“So much of what we do during the High Holy Days is verbal, but tashlich is a visceral opportunity to really embody the process of teshuvah (redemption) that this season is about.”
This is how Rabbi Nathan Roller of Burbank Temple Emanu El, embraces the significance of the tashlich (literally “to cast”) ritual, which requires us to cast away our sins by literally tossing representatives of them (usually breadcrumbs) into a body of water.
Officially, tashlich is performed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, but can be done anytime up to and including the last day of Sukkot.
“It’s a really cool jumping off point at the beginning of the High Holy Days season for someone who feels so inspired to get rid of something of themselves they don’t love,” said Heschel Day School Rabbi in Residence Scott Westle.
But tashlich is not law, he added. “It’s a minhag, a custom or a tradition.” The first written mention of it, he said, dates to the early 15th century and the writing of talmudist Yaakov ben Moshe Levi Moelin.
“Tashlich as a ritual is empty if not accompanied by real action, though,” said Westle, “such as speaking with those we know we have wronged and attempting to course correct.”
In Los Angeles, many congregations head to the beach to toss small pieces of bread signifying past missteps into the ocean. For those looking to participate in a tashlich experience, here are a handful of options.
Monday, Sept. 10, 5 p.m.
Lifeguard Station 5, Will Rogers State Beach
“Birdseed is the most environmentally friendly thing to use,” said Rabbi Carrie Vogel, who will have plenty to go around in her customary red apple cookie jar. Vogel asks kids to “think of something you did in the past year or even on the drive over here.” And she encourages everyone to “have a moment on their own. This is a chance to be one individual person and think about your past year and what you want to wash away.”
Monday, Sept. 10, 5 p.m.
Washington Boulevard, south of Santa Monica Pier
Bring a dish to share at Open Temple’s family-friendly seaside potluck. Attendees can participate in contemplative journaling and spiritual calisthenics with chaplain Deborah Schmidt, and fly a kite. (Note: It’s BYOK.) Rabbi Lori Shapiro will encourage the building of sand sculptures of sin, which are left to be washed away by the tide.
Temple Kol Tikvah
Tuesday, Sept. 11, 10 a.m.
A brief outdoor service led by Rabbi Jon Hanish and Cantor Noa Shaashua precedes a walk around the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve in Van Nuys led by temple President Carol Fischer, a trained docent at the reserve. In consideration of the birds and fish, attendees “crumble dry leaves and place them in our pockets in order to cast them out, thereby doing no harm to our world,” Hanish said.
East Side Jews
Saturday, Sept. 15, 6:30 p.m.
Lewis MacAdams, Riverfront Park
East Side Jews — part of the Silverlake Independent JCC — welcomes adults 21 and older. The ticketed happening includes food and wine, storytelling, live music, and a body movement. Rabbi Susan Goldberg will lead a tashlich ritual on the banks of the Los Angeles River. Tickets are $40/person and advance purchase is suggested.
Burbank Temple Emanu El
Sunday, Sept. 16, 9:30 a.m.
Lifeguard Station 12, Will Rogers State Beach
Among the questions Rabbi Nathan Roller will explore is, “What do we need to let go of and what do we need to hold on to?” He’ll lead theater games that embody the things that we want to let go of.