Casting one’s sins, symbolically, upon the waters is a minor part of the High Holy Days, certainly less important and less spiritually valuable than Rosh HaShanah’s shofar, Yom Kippur’s fasting and both days’ prayer and repentance. Nonetheless, Tashlich is a strong tradition.
Like at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, above, where Jews have gathered for decades, walking from nearby Crown Heights and Borough Park and Flatbush, to throw breadcrumbs into the lake, to read some biblical verses and to mingle.
And under the Brooklyn Bridge.
And at the Thames River in London and the Seine in Paris, also popular Tashlich sites.
And, in Israel, on the Mediterranean shore (Tel Aviv), the City of David’s Shiloah Spring (Jerusalem) and the Bat Ayin Springs (the West Bank between Jerusalem and Hebron).
Tashlich aficionados like to share and compare favorites sites.
The custom, traced back to Rabbi Jacob Molin’s 15th-century Sefer Maharil, has its source in the last three verses of the book of Micah, part of the Tashlich — Hebrew for “casting off” liturgy that is recited during the brief ceremony, usually on the first afternoon of Rosh HaShanah. Tashlich can be done until the end of Sukkot.
“The deeps of the sea saw the genesis of Creation,” wrote Rabbi Moses Isserles (aka the Remah), a commentator on the Shulchan Aruch. “Therefore,” he wrote, “to throw bread into the sea on New Year’s Day, the anniversary of the Creation, is an appropriate tribute to the Creator.”
The last year’s sins are symbolically throw into a body of water, preferably one with fish, but in a pinch the water from a sink’s faucet will do.
In Yemen’s inland Jewish communities, a mikveh would serve as a Tashlich location. In Safed, Jews would stand atop their homes and look at the Sea of Galilee in the distance.
“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and forgiving transgressions to the residue of His heritage?” the prophet Micah asked. “He will again have mercy on us. He will suppress our iniquities; and You will cast our sins into the depths of the sea.”