As a follow up to my last post and being it's only a few days after Yom Kippur I'd like to bring another pertinent example regarding being machmir and meikel at the same time. That example is the time-honoured pre-Day of Atonement ritual called kapparos.
A detailed description of the ritual and some of its history can be found here and here. It's important to note that many major authorities opposed the ritual as it was performed while others wholeheartedly supported it. It's also noteworthy that the ritual can be performed with money but even if one uses a chicken one is supposed to be an humane as possible.
That's what makes the modern incarnation of the ritual so problematic. It's one thing to gently take a chicken by its body and wave it over one's head three times. It's another to yank it around by its wings or legs, definitely causing the chicken pain and distress and also possibly fracturing its bones. Of course this is above and beyond all the reported cases of inhame transporting conditions that wind up killing the birds en route to their holy destinations.
This is all part of something I've written about recently - the obsession with ritual to the exclusion of all other considerations even if it means transgressing actual mitzvos. After all, tza'ar ba'alei chayim is a mitzvah d'oraisa while kapparos is, at best, an establishing custom which isn't even truly obligatory. Really, does anyone believe that the Master of the Universe will refuse to forgive one's sins if one takes the chicken straight to the dinner table? Yet ask anyone who performs the ritual to forgo the bird and use money and they look at you as if you had just told them to skip Yom Kippur altogether.
This is troubling for me as well because it exemplifies the extent to which the mystical part of Judaism, something which should be reserved for the highest level learners and practitioners of halacha, has seeped into common every day Judaism without bringing along the requisite safeguards it should have.
In short, we would be made to believe that there is an irreplacable spiritual outcome to performing kapparos while no good explanation is offered as to how that happens when active transgressing might be obviously accompanying it.
As I noted in the last post, one must sometimes evaluate halachic actions like one evaluates a difficult chess move. Note the obvious, immediately outcome but also sit back and consider all future possibilities, positive and negative. Which outweighs which?