Tishrei 7 5776  – September 20 2015

I lost my credit card last night. Not sure how exactly but it probably has to do with my recurring recent unwise custom to insert it not into my wallet but into the slits in my phone case – made for credit cards and such but somehow not as secure. This has happened once before a few months ago and now, regretfully, trying not to be too mad at myself but own up to my lazy folly and lack of one-more-step-to-maximize-security I have to go again through the cancel and reorder system.

a good housecleaning question is ‘what’s in your wallet’ as a way to explore what we are carrying in these objects that represent so much about our security, sustenance, livelihood. It’s a good exercise for these days of coming clean and restarting – sit with your wallet/s and sort through, throw out, shed, file, make room, respect, thank, and maybe get a new one.

But here are three more related questions:

Do you have the right wallet that respects your needs and enables you to handle money with dignity and safety and perhaps some elegance as well?

Are you handling whatever funds you got well? Could you benefit from assistance or support on how to manage the increasingly complicated banking data – online, offline, on and on? Who do you turn to for help? (I am hereby reaching out for help – would love a personal financial advisor/personal assistant.)

How much of your money do you delegate towards charity to others? Do you have a system? Tithe? random?

Some of us have more and some less, some are struggling to make the rent and some live in luxury. But the questions apply whether you are seated in first class or don’t have enough money to sit in coach.

Dealing with our financial means and needs is part of sacred living.

During these days of preparation for Yom Kippur there are many thousands of Jews, mostly Ultra Orthodox who participate in the practice of Kapparot – waving chickens over their heads while murmuring atonement. Seconds later the chicken is slaughtered, in substitution for the person’s sins. The poor of the community, at least in theory, benefit from the dead fowl.

(A friend of mine who owns a farm in Upstate New York told me that when Ultra Orthodox schools come to visit the kids run to the chicken coops screaming with delight – Kapporos!  It’s the only name they know for live chickens and likely almost the only time they see this creature is when it’s waved over their heads before it dies. )

Kapparot emerged about a thousand years ago as a popular pre kippur repentance custom much to the concern and condemnation of most leading rabbis. Read more the custom and the rising resistance to it here.  But as many folk customs go, primal, pagan, rooted in magic – it persists. Many rabbis have ruled that instead of waving a chicken over your head (rooster for males, chicken for females, two for pregnant women), one should wave a money bill or a check, or, I guess, a money order or a credit card. The formulation is the same – words of regret, remorse, commitment to do better. But instead of a dead chicken you just made a contribution to a charity of choice. 


My father used to do this, rather dryly, with a check book. It does not add up to my best memories of him, mostly because it was done with a shrug and little gusto.  A checkbook is definitely less dramatic than a live chicken, after all, and who does not like drama. I always poo-poo’s this custom but this year I get it. Money is where we often hurt. And on this day we choose to give away a portion of our wealth towards a greater good than ours. It’s about humility, about a good excuse to dig deep into our pockets, and about re-balance of priorities and needs. 

So today, Prepent 36, on the threshold of the day of atonement, I want to spend some time clearing out my wallet, figuring out how to either use it better or replace it so that I make it easier for myself to not lose another card anytime soon, and most importantly, revisit my commitments to where and when and how I practice charity – Tzedaka, the work of kindness and justice.

I may not be waving a check today or during the next two days over my head or the heads of my family members but I do want to make sure that I follow in my father’s footsteps and make a commitment to take life’s gifts seriously and share what little I have with others who could use my help to simply thrive or help make this world better.

Feeling generous? If you’ve enjoyed these free prepents and would like to honor this process with a gift to Lab/Shul – wave that credit card in the air three times and click here, making me and many of us grateful, happier, and able to do more for and with others looking for meaning all year round:  tax-free gift to Lab/Shul

And if you happen to find my credit card (somewhere on the upper west side or in central park) today, please kindly pretend that it’s a ritually designated fowl, wave it in the air and cut it up, in atonement for my foul deeds, and yours, and all our acts of silly indiscretion. Thank you.


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