By Meir Yedidya
The sounds and smells confirm our destination is nearby. As we turn the corner, I instantly clutch their hands as we’re greeted by the annual jovial scene: crowds mill about, chickens swing, children duck and squeal from the chickens’ excrement in a mix of frightful delight, and collectors schnorr Tzedaka for their respective Institutions.
My kids love the chickens, and excitedly pet them through the crates as we make our way towards the buying station. There seems to be traffic, a small commotion up ahead. That’s when I remembered.
There they there, a group of about a dozen or so, holding signs – one was scribbled simply with “Don’t Murder” – generally proclaiming my lack of compassion, and more astonishing, my ignorance of Judaism.
I notice one particularly devoted young man engrossed in deep discussion with a protestor. Disregarding my better judgment, and forgetting that I have two little ones in tow, I stop for a moment to listen.
Sometimes the most obvious and inconspicuous observations are only realized when we are forced to respond to the simplest of questions, which forces us to pause and think. And that’s when it happened.
“Tatty, how come we kill chickens?”
That was my 7-year-old, and he looked concerned. I was dumbfounded.
I thought of telling him about how Hashem created the world for a purpose, with four levels of matter, the inanimate, growth-plants, living-animal, and speakers-humans, each fulfilling its ultimate mission of existence by being consumed by the life form higher than itself.
That a chicken used for Kaporas that is subsequently delivered to the poor all while providing guidance for a Yid to do Teshuva is in a far superior place than if it would have been left for dead in any other condition.
That it’s for the CHICKEN, not our, benefit that we ought to consume as many chickens as possible for the Mitzva of Kaporas (after all, preparation for the Mitzva of Teshuva is a Mitzva as well, and so is Kaporas).
Alternatively, perhaps I should equip him from a completely secular perspective, I’d adopt a teleological view of the world, where all matter should be utilized for its purpose which is how it can provide maximum benefit. Chickens are meant to be eaten because that’s how the most benefit is derived from them, and therefore, they achieve their own fulfillment and reach their full potential when they are eaten by us, especially for such a lofty purpose as giving to the poor, and aiding ourselves in our paths to repentance and introspection. There is nothing more worthy for a chicken then to be used for Kaporas.
Or, maybe, I should just tell it like it is: the protesters are a complete sideshow – we are eating the same amount of chickens anyway, they only want to make a show to achieve moral superiority, and feel good about themselves; that they don’t have large families that can give them the industriousness and personal satisfaction that Yiddishkait takes for granted, and so they are bored and forced to look for something, anything, to fill their days…
But the more I looked at the handful of protesters – mostly Jews, mostly quoting Jewish sources, the more I realized, this isn’t about chickens. No, it never was about chickens.
So I told him this:
Throughout the generations, Jew haters and Jews who are ashamed and embarrassed by their own religion – often times those are one and the same–have attempted to modify and ‘modernize’ Yiddishkait to better fit with the zeitgeist of the era and to appear enlightened to the masses; they didn’t want to abandon Yiddishkait, only to make it more palatable to themselves, and thereby solve their inner conflict.
Why are some Jews conflicted, Zeeskait? It’s the effect of the typical Jewish inferiority complex –an inner whisper that makes some Yidden hide in shame from anything deemed “controversial” by those who aren’t lucky enough to be part of the chosen people, instead of standing tall as a beacon of sanity, and teaching other’s what the most moral nation ever on the face of the earth has to offer.
Ultimately, then, they want to reform Yiddishkait, not save chickens.
Make no mistake: this is nothing new. From the Misyavnim to the Yevsektsia, from Johannes Pfefferkorn to Moses Mendelssohn, and every other movement imaginable placing us in their crosshairs, we are still here despite all predictions to the contrary. This is just another bump in the road, my Yingaleh, and we come prepared.
I know that sounds very grown up, and perhaps I should’ve left him with the mundane “because on Erev Yom Kippur we want to remind ourselves how easy life comes and goes, and this will awaken us from our slumber to do Teshuva”, but in today’s day and age, perhaps I won’t have another chance to tell him that.
Perhaps his little mind is already racing with the nonsense fed to him by culture and society. It’s never too early to educate with the proper perspective, and preempt the outside influences that are more and more accessible at a younger and younger age.
Worry not, one day I want him to know all the answers and confidently fend for himself from each possible attack, if not for others, then for himself. But with so many of our customs under attack and before the courts, like Bris Milah, Kaporas, Gittin, Jewish Education, and many others surely to follow, we must be clear about what this is, dig in and not beat around the bush. Its time we recognized things for what they are.
Its time we called their bluff.