Your Letters: Our Gaffes, Chickens As Ritual

Guest host Jacki Lyden reads comments from listeners.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

Time now, for your letters. First, a correction. In our Letters segment two weeks ago, Scott Simon misstated the title of a new novel by author Lorrie Moore. The title is "A Gate at the Stairs."

Last Saturday, Scott gave us a preview of a series of stories by Liane Hansen on Michigan's Upper Peninsula that ran on Sunday. Scott described the Upper Peninsula, known as the U.P., as the thumb in Michigan's glove shape. That drew dozens of letters, like this one from Barbara Schmid of Manchester, Michigan: You must've heard from a thousand Michigan listeners by now. The state of Michigan is made of two mittens. Place your right hand palm facing you with the thumb facing east; that's the Lower Peninsula. The thumb is the part of the Lower Peninsula that's juts into Lake Heron. Now place your left hand palm facing you with the left pinky finger touching the right middle finger and the thumb pointing north; the whole left hand is the Upper Peninsula.

Scott's traveling on assignment this week but he left behind this message: I apologize for misidentifying Michigan's Upper Peninsula as a thumb. As so many listeners inform me, it's more like the hat on a glove, if gloves wore hats. I'm especially embarrassed because as a Chicagoan, I should know better.

Scott's chat last week with NPR's Tom Goldman about the American League pennant race drew some mixed responses from Boston Red Sox fans. Andy Wahl(ph) of Harrison, Maine, wrote: Mr. Goldman commented that the Yanks have dominated the rivalry so much this year. Well, I guess Tom decided to overlook the stat that as of Saturday the Red Sox have won nine out of the 16 games during their matchups with the Yankees this season.

The greatest number of comments on our Web site came in response to a story by NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty on a ritual practiced by some Orthodox Jews that includes waving a chicken three times over one's head.

There were many who shared the view of listener Julie Smyth who wrote: We have freedom of religion in this country. However, that freedom stops when religious practices cause injury or death to living beings. This abuse of chickens is cruel.

Other comments defended the practice. Listener Harry Hudson wrote: We, the Orthodox Jews, are the keepers of the old traditional way of Judaism. We follow the laws and the customs of the Torah and its holy sages all throughout our existence. True that according to Halacha one can use money instead of chickens, but the Shulchan Aruch states that if possible, one should take a chicken and watch it being slaughtered so be reminded that you deserve the same for your sins. There's absolutely nothing cruel about this whatsoever.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: We welcome your comments. Go to the new NPR.org and click on the Contact the Show link or go to the comment section you'll find within each story.

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