By Rabbi Alex Freedman.
This year’s Beth El Tashlich will enable us to go down to the beach and actually throw our breadcrumbs into the water. (The last few years, our neighbor’s stairs were covered by high water levels, so we were limited to our backyard, but no longer.) Please join us at shul on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, Sunday, September 17th at 6:00 pm. Those who are up for lots of stairs can go down to the beach, while those who prefer not to can throw from our backyard.
That was the Tachlis, and here’s the Torah. Actually, this ritual is not from the Torah per se, and not even mentioned in the Talmud. But it does quote a verse from the prophet Micah: “He will take us back in love; He will cover up our iniquities. You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (7:19).
The key idea is that we are casting our sins away, so we throw bread crumbs to be carried away by the waters. But Tashlich is not a “magical trick” by any means. There’s no “hocus pocus” involved, and not even a blessing recited. Instead, it’s a physical actualization of a theoretical concept.
The theme of the holiday is Teshuvah, repentance. And all this occurs in our heads. The thoughts of renewal we have, the words of apology we say, the songs we sing – they are all in our minds. But the rabbis were brilliant educators, and they wanted to engage all our senses. So they created a tactile element to this intellectual process. When we throw the bread into the water on Rosh HaShanah, it’s a physical release, which caps off the conceptual release made earlier in the holiday. Tashlich is the finishing touch.