From the Desk - Tashlich
I hope that you are all having a good week and are excited for the High Holidays!
The Build Up to High Holidays at Beth Ora
Here at Beth Ora, we have had a fantastic build up to the holidays. On Saturday evening, we screened a wonderful movie as part of our pre-Selichot program. 'Have a Little Faith' explores issues relating to the meaning of life, the potential for change and the way in which a relationship with G-d impacts on our lives. Everyone enjoyed the movie which was followed by a short discussion.
Sunday morning saw the beginning of our inaugural Pre-Bar Mitzvah program. We have a wonderful group of boys and their dads who joined me in the Hurwitz Lounge for breakfast as we discussed the deeper meaning of the High Holidays. We had such a great time that, sadly, I forgot to take a photo of the group at the end but here is a photo of some of the fantastic boys and their dads whom I caught for a photo before they left!
A Pre-Rosh Hashanah Message
Below I provide some guidance for observance of Rosh Hashanah. First though, I want to make a suggestion for something each of us can do, prior to Rosh Hashanah.
We are about to end the Jewish year 5778. For many of us, this has been a great year. However, there are many others – both within our community and beyond – who have had a very tough time. Many of us know people who have struggled with employment or have experienced considerable financial strain. Many have confronted difficult illnesses, or they have lost a close relative or friend. To all those people, may your curses end and may the new year bring about opportunities for blessings. Beyond this, as 5778 draws to a close and as we look towards a blessed 5779, I would like to suggest that if you know someone who has had a tough year, please make time in the few days before Rosh Hashanah to reach out to them, offer them words of encouragement and bless them for a positive year ahead.
May we all be blessed with an inspiring, meaningful and joyous Rosh Hashanah and may we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year.
Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova U’Metukah,
Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf
Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What’s the Deal with…Tashlich?
Many of you will have heard and may have practiced the custom of Tashlich on the afternoon of the First Day Rosh Hashanah. We stand by a body of water and recite prayers. We may have seen people throw bread into the water, to be eaten by fish and ducks. So…What’s the deal??
In explaining this custom, I benefit from an article on this topic by Rabbi Dr Ari Zivotofsky.
The Significance of Tashlich
Among the numerous explanations are the following:
May the Jews Proliferate! Although our practice is to say Tashlich at the spring opposite the synagogue, it is preferable to find a body of water that harbours fish. The appearance of live fish represents the blessing that the Jewish People should proliferate like fish.
Life is Precarious Another link between fish and Rosh Hashanah is that fish can, at any moment, get trapped in a net. The precariousness of their lives reminds us that a human being can similarly be abruptly ensnared in the net of death and judgement as we read in the Unetane Tokef prayer on Rosh Hashanah.
Crowning G-d A central motif of the Rosh Hashanah liturgy is the crowning of G-d as King. In the Bible, King David instructs that his son Solomon be brought to a spring to be coronated. From here, the Talmud derives that all kings are anointed at a body of water. This is to symbolize that the new king’s reign should have continuity, just as a spring flows continually. So Tashlich represents the crowning of G-d by a body of water.
“Please Don’t Feed the Animals!”
The first thing to explain is that feeding bread to fish and ducks on Yom Tov is actually not allowed! Although, there was a practice from the earliest days of tashlich to throw bread to fish, this practice was looked upon disapprovingly by many rabbinic authorities. There are several reasons for the objections. One of the reasons is that, while one is obligated to feed his pets and farm animals on Shabbat and Yom Tov, the Talmud clearly prohibits feeding other animals on those days. In clarifying the issue, the Talmud distinguishes between animals that are dependent on people for sustenance and those that are not, and between animals for which one has responsibility and those for which one does not. The bottom line in Jewish law is that we are not allowed to feed animals that are not our own on Shabbat or Yom Tov. Another concern with feeding animals on Shabbat or Yom Tov is that one may come to trap them which is prohibited.
Some rabbinic sources don’t comment on the practice of feeding the fish at Tashlich so it’s unclear what their attitude was to the practice. No sources, however, explicitly justify this practice. It is worth mentioning that the prohibition against feeding applies only to placing food directly in front of the animal, but placing it at a distance is prohibited.