A. The custom:[2]

It is customary in these provinces [of Ashekanzi Jewry] to take and slaughter a chicken, which is called a Gever[3], for attonement on Erev Yom Kippur.[4] One takes a male chicken for each male family member and a female chicken for each female family member, and waves the chicken around the head upon pronouncing Zeh Chalifasi. The following are the detailed laws relating to this custom:

B. Amount of chickens and gender?[5]

One is to take one chicken per family member.[6] This applies irrelevant of the age of the family member, and applies even to a fetus in the mother’s womb. A pregnant woman is to take three chickens for herself and her fetus as explained next. [Thus, for example, a family with six children and a pregnant mother is to take 10 chickens, one chicken per child and parent, and two for the fetus]

The gender of the chicken:[7] One is to take a male chicken for a male family member, and a female chicken for a female family member.

Pregnant woman:[8] For a pregnant woman one is to take and slaughter one female chicken on her behalf, and one female and male chicken on behalf of the fetus whose gender is in question. [Thus, in total, a pregnant woman takes three chickens, two females and one male.]


One takes a chicken for each family member, a male chicken for a male, a female chicken for a female and two females and one male chicken for a pregnant woman.


What is one to do if he cannot afford to purchase a chicken for each family member?[9]

If one is unable to afford buying one chicken per family member, then one male chicken may be used for all the male members of one’s household and one female chicken may be used for all the female members of one’s household. This applies even in accordance to those who follow the custom to take one chicken per person.

May Kaparos be redone with the same chicken on another person?[10]

This follows the same law as above, that initially each person is to use a single chicken which is then slaughtered and not reused for any other person. However, in a time of need, one may use the same chicken for Kaparos of various people.[11] It is forbidden for Kaparos organizers to trick the public and reuse the same chickens for the people doing Kaparos. One who does so is stealing from the original owners and is tricking each subsequent person who reuses that chicken for their Kaparos. Nevertheless, seemingly Bedieved everyone fulfills their obligation, as stated above that in a time of need one may use even one chicken for many people.[12]

What is the law if a woman used a male chicken or vice versa?[13]

She fulfills her obligation. The Kaparos is not required to be repeated.

May one use Maaser money to purchase Kaparos?

One may not use Maaser money to perform the Mitzvah of Kaparos.[14] If, however, one cannot afford to buy one chicken per family member, then he can use Maaser money to do so. However, even in such a case, at least one male and female chicken is not to come from the Maaser funds.[15]

How many chickens is a woman to take if she is pregnant with twins?[16]

It requires further analyses whether she is to suffice with three chickens as any pregnant woman or is to take five chickens.[17] Some Poskim[18] however conclude that she is to take 5 chickens.


If a woman gave birth after Kaparos but before Yom Kippur, should Kaparos be redone on the baby?

This matter requires further analyses.[19] However, some Poskim[20] conclude that she is not required to repeat the Kaparos on the infant.

If an ultrasound revealed the gender of the fetus, how many chickens are to be used?

Some Poskim[21] rule that one may follow the ultrasound and use a chicken of the projected gender. Others[22] rule that one should not rely on it.

Must a pregnant woman prior to 40 days of conception use 3 chickens?[23]


May one do Kaparos on behalf of a family member that is not present?[24]

  • Example: One’s son is in the army and cannot be present for Kaparos. One’s wife gave birth and she and the baby cannot be present for Kaparos.

Yes.[25] One is to state prior to the Kaparos that it is being performed on behalf of “Peloni the son/daughter of Peloni”.[26]

May one use chickens that have been sterilized?[27]

One should not use sterilized chickens for Kaparos.


C. The color of the chicken:[28]

One is to choose a white chicken, if there are white chickens in front of him readily available to be chosen from.[29] If however white chickens are not readily available in front of him, one is not to specifically search out for a chicken of white color.[30]

D. If chickens are not available:[31]

If there are no chickens available for Kaparos, then other animals [such as a goose[32]] may be used for the Kaparos. However, young doves and Turim should not be used.[33] [Today, the wide spread custom is to use money if chickens are not available. This money is then given to the poor.[34]]


May one use fish for Kaparos?

Some Poskim[35] rule that fish is valid to be used for Kaparos in the event that poultry is not available. Based on Kabala, one is to only use fowl.[36]

E. The process that is performed with the chicken:[37]

One holds the chicken and says the paragraph beginning Bnei Adam printed in the Siddur.[38] When one reaches the paragraph of “Zeh Chalifasi, Zeh Temurasi, Zeh Kaparasi[39] etc” one encircles[40] the chicken around [and above] his head three[41] times, while reciting the statement. The above paragraph beginning from Bnei Adam is then repeated another two times[42], thus encircling the head a total of nine times.[43]


In which hand is the chicken to be held?

