The tradition of tossing bread (or something) into a body of living water on Tashlich dates to the 15th century in central and eastern Europe. The custom comes from an interpretation of a verse from the Prophet Micah, “God will take us back in love…[As] you hurl all our sins into the depts of the sea. (Micah 7:19)” Over time, this verse became the source for the custom of Tashlich: casting our sins away for a fresh new year. However, the custom has not always been to toss bread into the water for fish or birds to eat. For instance, the modern Israeli custom is to walk the shore for Tashlich, sometimes with outturned pockets.
This Tashlich do not bring bread.
Today, we know that feeding bread to birds and fish is not healthy for their diet. Like us, bread has little nutritional value, fills them up, and prevents them from eating the appropriate nutrients. That doesn’t mean we should stop Tashlich.
Instead, bring bird seed, fish food, bark from a tree, or pebbles from your home. All these options are safe for wildlife and still allow us to fulfill our centuries old ritual.
The purpose of Tashlich is to symbolically cast away all our mistakes and misdeeds from the last year and begin the new year fresh. Our waterways, fish, and birds already have it tough enough as it is. We don’t want to start the new year by causing harm to something else.
This year, I’m casting away birdseed.
Join Rabbi Spike, Rabbi Rachael, and me at the MJCCA Field 3 (closest to the outdoor pool) and then we’ll walk over to the pond for Tashlich this year!