This Ritual Life

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Casting Away Our Sins (Tashlich)

A story is told: Late in the evening of the second day of Rosh Hashanah, I was walking my dog with a regular dog-walking companion who is not Jewish. He remarked: "Late this afternoon, as I was getting off the West Side Highway, I saw hundreds of people—I think they were Jewish—assembled by the edge of the Hudson River. They were throwing things into the river. Do you know what they were doing?" I laughed, thinking to myself, how would I explain tashlich, the ritual of casting our sins away? But with my laughter came pleasure, for my friend had noticed my community engaged in this most amazing ritual.



On this Day of Judgement, I take account of my life and relationships during the last year. Of some things I am proud, of others disappointed or ashamed. I resolve myself to strengthen and sustain the many mitzvahs I have performed—love in relationships, honesty in business, engagement in the repair of the world. And I resolve myself to cast off the blemishes—those actions or words that I regret. Help me to preserve the good and to cast off the bad. Judge me for life in a year of goodness and blessing.




On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah (the second day, if the first day falls on Shabbat), we go to a body of water and cast away our sins symbolically by reaching into our pockets and throwing out breadcrumbs.

You may choose, before Rosh Hashanah, to write down on slips of paper things you have done or said in the past year that you now regret. On Rosh Hashanah, bring these slips of paper in your pocket and cast them into the water, saying, "In this act, I resolve to cast away, to the best of my ability, my regrets."



(Before casting out your "sins")

May you cast out all the sins of your people Israel into a place where they will not be remembered, nor counted nor ever again be minded.

Blessed be You, who grants me the discernment to distinguish between good and bad.




You shall cast out our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)

Yom Kippur atones only for transgressions between human beings and God. For transgressions between one individual and another, atonement is achieved only by reconciling the person who has been offended. (Mishnah Yoma 8:9)

"Inasmuch as the world is judged in accordance with the majority of its deeds, and the individual is judged in accordance with the majority of his deeds, if he performs one mitzvah, happy is he, for he has tipped his scales and the scales of the world toward merit. If he commits one sin, woe unto him, for he has tipped the scales toward sinfulness for himself and for the world." (Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 40 a-b)

When one forgets the essence of one’s own soul, when one distracts one’s mind from attending to the substantive content of one’s own inner life, everything becomes confused and uncertain. The primary role of penitence, which at once sheds light on the darkened zone, is for one to return to oneself, to the root of one’s soul. Then one will at once return to God, the Soul of all souls. (Avraham Isaac Kook, The Lights of Penitence)


What should we be throwing into the water? Rabbi Dick Israel originated these tongue-in-cheek suggestions:

For ordinary sins, use White bread

For exotic sins—French or Italian bread

For dark sins—Pumpernickle

For complex sins—Multi-grain

For truly warped sins—Pretzels

For sins of Indecision—Waffles

For being ill-tempered—Sourdough

For excessive use of irony—Rye bread

For continual bad jokes—Corn bread

For hardening our heart—Jelly doughnuts


V’tashlich bimtzulot yam kol chatotam

You shall cast out our sins into the depths of the sea

(CLAL Faculty)



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