Alright, so now for the trauma, as I have promised. Disclaimer that this is not for the faint of heart. You have been warned.
Today I have performed a number of acts that should pretty much secure me in the Book of Life Category. I properly fasted the Fast of Gedaliah, not even experiencing hunger or thirst at its conclusion. I recited the selichot of aforementioned fast as well as that of the Ten Days of Repentence. I ascended Mount Sinai (the cemetery, not the mountain) to visit the graves of my grandparents, aleyhem ha'shalom, braving the two mile freeway backup (no joke) to get into the cemetery today (I guess people are dying to get in... (joke)) . I went to Lake Balboa and performed Tashlich, throwing my sins in the form of breadcrumbs into the living, albeit man-made waters. I had a chicken swung around my head.
Wait, what was that last one?!
I newly have Persian in-laws and it is considered a method of great mazel to the family to perform the ancient ritual of Kapparot, or as we Yiddishists prefer to refer to it, shluggin kapporus. This is probably the closest thing in modern Judaism to the Holy Temple, quite literally a sacrifice. This is also why I am mildly traumatized. I have never performed the ritual, at least never with a living creature, but always with money that I would then donate to charity. But I decided to tag along and so we went to Ohel Moshe in Pico-Robertson this morning and the Rabbi there elevated a rooster by under its wings (so as to not hurt it) over our heads, reciting a formula to transfer our sins onto the rooster. Something like "Though this rooster goes to its death may these people live long lives free of sin". Following this the guy turns aside, massages the neck of the bird, lulling it into a restful state, and takes a special rectangular knife and severed the juggular vein. This is also the first time I have ever experienced shechita. A messy business but that is the only way to have kosher food. The birds will be given, by the way, to poor families as food, thus killing two birds with one stone (pardon the pun), not only somehow ridding us of our sins, but as tzedekah so poor people can have a proper feast on the eve of Yom Kippur.
I must say, as traumatized as this will probably make me, It is also incredibly humbling. This rooster was put to death so that we could somehow be cleansed of our sins. Kinda makes you want to avoid sin at all costs. I finally have an appreciation for the Hebrew term "Yirat Chet" "Fear of Sin". Short of going to a mikvah (something I have yet to do in my life) and being sprinkled by the ashes of the red heifer (something anyone is yet to do in their life in the past 2000 years), I am squeaky clean as I can get. Still, the rooster may get his revenge in my psyche, a la Aornis Hades in the Thursday Next series. I'm not soon going to forget it...
All the same, I think I'll stick to tzedekah next year.