The second thing is to ensure that the kapparos be done with a Mashgiach temidi present who is trained in these issues. Agudas Yisroel recently re-released their Kol Koreh that every Kapparos place should have a Mashgiach.
  • The third issue is that during the shechita (usually, but not always, done elsewhere) the chickens should not see the shechita of the other chickens.

How can the chicken be held that it does not engender such fear?  If it is held with two hands, one under the wing and the other on the belly, it does not experience fear.

One must avoid having the chicken dangling by its wings and holding the chicken upside down.  It must be supported.

Rabbi Avrohom Reit, provides another method:

“Instructions for Holding Chickens:

Accept the chicken from the wrangler by taking one wing in each hand. Lift and cross the wings for a grip that requires only one hand to hold and will prevent the chicken from flapping its wings and leave you a free hand to hold the machzor. This position is comfortable for the chicken and akin to holding a baby from under his arms. Be careful not to squeeze or jerk the chicken.

Step-by-Step instructions:

1) Lift both of the chicken’s wings. (Extend them fully.)
2) Draw them together.
3) Cross the wings placing left over right for a right-handed grip (most people) or right over left for a left-handed grip (for lefties).
4) Place your right (left) hand beneath the wings and close your fingers over the wings as shown.
5) Gently flip the bird onto its back. (The chicken’s body will now be resting on the back of your hand.)
6) Rotate overhead as you say “Zeh chalifasi.”

Always remain calm and treat the chickens gently.”

As an interesting aside, the lungs of chickens in both America and Canada are not checked, as the Shulchan Aruch does not require it.  In Eretz Yisroel, with the exception of two places where the fowl is exported, the slaughterhouses do check the chicken’s lungs – even though Shulchan Aruch does not require it.

In Monsey, Scheiners, does it with the chicken in a basket.  It could be, however, that this is done to avoid the droppings that generally accompany Kapparos.

There is no question that a minor fear will not create tzmikas haraiya.  It is this author’s opinion that a minor fear is also not a violation of tzaar baalei chaim either.

The author can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Thank you so much Rabbi Hoffman for this beautifully constructed piece as well as all your pieces. Please correct typo!
    You wrote Rav Ovadya Yodeph instead of Yoseph!
    G’maar Hatima Tova

  2. Kapparos with chicken, is, in my opinion, a superstition that seems to resemble goyishe rituals. Too many chickens are neglected and abused for this peculiar ‘minhag’ anyways