Will you be among the two hundred congregants of the OJC who walk to the stream behind the Tappan Library on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashana to cast away our sins? With bread in our pockets and good intentions in our hearts, we perform the ritual of Tashlich. We recite the words of the prophet Micah: “You will return to us compassionately, overcoming the consequences of our sin, hurling our sins into the depths of the sea.” We throw crumbs into the flowing river, hoping to cast away our sins, and Rabbi Scheff blows the shofar to remind us to “wake up.”
(Every year a family of ducks joins us to eat up all those crumbs. I am convinced that youngsters in our community believe that on the first day of Rosh Hashana we fulfill some commandment to feed the ducks, but that is another story for another blog entry!)
This past week, adult students considered the deeply personal and often difficult work of Heshbon haNefesh, an Accounting of the Soul, in preparation for Rosh haShana which arrives in just one week. Studying a poem about Tashlich, we wondered if it is truly possible to cast off sin, or if that is even a useful metaphor for the change we hope to effect in ourselves.
We cast into the depths of the sea
our sins, and failures, and regrets.
Reflections of our imperfect selves
What can we bear
with what can we bear to part?
We upturn the darkness,
bring what is buried to light.
What hurts still lodge,
what wounds have yet to heal?
We empty our hands,
release the remnants of shame,
let go of fear and despair
that have dug their home in us.
opening heart —
The year flows out,
the year flows in.
The verses of Micah we recite at Tashlich are full of power and terror as we ask God to “hurl our sins into the depths of the sea.” Falk envisions a different path for us into the new year. A wave approaches and then pulls back, there is ebb and flow. Once we do the difficult work of bringing to light all that we have buried, we just release it by opening our hands. In so doing, we open our hearts. In this way, we start anew.
Perhaps the work of Rosh Hashana does not need to be so frightening after all. There is urgency and seriousness, yes. But maybe change is truly a process. We remember to engage with our souls, with community and with God at the new year, but if we don’t get it just right by the end of Yom Kippur, maybe it is okay. We have the next day and the next. If each day is filled with moments for change, any one of those moments is perfectly suited for us to become our best selves. Rosh Hashana is a great reminder of the way we are supposed to live our lives every day of the entire year.
Join us for Tashlich this year, leaving from the OJC on September 25 at 5:30 pm.
Praying for a new year of peace, positive change and good health,
L’shana tova, Rabbi Paula Mack Drill