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Isn't it naive to believe we can throw away our sins in the water?

by Rabbi Baruch Emanuel Erdstein


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


The traditional Tashlich ceremony, in which we go to a body of water and beseech G-d to forgive us for our transgressions, is based on a verse from Prophets: “He will again have compassion upon us; He will suppress our iniquities. And You will cast all their sins in the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). The concept of sin manifests itself in the spiritual reality; hence, the “sea” referred to in the verse above hardly refers to waters of the physical world. How can we literally cast a spiritual quality into a material entity?

When “the sea,” or any water, is considered metaphorically to epitomize the power to nullify beyond retrieval, as well as purify, we can understand the Tashlich ceremony to be a sort of meditative aid in our process of genuine repentance. We wish to truly leave behind all of our past transgressions and personal faults, emerging cleansed in a state of renewal – and Tashlich is a dramatic way of emphasizing such aspirations.

In addition, every action which we perform in this physical world has a spiritual counterpart in the Higher Worlds. By performing certain actions with the proper concentration, we actually do affect the higher, spiritual reality; this is one of the basic reasons in Jewish mystical tradition for the performance of all mitzvahs. This Rosh Hashanah, may we merit to approach the life-giving source of all divine beneficence, our spiritual “stains” washed away.

[Ed. note: Also read "What is Tashlich?"]


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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.
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.