The distinction between the individual and the community is inherent in all that pertains to the Days of Awe -Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, The Individual in the Community, On Repentance
Tashlich is a Hebrew word meaning to cast off. It is a practice which symbolizes discarding sins by throwing pieces of bread into a flowing body of water at the Jewish New Year. It is part of the process of teshuvah (atonement). One of the High Holiday prayers, the viddui (confession), places sin in a communal context; "We have been guilty", "we have betrayed", "we have stolen", "we have spoken falsely", etc. However in the tashlich ritual, although one is physically surrounded by others, an individual takes a moment of silence and inner reflection to cast his or her crumbs, representing personal sins, upon the water. The prayer that is customarily recited uses I, not we. (From out of the depths, I called to God; with abounding relief, God answered me). The tradition teaches that sins between a Jew and God, be confessed without others present, but It is impossible to truly atone for oneself without atoning together as a community. Sins transgress the boarders of the self and merge into a larger whole. Rambam (Maimonides) says, The confession that is customary for the Jewish people to make on Yom Kippur is but we (all of us) have sinned and this is the essence of the confession.1 The Kabalistic concept of shevirat ha-kelim (the shattering of the vessels) explains that in the process of creation, Gods divine light was delivered in ten holy vessels, but under the enormous weight of Divinity the vessels shattered and scattered holy sparks all over the world. According to legend, this is why we were created to gather the holy remnants, no matter where they are hidden, even in our own sins and transgressions. Rabbi Soloveitchik writes about atonement in terms of severing ones psychic identity with ones previous I, he continues, this can only be done if the sinner terminates his past identity and assumes a new identity for the future.2 Although Soloveitchik writes in terms of a new I, in order for true atonement to occur, I must become we and we must author transformation together. In this metamorphose, the act of atonement itself is a creative gesture To facilitate this process of communal teshuvah; we are collecting the sins of the community in this transparent vessel to build together a new whole. Let this collection of bread be a reminder that it is possible to repair the brokenness in the universe and in ourselves if we don't go it alone. As the sins of individuals commingle together inside this vessel, coalescing into a communal body- it is at this moment of togetherness on this day of tashlich that atonement can occur and the process of teshuva begin.