Some[44] write, the chicken is to be held in one’s right hand. Admur does not make any mention of this detail.


Does it make a difference as to which direction one swerves the chicken around his head?

This matter is not discussed in Poskim hence assuming that one may do so in whichever direction he chooses.


Should the Nusach of Kaparos be said differently by women, or children?

Some[45] write Admur intentionally omitted the change of Nuschaos and therefore one should always say “Chalifasi”, whether a man or woman.


Must each person hold the chicken and wave it over his/her own head or may he/she have someone else hold it and wave it over his/her head?

It is initially preferable for the chicken to be held and waved by the person on whose behalf the Kaparah is being performed.[46] Nonetheless, in a time of need, such as children, or the queasy minded who cannot hold a chicken, another person may hold it.[47] [A husband may perform the circling over his wife who is a Niddah so long as they are careful to avoid any contact.[48]]

Who is to say Zeh Chalifasi when doing on behalf of another? The person who the Kaparah is being done for is to say “Zeh Chalifasi” while the circles are being made over their head.[49] Alternatively, the person who is holding and circling the chicken is to say “Zeh Chalifascha”.[50] This Nussach is to be said when doing Kaparos on behalf of children who are too young to recite the Nussach. 

How is Kaparaos to be performed to small children who cannot do so themselves?[51]

The father is to do so for them, as explained above.

Must one first perform Kaparos on himself prior to performing it on others [i.e. encircling the chicken over the heads of others]?[52]

It is proper for one to first perform Kaparos on himself prior to doing so on behalf of others. If there is a reason that he is not able to do so, then one may initially do the Kaparos for others before doing so on himself.


F. When should the ceremony be done?

The ceremony is to be performed on Erev Yom Kippur.[53] It is to be performed towards dawn of the day of Erev Yom Kippur, by the time of Ashmuros Haboker.[54]


May one do Kaparos before Erev Yom Kippur?[55]

Kaparos may be performed 1-2 days before Yom Kippur, if doing so on Erev Yom Kippur is burdensome on the public or on the Shochtim.


G. Immersing in a Mikveh:[56]

Some have the custom to immerse in a Mikveh prior to performing Kaparos.

H. What is done with chicken after one finishes the above ceremony?

Semicha and Shechting:[57] After the ceremony one does Semicha[58] to the chicken [or other animal] and then gives it to a Shochet to be immediately slaughtered.[59] [Some[60] however learn from Admur in the Siddur that one is not required to do Semicha to the chicken or slaughter it immediately afterwards.[61] It is however brought that the Rebbe Rashab, would perform Semicha after he finished the Kaparos.[62] Practically, the widespread custom is not to do so.[63]]

Covering its blood:[64] It is a Mitzvah for the Shochet to cover the blood of slaughtered fowl with earth or straw.[65] It is nevertheless permitted for the Shochet to honor the owner of the chicken to do so in his place.[66] Earth or straw is to be set up near the slaughtering area and the Shochet then drips some blood onto it.[67] Before covering the blood one says the blessing of “Al kisoi dam beafar[68]”.[69] After the Simanim of the chicken, and the knife, are checked and the chicken is verified as Kosher, one says the blessing and then covers the blood.[70] [If the Shochet does not check the knife beforehand, one is to cover the blood without a blessing, or leave it to the Shochet to check at the end of the Shechita, when he checks his knife.[71] In all cases, one should have in mind to not be Yotzei the blessing of another person saying it, or is to make an interval in between.[72]]

Throwing intestines to the birds:[73] The intestines, liver and kidneys of the chicken of Kaparos are to be thrown in an area that is accessible to birds, such as on one’s roof or in one’s courtyard, in order for the birds feed from it.[74]

Donating the chicken or its worth to the poor:[75] It is customary to donate the chicken to paupers. Nevertheless, it is better to redeem the chicken with money and give the money to the poor, as opposed to giving the actual chicken to the poor.[76] [This money is formally known as Pidyon Kaparos.]


Must one repeat Kaparos if the Shechita of the chicken was a Niveila [invalid]?[77]

Yes. If the Shechita was invalid one must redo the Kaparos.[78] If, however, it was a Kosher slaughtering, but the chicken was found to be a Treifa, it is nevertheless valid.

