Woman of Valour: An Evolving View of the Jewish Body
“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, God’s 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 one’s 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.
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