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Symbols and Rituals: Tashlich: a Fun, Accessible Ceremony

Tashlich: a Fun, Accessible Ceremony


During the Rosh Hashanah holiday, many 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—and they bring bread crumbs with them in bags. The leader of the ceremony invites everyone to grab a handful of bread crumbs and imagine that the crumbs represent all of our misdeeds over the course of the past year. Then, we’re invited to toss the crumbs into the water, symbolically “casting our sins upon the waters.”

Like many of the other symbols and rituals of these holidays, many Jews 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 with kids to get a chance to mingle with other families with kids in the community. Note: In recent years, some congregations have substituted very small pebbles instead of bread crumbs, out of concern about ill-effects on waterfowl eating the bread we toss into their habitat.

Tashlich: how to


Hebrew for "Head of the Year," the Jewish New Year. With Yom Kippur, known as the High Holy Days. Hebrew for "send off" or "cast away." On the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah it is customary to go to a body of moving water for a ceremony in which we cast off our sins by emptying crumbs from our pockets into the water. (See Micah 7:19.) Hebrew for "return," the way of repenting for sins in Judaism. The term is most associated with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.

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