Should one perform Kaparos with chickens if the chickens will not be eaten by people but used as animal fodder?

It is still preferable to perform Kaparos with a chicken even in such a case.[79] Nonetheless, in the above scenario, it is best to give Pidyon Kaparos to the poor.[80] The chickens are to be slaughtered regularly with a blessing and a blessing is to be recited over the covering of the blood.[81]

The custom of Beis Harav by Kaparos:

The Rebbe’s household would perform a sign of the four death penalties on the chicken used for Kaparos. To touch it with one’s foot slightly to fulfill the penalty of Sekila. To touch its neck to perform the penalty of Chenek. To scorch a small part of a feather to perform the penalty of Sereifa. The Shaar Hakolel[82] however negates all practices that were not recorded in the Siddur of Admur.


[1] 605/1-6

[2] Admur 605/1; Siddur Admur; Rama 605/1 in name of Geonim; Rav Haiy Gaon

Background and other opinions:

The custom of Kaparos dates back hundreds of years to at least the times of the Geonim. [Rama 605/1 “Some of the Geonim wrote regarding this custom and it is recorded by many of the Achronim and so is the custom of our communities”] Rav Haiy Gaon testified that this was the custom in his days. [Rashba 395] It was mainly an Ashkenazi custom that later spread to certain Sefaradic communities. [See Rashba ibid] The Rashba ibid writes that although he abolished this custom from his community due to it resembling the act of the Emorites nevertheless he testifies that this is an accepted custom in the Ashkenazi communities. The Orchos Chaim, in name of the Ramban, writes against this custom. The Michaber in 605/1 rules accordingly that the custom of Kaparos is to be nullified. The Rama ibid defends the custom saying it is based on the Geonim of previous generations and thus is forbidden to be swerved from. The Alter Rebbe records this custom and does not make any mention of the opinion of the Michaber. Practically, even amongst the Sefaradim the custom spread to do Kaparos [Kaf Hachaim 605/8] The Arizal himself was very careful regarding this custom. [Piskeiy Teshuvos 605/1] The Maharal in Nesivos Olam, Nesiv Habitachon, writes there is a complete proof for this custom from the Talmud in Brachos. [Shaar Hakolel 42/1] A similar custom to Kaparos [however not with a chicken, and not on Erev Yom Kippur] is brought in Rashi Shabbos 81b.

[3] Siddur Admur based on Yuma 20b; Rosh Yuma 8/23 “Since its name is Gever it is able to atone for man which is called Gever”

[4] The reason: We slaughter the chicken in order to subdue the severities and we remove its blood in order to sweeten it. It is called a Kaparah similar to the scapegoat that is thrown off the cliff on Yom Kippur. [Siddur Admur; Siddur Arizal; Peri Eitz Chaim; Shelah 235b; See Shaar Hakolel 44/1]

[5] Siddur Admur; Second custom in Admur 605/3; Custom of the Arizal brought in Shaar Hakavanos and Peri Eitz Chaim Shaar Yom Kippurim; M”A 605/2; Shelah Yuma 235; Elya Zuta 605/4; Tashbatz 125; Bach in name of Mordechaiy Katan; Mateh Efraim 605/2; see Piskeiy Teshuvos 605/1

Ruling of Admur in Shulchan Aruch 605/3: In the Shulchan Aruch 605/3 Admur records a difference in custom and rules as follows: Some [Levush brought in M”A 605/2] are accustomed to take a single male chicken on behalf of all the male members of the family and a single female chicken on behalf of all the female members of the family. Others [Poskim ibid] however are accustomed to take a Kapara chicken for each individual family member. [Admur ibid] 

[6] The reason: As each individual requires an individual Kaparah for his soul. Furthermore, the Kaparah is similar to a Karban and we rule that two people cannot bring a single obligatory offering. [Elya Zuta 605/4]

[7] Admur 605/3; Siddur Admur; Rama 605/1

[8] Siddur Admur; Second custom in Admur 605/3; Poskim ibid in previous footnotes

Ruling of Admur in Shulchan Aruch 605/3: In the Shulchan Aruch 605/3 Admur records a difference in custom and rules as follows: According to the first custom [brought in previous footnotes] that allows exempting many males with one chicken and many females with one chicken, one is only required to take for a pregnant woman two chickens, one male and one female chicken. [Admur ibid; Rama 605/1; M”A 605/2; Mahril] The reason for this is because if the fetus is a male, then he has one male chicken as required, and if it is a female, then it suffices for the mother and fetus to have one female chicken. [Admur ibid; M”A ibid] However according to the second custom mentioned to take a chicken for each family member, a male for a boy, female for a girl, then one is to take for a pregnant woman three chickens, two females and one male. [Admur ibid] 

[9] M”B 605/3; Mateh Efraim 605/2

[10] See Admur 605/3; Elya Zuta on Levush 605; Hamaor 1985 p. 15; Nitei Gavriel 10/12

[11] M”B 605/3; Levush 605/1 “As two people can take one Kaparah”; This follows the 1st custom mentioned in Admur 605/3 who allows one chicken to be used for many family members.

