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October 03, 1986 - Image 172

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-10-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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172

Friday, October 3, 1986

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

NEWS

Tashlich: Casting Sin Into Deep Waters

CAROL GREEN

Special to The Jewish News

T

oward late afternoon
on the first day of the
new year, Jews cus-
tomarily gather alongside the
banks of a river, ocean or
other body of water to utter
praises to God and "cast all
their sins into the depths of
the sea" (Micah 7:19). This
ceremony, known as
Tashlich, from the Hebrew
"to cast," is performed by ob-
servant Jews all over the
world. Jews can be spotted
casting breadcrumbs, sym-
bolic of their sins, along the
shores of the Atlantic, Pacific
and Mediterranean seas, at
the Sea of Galilee and in
landlocked Jerusalem at the
Shiloah or Silwan tunnel,
through which the Gihon
spring flows.
The origins of this symbolic
ritual remain a mystery. It is
not mentioned in either the
Torah or the Talmud, or by
the early rabbinic
authorities. The earliest
reference is found in the writ-
ings of the 15th century
German sage Rabbi Jacob
Moellin in the Sefer Mahar-
vil, but though he acknowl-
edges the existence of the
practice he doesn't explain
how and why it developed.
Several commentators. link
the idea of going to a body of
water on the new year to a
legend about our father Ab-
raham. According to the
legend, after God ordered Ab-
raham to sacrifice Isaac,
Satan came to God claiming,
"This is too much. I can't be-
lieve that your servant Ab-
raham will bring his only son
— the son he has waited for
his entire life — to the
slaughter." So confident was
the Almighty in Abraham
that He made a bet with Sa-
tan. The legend explains that
God allowed Satan to do ev-
erything in his power to
tempt Abraham and divert
him from his path.
To frighten Abraham,
Satan disguised himself as a
mighty river. When the aged
patriarch and his son saw the
river they were puzzled. "I
have passed this place many
times before and never have I
seen this river," said Ab-
raham. Determined to reach
his destination — Mount
Moriah, the hill designated
for the sacrifice — Abraham
and his son waded into the
river. Soon the water reached
their necks. Abraham called
out to God asking Him for
the strength and clarity to
help him do His will. When
Satan saw this, he caused the
waters to recede, allowing
Abraham and Isaac to pass.

,

In Jewish tradition, the
new year is the time man
takes stock of himself and
asks himself how well he is
serving God. By going to the
banks of a river or other body
of water, we recall the legend

Tashlich observance on a Tel Aviv beach: recalling man's
origins and destiny.

of our father Abraham who
stood prepared to fight any
obstacle, no matter how
great, that stood in the way
of his divine service.. As we
ask God to forgive our sins
and grant us another year of
life, we pray that we too will
be able to overcome any obs-
tacles.
In Jewish tradition, Torah
is called a "well of living
waters." Our sages teach that
only by cleansing ourselves
in the living waters of Torah
can we overcome our weak-
nesses and serve God prop-
erly. To illustrate this, at
Tashlich, Kurdish Jews liter-
ally jump into the water to
observe the ceremony. In the
Tashlich prayers we say to
God: "Arouse your mercy that
we may be cleansed from all
forms of impurity."
The Code of Jewish Law,
Shulhan Arukh, states that
Tashlich should be recited
alongside a body of water
containing fish. This is be-
cause fish are vulnerable.
They are constantly prey to
hooks, nets and other larger
fish. So, too, is man vulnera-

ble, to his impulses and de-
structive tendencies and must
constantly be aware of his
feelings and actions so as not
to fall prey to sin.
In the Tashlich service, we
recite the 13 attributes of di-
vine perfection, recalling that
God is compassionate, forgiv-
ing, slow to anger, etc.
Judaism teaches that man
must strive to imitate divine
perfection and incorporate
these attributes into his per-
sonality. Abraham, more
than any Jew in history, suc-
ceeded in this.
The Torah also teaches
that man was created out of
the dust of the earth and that
before man was created the
earth was covered with
water. Standing along the
waterside, on the first day of
the new year, we recall
where we came from, where
we are going and the great
task we have ahead of us.
The Tashlich ceremony re-
minds us both of how small
we are, and how great we can
be.

World Zionist Press Service

Soviet Trip Transforms
A Christian Minister

ALAN HITSKY

News Editor

high
school
fascination with the
Soviet Union has,
years later, transformed a
northern Michigan
clergywoman into an activist
in behalf of soviet Jewry.
The Rev. Diane Vaught, a
campus minister at North-
west Michigan Community
College in Traverse City and
a member of the Disciples of
Christ denomination,
traveled to the Soviet Union
this summer with a National
Council of Churches delega-

A

tion to complete a decades-old
dream. But she also went in
search of Soviet Jewish re-
fuseniks and with the knowl-
edge of two briefings from the
Detroit Soviet Jewry Com-
mittee.
Rev. Vaught had been
planning her Soviet trip for a
year, studying the Russian
language and reading every
text on Russia that she could
find. Her interest in Soviet
Jews, however, was kindled
last spring at a Holocaust
memorial service in Traverse
City. Mickey Fivenson of the
Traverse City Jewish com-
munity, upon learning of
Rev. Vaught's impending
trip, put her in touch with

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