Thursday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. On the Hebrew calendar, this is 5772. Part of the afternoon observance is a service called Tashlikh which means to cast away. This is performed at a body of water where there are fish: in my case, Big Bear Lake. After a few prayers and meditations, the participants shake bread crumbs out of their pockets and into the water, symbolically casting away their sins for the fish to eat and bear away.
The observance is not set in stone. Rabbis have debated over the ages how, why, and even whether it is to be performed. Some have suggested it is a pagan rite to bribe the devil that resides in the deep. Others compare it to the scapegoat symbolism. Another view is to remind us that people are like fish: easily ensnared.
I had never attended a Tashlikh service before. This one, conducted on two pontoon boats tied to a fishing buoy, did not disappoint. I especially liked the liturgy, which was introspective rather than legalistic. In other words, the sins that were named are not civil offenses, but lapses in character. A sampling:
Let us cast away the sin of Deception, so that we will mislead no one in word or deed, or pretend to be what we are not….
Vain ambition, which prompts us to strive for goals which bring neither true fulfillment nor genuine contentment...
Stubbornness...Envy...Selfishness, which keeps us from enriching our lives through wider concerns, sharing, and reaching out in love...
Indifference…Pride and Arrogance.
The brilliant sky, glistening water, and late afternoon sun beat heck out of the drone of prayers in the synagogue.
Noboru Koi Large Fortune by Wu Jin Sato, a contemporary Japanese commercial artist. Paintings and prints like this are valued as apotropaic charms to ward off evil and attract good luck. Click on the picture for a closer look.