This tashlikh ceremony was composed to be used at a gathering of women, providing both a “safe space” for women to examine their lives and a place for women to think critically about their various communities. However, with very few minor changes this ceremony could be used with any group of adults. Reprinted with permission from Ritualwell.org.
Tashlikh, meaning “cast away,” is a ritual performed on Rosh Hashanah as a physical reminder of the human effort to cast away one’s sins. By casting crumbs of bread into the water and reciting the verse from Isaiah– “cast all our sins into the ocean’s depths”–we state our intention to return to our true selves. For many Jews, Rosh Hashanah is a time for reciting many words. Through Tashlikh, we use our bodies and actions to do the work of return. Although the rabbinic authorities originally objected to this ritual, Jews stubbornly performed it until it became a “traditional” part of the holiday.
[product]Tashlikh can be a time for women to gather in a safe environment, consider their lives together, and examine the ways of their community. How have we grown as individuals and as women? How have we fallen short? How have the larger Jewish and secular communities supported us? How have they failed us? This ceremony, designed by the Ma’yan staff, gives women a place to be open about the truths of their lives and to share deeply with one another.
Tashlikh should be performed near a body of water so that the ritual of casting away can be performed. If you have no body of water, use a large bowl or bucket.
Opening Song or Niggun (Wordless Song)
Set the tone for the ritual in the first few moments. If your ritual occurs on a weekday evening, begin with song to slowly transition people out of the workday and the busy-ness of the workweek into a quiet and contemplative space. Find a song leader–someone who can teach new pieces and encourage participants to join in. Make sure to provide a song sheet with all of the words and liturgy that you will be using throughout the ritual (with English translations and transliteration of the Hebrew).
Possible songs include Hannah Senesh’s Eli, Eli; Min Hameitzar;Return Again; and many niggunim.
Introduction to the Ritual of Tashlikh
Once you have established the tone, begin the ritual with some background or a small teaching about Tashlikh. You might want to include the following:
-Some historical background about Tashlikh(see Seasons of our Joy or other holiday guide)
-An explanation of the Hebrew word: Tashlikh, meaning “to cast off;” also related to shalekhet, the word that describes a tree that sheds its leaves.
-A short discussion about teshuvah (return) and the contemplative and introspective time that tradition gives us during the month of Elul.
-After some introductory words, give participants a brief overview of what you have planned for the evening. If the group is small enough, you may want to have everyone introduce herself using her matrilineage (name, bat/daughter of mother’s name, bat/daughter of grandmother’s name, etc). Or you can have everyone answer an opening question related to teshuvah (return/repentance), Tashlikh, or Elul, such as, “What does the word teshuvah, “turning,” mean to you?” or “How have you spent this month of preparation for the High Holidays?
Before participants enter into their individual casting, provide a space for them to reflect on the past year and focus on both things that they are ready to cast off and things that they will hold on to. For those participants who have not already begun this internal work during the month of Elul, this section of the program will offer a meaningful way of preparing both for the ritual and for the High Holidays.
Have the group break up into pairs and share something about the past year. One idea might be to ask each pair of participants to share with one another something about themselves which they would like to cast away in the coming year, as well as something they would like to keep. Another idea might be to ask what changes each partner in the pair plans to make in the coming year and what holds them back from making those changes.
Individual Casting (Personal Lives)
Give individuals time to cast their bread into the body of water. Lead a niggun during this time and allow people to spend a moment thinking, meditating, or praying as they perform the ritual. You can provide bread, bread crumbs, or rose petals for this piece of the program. You can choose to have participants cast in silence or have the song leader play a niggunor instrumental piece in the background. Allow a fair amount of time for this section. Afterwards, begin to gather participants back into the main circle with singing and/or dancing that starts slowly and builds the energy of the group.
You might want to think about supplying participants with a poem or piece of liturgy to say at the water if they choose. Explain before people break into pairs that these readings for individual casting can be found on the song sheet, and if necessary (if they are in Hebrew or if they are sung), go over them as a group.
Hatarat Nedarim Ceremony (Annulment of Vows)
-water soluble pens
-heavy duty paper
-Niggun (use Hashiveinu or other High Holiday niggun)
Kol Nidre is a community Hatarat Nedarim, an annulment of vows, to release us from vows to God that we are unable to fulfill. Since the time of the Bible, Jews have had the concept of an oath or neder, a binding statement of what one has committed to do. There is a ceremony to release one from such a vow, called Hatarat Nedarim. This is the concept this segment of the ritual will explore.
-Put people in groups of four so that everyone has a beit din (court of three).
-Have each person brainstorm list of all her “shoulds” and “have tos,” everything she is committed to.
-Have each person choose two words that represent things from her list she wants to get rid of and things she feels good about that she chooses to do with her free will and write each on an index card. Have each person put one in each hand (or pocket).
-As people go down to the water, encourage them to focus on balance and release.
-Down at the water, people get into their groups of four. One person in each group is given a bottle of water. The person whose card is being washed says whatever they want about the word on the card and gives it over to be held and poured on. Repeat four times. When everyone in the group is done join the big circle and sing the niggunagain.
-In the big group people will bring their “keep cards” and put them in the middle face up and take a challah roll from the middle. When everyone has done this, make a blessing together over the challah and honey. Say: “May it be that by honoring our will we honor Your will.
Closing the Ritual
Combine any or all of the following elements for your closing ritual:
-Going around the circle and answering a question about the meaning of Tashlikh for each individual
-Reading a poem, blessing, or other reading (Marge Piercy’s poem “Coming Up On September,” found on page 291 of the Reconstructionist machzor Kol haNeshamah, is a good choice)
-Taking turns stating personal commitments for the coming year to take action around women’s and girls’ rights an d resources, women’s advancement, etc.
-Apples and Honey
-Bring apples and honey and invite everyone to share in the sweetness of the new year.
© 2004 ritualwell.org.
Pronounced: KHAH-luh, Origin: Hebrew, ceremonial bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
Pronounced: roshe hah-SHAH-nah, also roshe ha-shah-NAH, Origin: Hebrew, the Jewish new year.
Pronounced: tuh-SHOO-vah, (oo as in boot) Origin: Hebrew, literally “return”, referring to the “return to God” teshuvah is often translated as “repentance.” It is one of the most significant themes and spiritual components of the High Holidays.