Depending how you look at it, the fish off the coast of Israel are the world’s best fed, or the most sin-bearing, this time of year.
On Rosh HaShanah, the start of the Jewish Year, one of the most-observed traditions, next to hearing the shofar and eating a piece of apple dipped in honey, is Tashlich, the symbolic throwing away of one’s sins.
On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh HaShanah — day two if day one is Shabbat — Jews head to the nearest body of water, carrying small pieces of bread that are thrown into the water.
Some people also empty their pockets of crumbs, which represent lingering sins. Some blow the shofar during Tashlich.
The tradition (“tashlich” is Hebrew for “casting off”) is about 500 years old, traced to the prophet Micah, who declared, “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
From that verse developed the religious tradition, especially among Ashkenazic Jews, which has become a social occasion in many communities.
The Tashlich ceremony’s recitation of biblical verses and other meditative words is preferably done at a body of flowing water, one where fish swim. Lacking that, a mikveh or a large bowl or a simple pail of water is acceptable.
The Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge are popular sites here.
In Israel, the Mediterranean is the Tashlich venue of choice. Along the coast, from Nahariya in the north to Ashdod in the south, thousands of Israelis and visitors walk due west, prayer book and bread crumbs in hand.
A woman, above, does Tashlich along the Tel Aviv beach.
In other settings, large crowds come.
It happens every year.
The fish are waiting.