A Water-Optional Tashlich
When I was young, “doing tashlich” meant walking down to the little brook in our front yard and throwing in bread crumbs. Whether or not that water was actually moving was unclear, but we performed the mitzvah the way we knew how. Over the years, I’ve “cast my wrongs into Wright’s Pond” in Orange, CT and into White Lake, site of the famous photo from Woodstock, in New York’s Catskill Mountains.
Tashlich itself is based on verses from the prophet Micah (7:18-20), regarding God’s forgiveness of the people, and that God will “tashlich bim’tzulot yam kol chatotam,” “Hurl all of our sins into the depths of the sea.” It wasn’t until the Middle Ages, and very possibly because of superstition, that throwing breadcrumbs or emptying one’s pockets into the ocean came into vogue. And the rabbis’ tried to stop the practice with no luck. It has survived, and because Judaism and Jews adapt to the times and the environment, tashlich can be seen as casting off more than just our “sins.”
Last year I decided to learn to weave and bought a small loom, and a couple of months ago, I decided to learn to play the ukulele so I could accompany myself at services. While I learned a few chords and wove a few things including my new tallit (prayer shawl) bag, the reality is that I don’t have the time or energy for either, and they sat unused, taunting me by their presence, the way chocolate in the cabinet can.
It was time to let go, physically and emotionally, and when I told my good friend Jill that I had returned the uke and sold the loom, she said, “It’s a kind of tashlich.” Wow. I hadn’t looked at it that way, but it is. I feel lighter, and my wallet is a little heavier. A win-win situation.
Age brings perspective, and during the days between Rosh Hashsanah and Yom Kippur, we engage in introspection and heshbon hanefesh, taking an accounting of our souls in preparation for being written in the Book of Life for good. While we can and certainly should commit to changing negative habits and improving our actions in the coming year, we can also use this time to cast off things that weigh us down, furniture, mementoes, things that might be useful “someday,” or fall under the category of, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Hopefully, these items have served their purpose; they’ve been used and loved, but now are taking up valuable space in our homes and hearts. Thank them and let them go.
As much as possible, may we be blessed to hold onto what serves us well, and fill the empty spaces with blessing.