[12] Meaning that one fulfills his obligation according to the 1st custom in 605/3, however according to the 2nd custom there one does not fulfill his obligation. [See Elya Zuta on Levush 605; Hamaor 1985 p. 15; Nitei Gavriel 10/12]

[13] Ashel Avraham Butschetch Tinyana 605

[14] M”B 605/6 that one should not use Maaser money to redeem the chickens

[15] Piskeiy Teshuvos 6045 footnote 4; See regarding Matanos Laevyonim: M”A 694/1 from Shlah 260b; Mahril 56; Elya Raba 686/4; M”B 694/3; Aruch Hashulchan 694/2

[16] See Likkutei Sichos 22 p. 59; Shaareiy Halacha Uminhag 2/250

[17] The question is that perhaps since this matter is uncommon, and it is in general a doubt whether one needs one chicken per person, then it is not required to take an extra two chickens for the twin.

[18] Kaneh Bosem 2/20

[19] See Hiskashrus 948 footnote 17 that perhaps the atonement for a pregnant woman is not for the fetus but for the woman, and hence once the child is born he needs his own atonement.

[20] Shevet Hakehasi 2/199; Piskeiy Teshuvos 605/2

[21] Kaneh Bosem 2/20

[22] Minchas Yitzchak in a gloss on the above Teshuvah of Kaneh Bosem

[23] Rav Wozner in Koveitz Mibeis Levi 2/17; Piskeiy Teshuvos 605/2

[24] Keser Shem Tov of Rav Ganin p. 229 that so is custom of Sefaradim in Eretz Yisrael; Syria, Egypt and Turkey; Nitei Gvariel 11/13

[25] The reason: From the wording of all the Poskim it is implied that the main aspect of Kaparos is to have a chicken slaughtered on one’s behalf, and not necessarily the waving over the head. [See Rama 605/1; Admur 605/1-3 and Siddur]

[26] Nitei Gavriel ibid

[27] Mateh Efraim 605/4

[28] Admur 605/2; Siddur Admur; Rama 605/1; Maharil; Arizal in Shaar Hakavanos; Shelah

[29] The reason: This is in light of the verse [Yeshaya 1:18] “If your sins are like red I will whiten them like snow”. [ibid] One is to avoid taking a black chicken, as black represents severity. [Shaar Hakolel 44]

[30] Admur ibid; M”A 605/3; Taz 605/2; Bach

The reason: This is because this appears similar to the acts of the Emorites [idol worshipers] who would search after white chickens to sacrifice them to idols, and it is forbidden for a Jew to resemble this act due to the verse “and you shall not go in their statutes”. [ibid]

[31] Admur 605/1; M”A 605/3

[32] M”B 605/4

[33] The reason: As these birds are fit to be sacrifices on the altar, and thus if one performs Semicha on it with his hands it will appear as if he is sanctifying Kodshim and sacrificing them outside of the Temple. [Admur ibid]

[34] Based on M”B 605/2

[35] M”B 605/4

[36] Rebbe in Hamelech Bemesibo 2/23 brought in glosses of Rav Raskin on Siddur p. 541

[37] Admur 605/1, Siddur Admur, Sefer Haminhagim p. 123 [English Edition], based on Hayom Yom 9th Tishreiy [The Shulchan Aruch and Siddur contain slight differences]; See Shaar Hakolel 42/2; Glosses of Rav Raskin on Siddur

[38] The custom is to recite Bnei Adam prior to the circling, and only then begin the circling with the words Zeh Chalifasi. [See Sefer Haminhagim ibid]

Ruling of Admur in Shulchan Aruch/Siddur: In the Siddur Admur makes no mention of the circling at all, and in the Shulchan Aruch 605/1 he writes the circling is to be done before the recital of Bnei Adam.

