Tashlikh (also: Tashlich or Tashlik) - Tashlikh, Tashlich, or Tashlik literally means "thou shalt cast" in Hebrew; also, Tashlikh, Tashlich, or Tashlik means the "tossing" in Hebrew (lower case lettering "tashlikh" or "tashlich" or "tashlik" which means "will toss" in Hebrew). The Rosh Hashanah custom of performing Tashlikh or Tashlich means that we conduct the symbolic ritual of "tossing" our sins into running water. With exceptions, Tashlikh or Tashlich is performed after Rosh Hashanah Minchah services in the afternoon and before sunset on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, however, if the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat (the "Sabbath" in Hebrew), Ashkenazim (Jews of Central, Northwestern, and/or Eastern European descent) will perform Tashlikh or Tashlich in the afternoon on the second day of Rosh Hashanah so as to avoid carrying prayer books to the water, which would violate the Sabbath Laws. In contrast, Sephardim (Jews of Spanish and/or Portuguese descent) as well as a number of Liberal Jews will still perform Tashlikh or Tashlich even on the Sabbath. In fact, Tashlikh or Tashlich can be performed at any time during the holiday season through Hoshanah Rabbah, which occurs at the end of Sukkot. The origin of performing Tashlikh or Tashlich as well as the word Tashlikh, Tashlich, or Tashlik itself is traditionally connected to the biblical verse from the prophet Micah (Micah 7:19), where he says: "He (G-d) will take us back in love; He (G-d) will cover up our iniquities. You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea". Specifically, the core of the Tashlich ceremony is the recitation of Micah 7:18-20. The practice of the Tashlich custom on Rosh Hashanah, however, was not mentioned in either Talmudic times or Geonic times or even by any Sages; in fact, the custom of Tashlich, Tashlikh, or Tashlik did not develop until about the 13th century, but became widespread once it became known. The first mention of the Tashlich, Tashlikh, or Tashlik custom came in the "Sefer Maharil", a Jewish scholarly work by Jacob Moellin [Hebrew name: Yaakov ben Moshe Levi Moelin, circa 1365 - 1427; he was a Talmudist and posek (a Hebrew term meaning an authority on Jewish law, and was of German-Jewish origin)]. Sephardic Jews (Jews whose ancestors came from Spain and/or Portugal) have been practising the Tashlikh, Tashlich, or Tashlik custom since the time of Rabbi Iasaac Luria (1534 - 1572; born in Jerusalem, Israel, died in Safed, Israel, he was a Jewish scholar and mystic). How is the practice of Tashlich performed? Jewish people go to a body of water, pockets "containing one's sins" are symbolically emptied and then one's sins are symbolically cast into the water. Some people have the Rosh Hashanah custom to actually toss something into the water that represents their sins, usually either bread crumbs or stones and even "shake off" any possible "evil" that might be clinging to their garments. Rabbinic tradition stated that it was preferable to go to a body of water containing fish, since "man cannot escape G-d's judgement any more than fish can escape being caught in a net; we are just as likely to be ensnared and trapped at any moment as is a fish". Another rabbinic interpretation that also prefers a body of water containing fish to perform Tashlich states that "the fish's dependence on water symbolizes the Jews' dependence on G-d, as a fish's eyes never close, G-d's watchful eyes never cease". However, since Tashlikh or Tashlich or Tashlik is merely a symbolic ceremony, any body of water will suffice, even if it is water that runs from a hose or from a water faucet.
The Jewish people of Kurdistan (an area located in present-day northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, western and southwestern Iran, and eastern, northeastern and southeastern Turkey) take the Rosh Hashanah custom of Tashlikh one step further and actually jump into a body of water to cleanse themselves of their sins.
Although the Tashlich custom and its various methods of expression spread rapidly among Jewish people, the Rabbis saw the Tashlich custom of "tossing" one's sins into water as a superstition and feared that it might replace the more soul-searching and hence life-changing practice of "Teshuvah" or "returning" from one's sins that is performed for the entire month before Rosh Hashanah, during Rosh Hashanah, and for 8 days after Rosh Hashanah until the end of Yom Kippur on the 8th day after Rosh Hashanah (for those who celebrate Rosh Hashanah for 2 days; Reform Jews and Reconstructionist Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah for 1 day and so for them, Yom Kippur is 9 days after Rosh Hashanah). To give the Tashlikh custom symbolic meaning, they used a Midrash, meaning in this context an interpretation of Scripture, to connect the water with the event in the biblical Book of Genesis that depicts Abraham's binding and intnded sacrifice of his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). This event is known as the "Akedah" or "Akeda" in Hebrew (Akedah means "to bind" or "the binding"), and represents a symbol of self-sacrifice for the purpose of being obedient to G-d. In this midrash, Satan, who is understood to refer to a voice inside Abraham's head, tries to stop Abraham from sacrificing his son by telling Abraham not to sacrifice his son, Isaac, which went against G-d's wishes for Abraham to sacrifice his son. When Abraham refused to obey Satan, Satan became a raging river that blocked Abraham's path. Nevertheless, Abraham proceeded to go into the raging river. With the water rising to reach his neck, Abraham then called out to G-d to rescue him, and G-d promptly forced the water to recede. In fact, to give the rabbis' interpretation more force, the passage from the Book of Genesis that describes the "Akedah" is read in the synagogue on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.
Why "cast" or "toss" one's sins into water? Water in rabbinic thought was viewed as a symbol of the creation of the world and of all life. Water was also viewed as an element which when used, resulted in achieving purity of oneself, an opportunity to cleanse one's body and soul of past transgressions in order to begin a new path in one's life. Water was also suggestive of continuity and of being a place to find G-ds' presence, since there were some events in the Hebrew Bible where revelations were received near a body of water.
What are other Tashlich customs that some Jewish communities practice? Songs are selected from the Book of Psalms, particularly Psalm 118 and Psalm 130; Psalm 24 and Psalm 81 are also selected by specific Jewish communities since their themes relate to Rosh Hashanah; "Selihot" or "Selichot" ("supplications" in Hebrew are also recited, which are prayers to G-d that request the pardoning of oneself for past transgressions during the year), along with a Kabbalistic (Jewish mystical) prayer that expresses the hope G-d will treat the people of Israel with mercy. In Chassidic custom, it is customary to recite three Psalms a day, consecutively, starting from the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, and continuing until the day before Yom Kippur, whereupon the remaining 36 Psalms are recited on Yom Kippur which completes the recitation of the entire Book of Psalms. Chassidic custom also adds Psalm 27 starting from the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul up to and including Hoshana Rabba (or Hoshanah Rabbah).
What if the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on the Sabbath or Shabbat ?
If the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on the Sabbath or Shabbat, that is, on a Friday evening, then the Tashlik ceremony is not performed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah; rather, the Tashlik ceremony is performed on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.
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