Tashlich – An External Act Symbolizing an Internal Process

On the custom of Tashlich carried out on Rosh Hashana, in which we symbolically cast off our negative behaviors and actions.

Resource Ages: 9-11


“You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

(Micah 7:19; the verse appears in the traditional Tashlich prayer).

וְתַשְׁלִיךְ בִּמְצֻלוֹת יָם כָּל חַטֹּאתָם.     

(מתוך תפילת תשליך המסורתית, מיכה ז, יט)

Like the bread that dissolves in the water

Dissolve from before me the pains and failures of the past year

Like the water that keeps on flowing

Give me the strength to renew myself each day in this world.

(A New Prayer for Tashlich, Rabbi Tamar Duvdevani)

כְּמוֹ הַלֶּחֶם הַנָּמֵס בַּמַּיִם,

הָמֵס מִלְּפָנַי אֶת הַכְּאֵבִים וְהַכִּשְׁלוֹנוֹת שֶׁל הַשָּׁנָה הַחוֹלֶפֶת.

כְּמוֹ הַמַּיִם הַזּוֹרְמִים וְהוֹלְכִים,

תֵּן בִּי הַכֹּחַ לְהִתְחַדֵּשׁ בָּעוֹלָם בְּכָל יוֹם תָּמִיד.

(תפילה חדשה לתשליך, הרַבָּה תמר דבדבני) 

Foundations for Planning

Essential Questions

  • How can I be the best “me” this year? In class, at home, on the playground, etc?
  • How do I grow as a result of the Jewish calendrical cycle?
  • How are symbols used in celebrations and holidays?

Background for Teacher

On the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, there is a tradition to go to a source of water (sea, river, spring, etc.) and ask God to forget and forgive our sins as if we had thrown them deep into the sea. The request is expressed...

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On the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, there is a tradition to go to a source of water (sea, river, spring, etc.) and ask God to forget and forgive our sins as if we had thrown them deep into the sea. The request is expressed in symbolic form: some people shake out their clothes, symbolizing the shaking off of the sins of the past year, and others throw breadcrumbs into the water.

After the act of throwing, it is customary to recite various biblical verses, including the verse “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). Rabbi Tamar Duvdevani offers an alternative prayer that highlights the theme of renewal implicit in the Tashlich custom. Throwing breadcrumbs into the flowing water suggests that we also seek to rid ourselves of the difficulties of the past year and emphasizes the need to keep on flowing forward. 

Tashlich service from the Machzor (Hebrew)

Optional Hooks
In-Depth Discussion
Suggested Activities
Further Study
  • Show the students a short excerpt from a film showing a snake shedding its skin. The snake rids itself of its old skin and an entirely new skin grows in its place. This process is essential so that the snake can grow. Actually all animals, including humans, shed their skin in one way or another (scales, feathers, fur, etc.). Ask the students what connection they can find between a snake shedding its skin and the themes of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Come back to this same question at the end of the study. Through repentance in general, and Tashlich in particular, we try to “shed” undesirable parts of ourselves and our past so that we can renew ourselves.
  • Show the students some pictures and photos depicting Tashlich. Ask them what the people are doing.

Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.

  1. In the Tashlich ceremony, we symbolically cast off our pasts into the water. The custom could also have been to throw our bad deeds into a fire, release them into the air, bury them in the soil, and so on. Why do you think Jewish tradition chose to invite us to throw our unwanted actions and attributes into flowing water? Look back at the prayers to help you answer this question.
  2. Compare the two sources. The modern one was written over 2,500 years after the early one. What aspects does each source emphasize? What ideas would you like to express as part of the Tashlich ceremony?
  3. The breadcrumbs are not actual sins. How do you think this symbolic act can help our process of soul-searching and encourage us not to repeat undesirable actions?

For older students:

  1. Think about other symbolic actions you perform. What is their strength? How do they influence you? 
  2. What does it mean to “get rid” of something? How does it feel to throw away something we didn’t want to keep (think about clothes or toys we don’t need any more, and also about our negative actions). When we get rid of something, does it disappear completely, or is some part of it left behind?
  3. Symbolic acts such as Tashlich can have a disadvantage: people may perform the action without thinking about its underlying essence – in our case, without engaging in soul-searching. Suggest a way we can prevent this problem.
  • If possible, hold a Tashlich ceremony by a water source. Choose what you will throw into the water according to the type of water source – we don’t want to pollute the water. We can also tip out our empty pockets. Before the ceremony, encourage the students to engage in soul-searching and think about negative actions they regret and which they’d like to let go of as the new year comes in. The students write these things down on slips of paper and take them to the Tashlich ceremony, but without actually throwing them into the water. They can throw the slips away right after the ceremony to avoid polluting the water.
  • If it isn’t possible to hold a Tashlich ceremony at a water source, you could hold a symbolic Tashlich. The students write down their actions on slips of paper using non-permanent marker pens. Invite them to throw the slips into a bowl of water and watch the words dissolve.
  • Look at the painting by Alexander Gierymski, which shows a Tashlich ceremony from over 100 years ago, and at the photograph of a modern-day Tashlich ceremony in Tel Aviv. What has changed and what remains the same? 
  • Show the students pictures and photos depicting Tashlich (even if you already did this at the beginning of the activity, we recommend repeating it now, after the study). What different scenes are shown in these sources? What different water sources appear? Pick a picture you find particular interesting; maybe there’s a story behind it?
  • Learn the poem Happy New Year, Ruti. Discuss different ways to express regret for our actions. 
  • Read the excerpt from Chaim Potok’s novel The Chosen in the block It’s Hard to Forgive. The excerpt describes an example of asking for forgiveness.