The Rosh Hashanah tradition of tossing bread into water to cast away your sins
By Amy Deutsch
When I was little, my favorite part of the High Holidays (besides the apples dipped in honey, challah dipped in honey, and my fingers dipped in honey) was tashlich. We’d go to a body of water on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah and throw breadcrumbs into it, symbolically washing away all of our sins from the past year. Maybe it was just that I liked being Jewish outdoors, or that it was fun to watch what happened when you threw bread in water (were the ducks going to get it? What happened to my sins if the ducks ate them?), but I really liked this tradition. So much so that I was always the one pushing my family to go.
I think the symbolism of tashlich is something that’s easily translatable for small children. We think about all of the things we’ve done wrong in the past year, and then we throw them away, with a promise to try harder in the next year. It works for the preschool set. They’re constantly trying harder to tie their shoes, reach the shelf, ride a bicycle. Trying harder to be better people is something that they can work on too.
So what if you want to do tashlich but don’t have running water nearby? Or know your child won’t behave well when the rest of the congregants are praying? Here are some easy ways to do your own version of tashlich.
Tashlich #1: The Kiddie Pool
A kiddie pool (or even just a large bowl) filled with water
White copy paper
Have a conversation with your kids about mistakes they’ve made over the past year. Be honest with them about your mistakes too. Have them draw or write their mistakes on the paper with the washable markers. (And you do it too! Setting an example for both positive behavior and making mistakes is an important part of parenting.) Then float the papers in the water and watch your sins disappear.
Tashlich #2: The Art Project
Colored cellophane (blue, ideally)
Markers or crayons
Like in the first project, begin by having a conversation with your kids about mistakes they’ve made over the past year, and being honest about your mistakes too. Next, have them rip a piece of paper into small pieces and write/draw their mistakes on that paper. Next, glue those pieces of paper to a large piece of construction paper. Finally, glue the blue cellophane to the whole piece of paper so that it looks like the mistakes/sins are under water. This might be a good project to put up in your child’s room for a little while—but don’t torture them by leaving it up too long! After all, the point of tashlich is that sins are washed away.
Tashlich #3: Beans
A bag of navy beans (or chickpeas, lima beans, etc.)
A bag of black beans (or other darker beans)
This activity is great for tactile kids who learn best by holding and touching things. Pour one bag of beans into the bowl. Then give your child and you a few beans. Talk about the ways in which you’ve each made mistakes that year. After each mistake, throw a bean into the bowl. At the end, point out how, though you can see your mistakes, they do get overwhelmed by the other beans, and it looks like a clean slate. You can also stir up the bowl so you can’t see the “mistake beans” to illustrate the point even better.
For more on tashlich, check out Kveller's review of the children's book New Year At The Pier.