Tashlich: Casting stones, sins on the river for Jewish High Holidays

  • A small group gathered at the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area on Sunday to perform Tashlich, a Jewish High Holiday tradition for casting away heaviness and sins, typically using stones or breadcrumbs. FOR THE RECORDER/TALIA GODFREY

  • A small group gathered at the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area on Sunday to perform Tashlich, a Jewish High Holiday tradition for casting away heaviness and sins. But before each went their own way to perform Tashlich by the river, Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener led the group in a reflection on water and cleansing. for the recorder/talia godfrey

For the Recorder
Published: 9/21/2020 3:58:41 PM

GREENFIELD — Stones flew from hands into the Green River’s cold water this Sunday as a small group gathered at the swimming and recreation area to perform Tashlich, a Jewish High Holiday tradition for casting away heaviness and sins.

Tashlich, a Hebrew word meaning “to cast,” is a time for “continuing the work of examination, reparation and repent,” said Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener of Temple Israel in Greenfield. Stones or breadcrumbs are traditionally thrown into a living body of water to release inner density.

Before each went their own way to perform Tashlich by the river, Cohen-Kiener led the group in a reflection on water and cleansing, an association that is “deeply universal and elemental,” she noted. Each shared words of association with water, such as “transformation,” “life and destruction” and, as one boy chimed in, “wet,” before singing songs together such as Alison Krauss’ “Down to the River to Pray.”

Marsha Stone, board president of Temple Israel, comes to the Green River each year during Rosh Hashanah to perform Tashlich with the community.

“It’s good for the soul to get things off your chest and start anew,” Stone said.

Fewer numbers and social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic are just the tip of what makes this year’s celebrations different from other years. Cohen-Kiener is aware of an abundance of uncertainty, fear, grief and exhaustion amongst community members.

“An emergency makes you want to waste time less, be more alert, more appreciative, and to clarify values,” Cohen-Kiener said.

She noted that people are more willing to talk about things that concern them.

For many, the in-person gathering was especially important this year amid largely virtual services.

“Because we’re so spread out around the counties, it’s great to gather this way,” Cohen-Kiener said.

According to Cohen-Kiener, the tradition attracts families and singers. In a time when normal family engagement is disrupted, she said, the tradition is especially powerful.

Cohen-Kiener encouraged people who weren’t able to make it to Sunday’s event to perform their own Tashlich in a section of a river near them. She emphasized that each person has to decide for themselves what to release, what brings them into balance.

“That is what adulthood is,” she said.




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