During the Rosh Hashanah holiday, many individuals and 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, but it can be a lake or even the ocean—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 and now opt for something natural, like pebbles or leaves). The leader of the ceremony invites everyone to grab a handful of what you’ve chosen to toss and imagine that they represent all of our misdeeds over the course of the past year. Then we toss them into the water, symbolically “casting our sins upon the waters.”
Like many of the other symbols and rituals of these holidays, many people 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 to get a chance to mingle with other families with kids in the community. You can also find alternative ways of doing this ritual here and another idea for doing tashlich using chalk if you can’t get to a body of water.
The following cards that explain this ritual can be printed and shared. You can download a print-ready PDF version here, and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like a larger file for print distribution.
Return to the Guide to the High Holy Days or view as a PDF.