Erev Yom Kippur
In the early morning hours of the day preceding Yom Kippur, the Kaparot (“Atonement”) ceremony is performed. We take a live chicken (a rooster for a male and a hen for a female) and, circling it three times above our heads, we declare: “This is my replacement, this is my exchange, this is my atonement; this fowl shall go to its death, and I shall go to a long, good and peaceful life.” The fowl is then slaughtered in accordance with halachic procedure, at which time we contemplate that this is a fate we ourselves would deserve, G-d forbid, for our failings and iniquities. The value of the fowl is given to the poor, and its meat eaten in the Yom Kippur meal; some give the fowl itself to the poor. (A alternate custom is to perform the rite only with money, reciting the prescribed verses and giving the money to charity. Kaparot can also be performed in the preceding days, during the “Ten Days of Repentance”).
Links: All About Kaparot; a Chassidic story; What Give us the Right to Kill Animals?
Tachnun (confession of sins) and similar prayers are omitted.
The day before Yom Kippur is a Yom Tov, a festive day; for although we stand prepared to be judged in the supernal courtroom for our deeds of the passed year, we are confident that G-d is a merciful judge, and will decree a year of life, health and prosperity for us. Two festive meals are eaten — one at midday and the other before the fast, which begins at sunset. The Talmud states that “Whoever eats and drinks on the 9th [of Tishrei], it is regarded as if he had fasted on both the 9th and the 10th.”
In many communities it is customary to eat kreplach on the day before Yom Kippur. Kreplach are small squares of rolled pasta dough filled with ground meat and folded into triangles. They can be boiled and served in soup or fried and served as a side dish. The meat symbolizes severity, the dough is an allusion to kindness. In preparation for the Day of Judgment we “cover” the severity with kindness. (Click here for a recipe.)
Links: Eating Before Yom Kippur; Reverse Biology; Food: an Anthology
Both men and women immerse in a mikveh (ritual pool) to attain an extra measure of sanctity before the holy day.
It is customary to ask for and receive lekach (sweet cake — signifying a sweet year) from someone (usually one’s mentor or parent) on this day. One of the reasons given for this custom is that if it had been decreed, G-d forbid, that during the year we should need to resort to a handout from others, the decree should be satisfied with this asking for food. The Lubavitcher Rebbe adds a deeper insight: “asking for lekach” on the eve of Yom Kippur instills in us the recognition that all the sustenance we receive throughout the year, including that which we supposedly “earn” by our own powers and endeavors, is in truth a gift from Above, granted in response to our daily requests from “He who nourishes the entire world with in His goodness, with grace, with benevolence and with(…)
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Text of Kapparot
At dawn or early in the morning before Yom Kippur, take a live chicken, fish or money which will then be given to charity and recite the following three times. Recite the first paragraph, pass it over your head three times and then recite the paragraph again, etc.
Children of man who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, bound in misery and chains of iron — He will bring them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and will sunder their bonds. Foolish sinners, afflicted because of their sinful ways and their wrongdoings; their soul loathes all food and they reach the gates of death — they cry out to the Lord in their distress; He saves them from their afflictions. He sends forth His word and heals them; He delivers them from their graves. Let them thank the Lord for His kindness, and [proclaim] His wonders to the children of man. If there be for a man [even] one interceding angel out of a thousand [accusers], to speak of his uprightness in his behalf, then He will be gracious to him and say: Redeem him from going down to the grave; I have found expiation [for him].
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Al amanecer o temprano en la mañana antes de Iom Kipur, tome un pollo, pescado vivo o dinero , que luego se donará a la caridad y recitará las siguientes tres veces. Recita el primer párrafo, pásalo por encima de tu cabeza tres veces y luego recita el párrafo otra vez, etc
Hijos del hombre que se sientan en las tinieblas y en la sombra de la muerte, atados en la miseria y las cadenas de hierro. Él los sacará de las tinieblas y la sombra de la muerte, y romperá sus cadenas. Pecadores necios, afligidos por sus caminos pecaminosos y sus malas acciones; su alma detesta todo alimento y alcanzan las puertas de la muerte; claman al Señor en su angustia; Él los salva de sus aflicciones. Él envía Su palabra y los sana; Él los devuelve de sus tumbas. Dejen que agradezcan al Señor por su bondad y [proclamen] sus maravillas a los hijos de los hombres. Si hay un hombre [incluso] un ángel intercediendo de entre mil [acusadores], para hablar de su rectitud en su favor, entonces Él será misericordioso con él y le dirá: “Redégale para que no baje al sepulcro”; He encontrado la expiación [para él].
When reciting the first twelve words below, pass the chicken, fish or money over your head three times.
This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my expiation. This chicken shall go to death and I shall proceed to a good, long life and peace.
Cuando recite las primeras doce palabras a continuación, pase el pollo, el pescado o el dinero por encima de su cabeza tres veces.
Este es mi intercambio, este es mi sustituto, esta es mi expiación. Esta gallina irá a la muerte y procederé a una buena, larga vida y paz.