Baal Shem Tov, or Besht — the founder of Chasidism —
Tashlikh bim'tsulot hayam kol chatotam – You will cast into the depths of the sea all of their sins!
The practice of Tashlikh comes from a time when no one could imagine that human acts could deplete entire oceans. The vastness of the sea, its capacity to receive and transform, to cleanse all, to breakdown and replenish, this is what we evoke in Tashlikh ~ what Walt Whtiman wrote about in Leaves of Grass:
Now our appetites consume whole species of fish, though fish are our model and metaphor for unimaginable fecundity. Industries kill off reefs; oil spills entire coastlines. Our ways of agriculture wash ages of good soil into the ocean, along with pesticides and manure. The greatest earthly symbol of the infinite is reaching its limits in our generation.
Can we still recite Tashlikh, throw our bread into the water, without remembering that our sins literally spill into the ocean? If only our sins could be transformed so simply by rituals, but it cannot work that way. We need to acknowledge this reality in our Tashlikh liturgy.
How would you do this? You could discuss the issue during the ritual of course; you could also read the Al Chet prayer for the earth as part of Tashlikh (download it here). Please contribute your own proposals and liturgies for Tashlikh to NeoHasid.
The quote from Leaves of Grass comes from "This Compost". The poem continues:
...That all is clean forever and forever,This dimension of the earth's abundance, the constancy of purification and regeneration, is what is threatened by our environmental sins. Not in the ultimate sense, for the earth will always regenerate life where its possibility exists, but threatened as far as our (and other mammals') ability to be part of the cycle of abundance.
Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006