Tashlich, the ceremony of symbolically tossing one’s sins into a body of water, usually takes place on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, although it can be done until Hoshana Raba which occurs at the end of the festival of Sukkot. The ceremony consists of reciting prayers asking God to treat us with mercy. Some people have the tradition of throwing pieces of bread, representing one’s sins, into the water while others forbid this practice feeling that it is superstitious in nature.
Tashlich in Jewish Texts
The following text is from the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh. Composed in Uzhgorod (c.1844 - c.1864 CE) by Shlomo Ganzfried, the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh is a summary of the Shulhan Arukh of Joseph Karo.The Kitzur states what is permitted and what is forbidden without ambiguity, emphasising the customs of the Jews of Hungary at that time.
Read the description of the tashlich ceremony and answer the questions below.
1. List at least three features of the tashlich ceremony, as described in the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh.
2. The Kitzur Shulhan Arukh mentions several reasons for performing the ceremony in the described way. Explain one of the reasons.
Tashlich in Primary Sources
Below are three primary sources from the National Library of Israel.
Answer the questions following each picture.
- Which elements of the description in the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh can you see in the photograph?
Tashlich ceremony, early 1900’s, National Library of Israel
- Do you think this booklet was used?
- What languages are written on the booklet? Where do you think it was used?
- The text from the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh mentions using a prayer book during the ceremony. Why might someone prefer using this booklet?
Tashlich in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, HaTzofeh, 1962, Jpress - National Library of Israel
Tashlich in the New York Botanic Gardens
New York - Approximately 18,000 Jews participated yesterday in saying the Tashlich prayer at the lakes in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, with the participation of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the leader of the chassidic Chabad movement.
Permission to use the Botanic Gardens for the purpose of saying “Tashlich” was given by its director, Dr. George Avery. It was explained to the authorities that if they were not given permission to use the Botanic Garden, it would be very difficult for the Jews to walk to another public park 1.5 kilometers away.
- How did the tashlich ceremony at the Botanic Gardens differ from the one pictured above on the beach in Tel Aviv?
- What do the locations of all three resources tell you about the prevalence of tashlich?
Tashlich in Oral History
Below are sections of two oral histories, recorded by Centropa, which describe the tashlich ceremony as practiced in Ukraine and Romania.
Read the descriptions and answer the question below.
"For Yom Kippur everyone strictly fasted. Before the Yom Kippur holiday, everyone left town and went to the river, threw in crumbs for the fish and prayed. It’s called tashlich [tashlich – an expression describing the symbolic casting away of sins. Devout Jews gather by a river and recite prescribed passages that speak of God’s willingness to forgive a repentant sinner – Editor’s note]. Because there were a lot of Jews living in the town, they didn’t go to the river all together, but in groups. In every group there would be someone who would lead prayers."
--Nikolai Mesko Salamonovic , Ukraine
"On the second day of Rosh Hashanah you went to a course of water – that was the custom, it was something traditional –, and you shook your pockets clean, you threw in the water everything you had in your pockets – meaning you cast away all the sins you committed during the year, you throw them into the water. People go taslich – meaning we are going there to shake our sins. In the morning, after the religious service was over at the synagogue, the Jews of Dorohoi went to do the taslich by the hundreds. We went at the town outskirts to the Jijia river, to a place they call Trestienii Bridge, and everyone shook their pockets clean there."
--Simon Meer, Romania
- What did you learn about Tashlich from the oral histories?
- Which resource is most similar to the descriptions of Tashlich in the oral histories? What are the similarities?
Wrapping it up!
When tashlich was first developed, some rabbis objected to the ceremony. They were afraid that instead of being introspective and repentant, people would simply throw bread into the water to rid themselves of their sins. What do all of the resources and oral histories tell you about who won that argument?