[39] This stands for the Roshei Teveis of Chatach which means to cut, and stands for the name [of an angel-M”A] that “cuts/decides” life for every creation. [Admur 605/1; Taz 605/2; M”A 605/3]

[40] Admur 605/1; Mordechai; Levush; Sefer Haminhagim ibid; omitted in Siddur; See Shaar Hakolel 42 that perhaps in the Siddur Admur holds the circling is not necessary at all

[41] Sefer Haminhagim p. 58; not mentioned in Siddur or Shulchan Aruch; See Shaar Hakolel 42/2 that learns from Admur in Siddur that it is only needed to be done one time.

[42] Siddur Admur; 605/1

[43] Sefer Haminhagim ibid; In 605/1 Admur states to do it three times; In Siddur Admur omits how many times it is to be done in. See Shaar Hakolel 42/2 that learns from Admur in Siddur that it is only needed to be done one time per statement.

[44] Kitzur SHU”A 131/1

[45] See Shaar Hakolel 42/2 

[46] Simple understanding of Admur 605/1; Siddur; See Kitzur SHU”A 131/1 “Each one is to take their own Kaparah in their right hand”; Mateh Efraim 605/6 “If one is doing the wave for someone else because they don’t know”; Makor Chaim 605; Kitzur Shelah; Siddur Yaavetz

Other opinions: Some Rishonim record that the Minhag is for the Rav of the town to hold the chicken and wave it around each person’s head. [See Likkutei Maharich]

[47] Kitzur SHU”A 131/1; Mateh Efraim 605/6

[48] See Nitei Gavriel 11/10

[49] See Nitei Gavriel 11 footnote 17

[50] Kitzur SHU”A ibid

[51] Likkutei Maharich

[52] Mateh Efraim 604/6

[53] Admur 605/1; Siddur Admur

[54] Siddur Admur; Arizal in Peri Eitz Chaim Shaar Yom Kippur

The reason: As at this time a string of kindness reigns over the world, and we slaughter the chicken in order to sweeten the severities and we remove its blood in order to sweeten it. [Siddur Admur]

[55] Based on M”B 605/2

[56] Mateh Efraim 605/6; Shevach Hamoadim 21/8 

[57] Admur 605/1; Rama 605/1

[58] To lean on the chickens head, similar to what is done by a Karban brought to atone ones sins. [Rama ibid]

Other opinions brought in Admur: There are those [Taz 605/3] who refrain from doing Semicha to the chicken in order so it not appear as if one is sanctifying Kodshim and slaughtering them outside of the Temple. There is no need however to suspect for this matter, being that it is common knowledge that a chicken is not a species fit for the altar. [Admur ibid; Levush]

[59] As immediately after the Semicha one is to perform the slaughtering. [ibid]

[60] Shaar Hakolel 42/2

[61] As Admur omitted this from the Siddur. The reason for this is because it has no basis according to the Kabala of the Arizal. [ibid]

[62] Reshimos Hayoman p. 258

[63] Glosses of Rav Raskin on Siddur

[64] See Yorah Deah chapter 28

[65] 28/1

[66] See Simla Chadash 28 and Mateh Asher ibid

Vetzaruch Iyun when doing this one after another why this does not transgress the adding of Brachos Sheinan Tzerichos, and that the previous person who heard the blessing was already Yotzei.

[67] Michaber 28/5

[68] And not Ba-afar. It is said with a Segol and not a Kamatz.

[69] Michaber 28/2

[70] Michaber 28/19; Tur 28; Simla Chadasha 28/23

[71] See Michaber ibid;

[72] See Admur 213/4

[73] Admur 605/6; Rama 605/1; Tur; Tashbatz 126

[74] The reason: The reason for this custom is because it is proper to show mercy for creatures on this day in order to invoke Divine mercy upon us. [Admur ibid; Taz 605/4] 

[75] 605/4; Rama 605/1; Maharil

[76] The reason: This is done in order to prevent the paupers from facing the embarrassment of receiving the chickens which were taken for atonement. [ibid]

[77] Shaar Hakolel 42/2 [p. 97]

[78] The reason: As the main aspect of the Kaparos is the slaughtering. [ibid]

[79] As the giving the chicken to the poor is an additional Minhag that was added to Kaparos. The main minhag of Kaparos is to sweeten the Gevuros through a Kosher Shechita, irrelevant of what is done afterwards. Thus its ruled in Achronim that if the Shechita was Kosher but the bird was a Treifa it is still valid. See Shaar Hakolel 42/2

[80] See Admur 605/6

[81] See Michaber 18:18; Simla Chadasha 19:1; 28:22; Shulchan Gavoa 28:41

[82] P. 97

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