OK so there’s a tradition in Judaism whereby before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Jews go to a butcher, wave a chicken above their heads, and then ritually slaughter the chicken. Said chicken can then be donated to a poor person or brought home and eaten. The origins of this tradition, called Kaparot, are a little murky and not every Jew does it, but it is a certainly well entrenched tradition in many circles. In this video, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein of Jewlicious Festival and Pico Shul fame, explains his issues with the Kapparot industry and suggests that we do Kapparot over money which we then donate to charity. This is a perfectly legitimate and rabbinically sanctioned alternative. You can watch the video to get the whole spiel or read his post on Jewlicious.
And no. There’s no choking involved. Get the hell outta here!
UPDATE: Rabbi Yonah decided to take down the video as a result of pressure by Kaparot fanatics who believe that the the “mitzvah” of Kaparot trumps the need to prevent Ts’aar ba’alei chayim – cruelty to animals. IWe’ll leave this post up in the hope that Rabbi Yonah one day reconsiders and puts the video back up.