Wednesday, October 8, 2008

לכפור בכפיית כופר הכפרות

A bit of Background:

There were two men who lived in the same era, knew each other and one's son even married the other's daughter. They both had very strong influences on the Jewish people, but they took different perspectives based on their differing traditions, backgrounds and leanings.

I'm discussing of course the 'Beit Yosef' (Joseph Caro) and the Ari(za"l)(Isaac Luria). Just one example out of quite a few is that which the Jews take for themselves an 'atonement' in chickens (or money..or plants(?)) on the eve of the day of Atonement. They both were raised seeing this phenomenon. Rabbi Caro, in following the tradition of many of the Spanish halakhist scholars, did not even omit this practice (which would be expected) but frowned heavily upon it in his 'Shulkhan Arukh'. Rabbi Luria, in the tradition of the European Rabbis (a community from which he descended), and based on 'great hidden meaning' associated with it, not only encouraged, but added stringencies and guidelines in the practice of this 'taking of chickens'.

We (Jews of the Orient) have been directed to follow the halakhic guidelines of Rabbi Caro (as opposed to his contemporaries or those who came after him who might argue), but in this case his words are abandoned by even the most Oriental Jew in preference to the teachings of his contemporaries, or those that came after him.

There's much more to it than that, but that's what I feel is really the main point, and all I wish to mention on that note at the moment.

My Perspective:

Well, unfortunately abandoning many an injunction -as those I just discussed-, and relying on the rulings of the more contemporary Rabbinic leaders, I personally prefer to indulge in the practice of 'kaparot' before yom kippur when it makes itself available to me. I see in it a reasonable amount of psychological and ethical significance, for the entirety of the process is of acute irony for a sound mind; a bird is taken, a white chicken who has obviously very few 'sins' to atone for, if any, as it stands. We then proceed to declare upon the chicken that it is "in our place", "our redemption", our "atonement", and then kill it, feeling that some level of our 'responsibility' has been transferred to the chicken. On face value it obviously seems a bit absurd, but this is the essence of the sacred sacrificial ceremony performed in the Temple in Jerusalem (which is one of the main reasons many opposed it).
To me this utter irony is the most important aspect of the whole process; it is invariably us who should "לשחיטה ילך", and the chickens who should be going "לחיים טובים ולשלום", and yet we're changing this preferable arrangement so that we should feel we must run back in protest, exclaiming that an error has mistakenly occurred; "we should stay and the chickens should go home"!
...I feel bad writing about such an insignificant issue though, on the eve of this ever-important day...


Rachel said...

I'm not sure I get it. They both say you should do it, but one of them doesn't like that he's saying we should do it?

I wanted to post about this years newest horrifying kaparot experience, but it's a bit late now.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Again, 'מר"ן' (Caro) "frowned heavily upon it"(בסימן תר"ה). To me that sounds like he's saying we 'shouldn't' do it. Clear?

Oh, come now, it's not too late to post about!

Rachel said...

"Rabbi Caro, in following the tradition of many of the Spanish halakhist scholars, did not even omit this practice (which would be expected) but frowned heavily upon it" Sounds like you were saying he would do it ("did not even omit this practice"), but frowned upon it.

Got it.