When I was young, “doing tashlich” meant walking down to the little brook in our front yard and throwing in breadcrumbs. Whether or not that water was actually moving was unclear, but we performed the mitzvah the way we knew how. Over the years, I’ve “cast my wrongs into Wright’s Pond” in Orange, Connecticut, and into White Lake, site of the famous photo from Woodstock, in New York’s Catskill Mountains.
Tashlich itself is based on verses from the prophet Micah (7:18-20), regarding God’s forgiveness of the people, and that God will “tashlich bim’tzulot yam kol chatotam,” “Hurl all of our sins into the depths of the sea.” It wasn’t until the Middle Ages, and very possibly because of superstition, that throwing breadcrumbs or emptying one’s pockets into the ocean came into vogue. And – the rabbis tried to stop the practice – with no luck. It has survived, and because Judaism and Jews adapt to the times and the environment, tashlich can be seen as casting off more than just our “sins.”
Two years ago, I decided to learn to weave and bought a small loom, and a couple of months ago, I decided to learn to play the ukulele so I could accompany myself at services. While I learned a few chords and wove a few things including my new tallit (prayer shawl) bag, the reality is that I don’t have the time or energy for either, and they sat unused, taunting me by their presence, the way chocolate in the cabinet can.
It was time to let go, physically and emotionally, and when I told my good friend Jill that I had returned the uke and sold the loom, she said, “It’s a kind of tashlich.” Wow. I hadn’t looked at it that way, but it is. I felt lighter, and my wallet was a little heavier. A win-win situation.
This year, I cast off the antique spinning wheel that a congregant had given me. I had ideas of restoring her to her former (200 year-old) glory, but finally accepted that I didn’t have the ability or the time and energy to do it. And as the Jewish world is so small, she’ll be lovingly restored by the sister of the musician who performed at our synagogue back in June.
Age brings perspective, and during the days between Rosh Hashsanah and Yom Kippur, we engage in introspection and heshbon hanefesh, taking an accounting of our souls in preparation for being written in the Book of Life for good. While we can and certainly should commit to changing negative habits and improving our actions in the coming year, we can also use this time to cast off things that weigh us down; furniture, mementos, things that might be useful “someday,” or fall under the category of, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Hopefully, these items have served their purpose; they’ve been used and loved, but now they’re taking up valuable space in our homes and hearts. It’s time to thank them and let them go.
As much as possible, may we be blessed to hold on to what serves us well, and fill the empty spaces with blessing.