Tashlich: a Fun, Accessible Ceremony
During the Rosh Hashanah holiday, many synagogues observe a fun outdoor tradition whose origins go back to the Middle Ages. It’s called Tashlich (pronounced tash-leekh), which is the Hebrew word for “casting off / throwing off.”
People gather together at a body of flowing water—often a nearby river—and they bring something to throw in the water (we used to use bread crumbs, but have learned they are not good for the animals). The leader of the ceremony invites everyone to grab a handful of what you’ve chosen to toss (pebbles are an easy one) and imagine that they represent all of our misdeeds over the course of the past year. Then, we’re invited to toss them into the water, symbolically “casting our sins upon the waters.”
Like many of the other symbols and rituals of these holidays, many Jews participate in the ritual without taking the metaphor literally. Often, the person leading Tashlich will offer some words of hope and encouragement to everyone to continue doing the work of Teshuvah—of moral self-examination, of offering apologies when appropriate, of seeking to improve ourselves going forward.
If the weather is good, this is a really fun ritual for young children, and it’s a great opportunity for interfaith families with kids to get a chance to mingle with other families with kids in the community.