It is customary on Rosh Hashanah, or later during the Ten Days of Repentance, to perform the ceremony of “Tashlich.” We go to a body of water and symbolically cast off our past sins and failings by throwing bread (or pocket lint!) into the water. We recite Micah 7:19 – “God will have compassion upon us… and You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” The flowing water reminds us to seek a refreshing, new direction in the new year: one of depth, movement, and life.

Tashlich also evokes Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) 11:1 – Shlach lachmecha – “Cast your bread upon the water, and you shall find it after many days.” Or, more colloquially, “What goes around comes around!” At Tashlich, we do not merely divest ourselves of that which is unseemly in our past. We determine to cast our bread… We recognize that what we will get out of our relationships – and our religious tradition – in the year ahead will be commensurate with what we invest of ourselves.

Perhaps the first century Roman poet Ovid, whose work was no doubt known to many of the Sages of Israel, was familiar with this Scriptural wisdom. He taught in a similar spirit: “If you want to be loved, be lovable.” Shlach lachmecha!

(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)

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