Two Cheers for Pain

Reaching for the Aspirin bottle is not the only option.

  1. #1 by Norm Pressman on September 11, 2009 - 7:20 am


    Your column essentially about faith based alternatives to Aspirn reminded me about kapporot which appears to be a tradition with no roots in the oral law or Torah (I’m sure you will correct me if I’m wrong). I know some more modern orthodox Jews use money instead of chickens but either way can you tell me how any rational person could believe that swinging a live chicken or cash around his or her head transfers sin to the money or chicken? Finally to do you teach Kapporot to your students at Block?

  2. #2 by torahideals on September 11, 2009 - 1:12 pm

    Poor Mr. Pressman. If only he would pay attention to what he’s reading before he makes up his mind that it’s wrong, he might actually afford himself the opportunity to learn something.

    In my article I wrote: “Our first response should always be to seek medical treatment for what ails us. However, if we believe that medicine alone will provide relief from our suffering, then even if pills or surgery do cure a particular condition, the unaddressed spiritual root will remain, eventually manifesting itself as some other kind of problem.”

    Clearly, I am not advocating meditation as an alternative to conventional medicine.

    Then there is Mr. Pressman’s (largely unrelated) question concerning kapparos. Not a question at all, as usual, but an attack on Jewish tradition and practice.

    Judaism relies heavily on symbolism. On the eve of the Day of Atonement — which we believe to be the holiest day of the year — when our judgment for the coming year is sealed based on our good and bad deeds of the previous year, we try to impress upon ourselves the seriousness of the moment.

    Everything in this world has a purpose. By swinging a chicken over our heads, we remind ourselves that human beings are capable of sinking to the level of a lowly bird if we do not spur ourselves on and rise to the level of divinity.

    Traditionally, the chickens are slaughtered and distributed among the poor. This serves the dual purpose of increasing our merits through the giving of charity and of reminding us that when a man acts in a way that makes him little better than a chicken, his failure to recognize his purpose in the world renders him spiritually, if not physically, dead.

    Torah Judaism rejects the kind of shallowness and superficiality that would lead a person to believe that waving a chicken over his head will absolve him of his sins. The only person more shallow is the one who mocks the practice before he makes an effort to find out what it really means.

  3. #3 by Norm Pressman on September 11, 2009 - 1:50 pm

    Thank you for your answer. So you do swing a chicken around your head on Yom Kippur and teach your students that this is one of the requirements of being a good Jew correct? Why not use a rubber chicken-That’s what I do. Its less painful to the chicken and has about the same effect as using a live one. When I did it at the Kotel last year alot of the rabbis were impressed.

  4. #4 by Steven Edward Aanes on October 5, 2009 - 5:55 am

    A rubber chicken?

    Oy vey.

    I guess that is one way to have blessings bounce away from you.


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