Who is a G-d like you,
And sending away evil?
G-d will take us back in love;
You will cover up our wrongs,
You will hurl all our sins
Into the deep of the sea.
Forever, G-d, your word stands firm in heaven.
Thoughts on Tashlikh
We have been asleep.
We have not noticed each other. We have not appreciated ourselves.
Now it is time to wake up. We don't have a choice. The Shofar has already wakened us up.
We are now at the river. I want you to consider this: this river also does not let us sleep. Soon we will be casting pieces ripped from larger things into the water. If we remain still, if we remain looking in one direction, at where each ripped piece has fallen, we will very soon lose sight of our cast piece. In order to follow the progress of our castaway sins we have to be awake. It requires dilegence. The action does not stop with the toss of the arm. If we sleep, time will pass us by.
Here are some images for you to think of as you follow the progress of your piece of bread, your leaf, your lint, your scrap of paper, or your tears down the river:
- This river is diluting our sins. God will take us back.
- There is an inescapable connection between this river and each of us. We are made of it. Life is made of it. We can not ignore this river.
Each of us has chosen some artifact to represent our sins that we want to cast aside. Take a moment and descend into all of the metphors you can attach to that object. Maybe you are holding a leaf that has fallen is concert with the changing seasons. What does it mean to say goodbye to the signs of summer and abundant life? Maybe you are leaving behind the traditional breadcrumb. What does it mean to say goodbye to one of the most basic sources of nurishment?
Or maybe you can't see what is in your hands because your fists are clenched too tightly. Now is the time to let go. Now is the time to slowly unclench those fists. Perhaps this is about trust. Think of a climber who, in order to get to the next handhold, must first let go of a tightly clenched and secure hold. What secure places of rest are you letting go of in order to go on with your life?
I want you to think again about this artifact as it leaves your hand. Some of us may be letting go of a safe place. But perhaps some of us have clenched our fists so tightly because we did not want to lose control over something in our lives. Perhaps the purpose of this week we are blessed with, is to also understand that which we can not control. Just as we have no control over what happens to the crumb of bread floating on the river, so to do we not have control over so much in our life. Let this be a reminder that this is normal and can also be beautiful. When we relinquish our hold on our sins, on our embarrasments, on our regrets, we are also letting go of a kind of indulgent control.
When I first went over this little reflection, merely to proofread it, I noticed something disturbing. My language was bloated with "yous": "You will think about", "You should notice." What was I thinking? This holiday, like so many other Jewish traditions is about community. We are not here to accuse. We are not here to single-out or to blame. During services we declared outload that, "we have sinned, we have lied, we have cheated." And now, we have come to the river together.
I changed all the "yous" to "wes." Thank you for coming with me. Thank you for being my community.
And I leave you with a thought that my mom related to me last night. This week is hard work and in the coming year it will be impossibly hard to hold to all of our resolutions. Remember, the High Holidays are already on the calendar for next year!
Happy New Year! L' Shana Tovah!
- Daniel C. Robbins