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What is Tashlich?

by Mrs. Dinka Kumer


Library » Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » Laws and Customs | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Tashlich comes from the Hebrew word meaning ‘to cast,’ referring to the intent to (symbolically) cast away our sins via this meaningful and ancient Jewish custom common to both Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities.

Tashlich is usually performed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.1

The custom consists of reciting select verses next to a body of water, such as a sea, river, stream, lake or pond, preferably one that has fish (though when no such body of water was available, some Rabbis were known to do Tashlich next to a well, even one that dried up)2. Upon concluding the verses, the corners of one’s clothes are shaken out; for males, this is usually done with the corners of the Tallit katan (Tzitzit garment). For a link to the Tashlich prayers, click here.

Though Tashlich is not mentioned in the Talmud, its earliest reference appears to be in the book of the Prophet Nehemiah which states3, “All the Jews gathered as one in the street that is in front of the gate of water.” This gathering is known to have taken place on Rosh Hashanah.

Its earliest reference appears to be in the book of the Prophet Nehemiah which states, "All the Jews gathered as one in the street that is in front of the gate of water."
Many reasons are given for this custom:

- It is an allusion to the words of the Prophet4 "and You shall cast into the depths of the sea all their sins."

– Another reason for saying Tashlich next to a river is because Rosh Hashanah is the day when we coronate G-d as King of the Universe. Jewish kings are anointed next to rivers, and so it is appropriate that we crown G-d as our King next to a river, as well.

– Going to a river bank or sea shore is also awe inspiring as we contemplate G-d’s mercy in preventing the waters from flooding the dry land. The realization of G-d’s omnipotence inspires us to repent.

– Jewish mysticism teaches that water corresponds to the attribute of kindness. On Rosh Hashanah, we beseech G-d to treat us with kindness during the new year.

– Water with fish is optimal since fish are not subject to the “evil eye” and are also known to have many offspring. Fish do not have eyelids, so their eyes are always open. This is likened to G-d’s constant supervision over us, and we pray that He mercifully care for us. Also, just as fish may be caught in a fisherman’s net, so, too, we are caught in the net of judgment. This awareness helps awaken us to repent.


  • 1. If the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, Tashlich is done on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. It may be performed up until Hoshanah Rabba, as some communities are anyway accustomed, except on Shabbat.
  • 2. With no other option available, it may be allowed to recite Tashlich next to an (empty) sink at home or in the synagogue. Nitei Gavriel, Hilchot Rosh Hashanah, ch. 69, par. 6 & 7.
  • 3. Nehemiah 8:1
  • 4. Michah 7:19


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Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
(pl. Ashkenazim). A Jew of Northern or Eastern European ancestry.
(pl.) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries. (singular: Sephardi).
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
A prayer shawl. A large four-cornered woolen garment with fringes attached to its corners in a specific manner. This garment is worn by males during the morning prayers, fulfilling the Biblical obligation of attaching fringes to four-cornered garments.
Literally: the fringes which are attached to four cornered garments, as Biblically mandated. Normally this word refers to a t-shirt sized four cornered garment which contains such fringes, and is usually worn beneath the shirt.
1. A Jewish leader who lived in the 4th century BCE. He, together with Ezra, supervised the rebuilding of the Jerusalem city walls and the 2nd Temple, and instituted religious reforms in the city. 2. Commonly accepted to be one of the books of the Bible. In Jewish tradition, however, the "Book of Nehemiah" is actually considered part of the Book of Ezra.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
A ceremony traditionally performed on Rosh Hashanah, wherein a live body of water is visited. Special prayers recited, and our sins are "cast" into the waters.