Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tashlich: cast your sins into the depths of the sea

We have a nice little ceremony on Rosh Hashanah in which we place our sins on pieces of bread and cast them on the waters of the Litttle Harpeth River, sending them away forever. I imagine the ducks eat them, but they don't cause indigestion or infect the ducks with bad behavior. Maybe they even nourish the ducks. Nice, when even your sins can do some good. Nothing is ever wasted. Perfect "green" living.

I can hear God laughing at this idea -- if God laughs in any way we can recognize at all, though I know God has a fantastic sense of humor. (If you don't believe me, just look in the mirror.) Since God is without form, laughing may appear as something else again. Maybe God's laughter manifests in hilarious ways we don't readily recognize, like showing up as the man I saw in the middle of our street today who was walking along pushing a working gas lawnmower. He had it running, mowing the paved and grass-less street. The engine stopped and he jerked it intently back to life, turning left up Kline, still mowing away. Maybe the manifestation of God's laughter is showing us something totally silly so we'll do the laughing out loud. Once I saw a man on little short skis with tiny red wheels pushing himself along a path in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco with ski poles. That was hilariously incongruous. Like the lawnmower guy, he looked totally serious and completely absorbed in his activity. That made it even funnier.

Tashlich dates back at least six centuries and is based on verses from Micah (7:18-20). Our synagogue is called Congregation Micah, so it's very appropriate for us to trudge down to the Little Harpeth and cast our bread upon the waters. In New York, I hear they throw their sins off the Brooklyn Bridge! If you don't have a river or an ocean, you can also use a mikvah. I think that would be a hot mess. I'd hate to be the one to have to clean up a mikvah full of last year's sins.

photo credit: Leigh Anne Embry Marchesi

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