World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0001736728
Reproduction Date:

Title: Tashlikh  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: High Holy Days, Ten Days of Repentance, Atonement in Judaism, Repentance in Judaism, Yom Kippur
Collection: Hebrew Words and Phrases, High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah, Tishrei
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Tashlikh (Hebrew: תשליך‎, meaning "cast off") is a customary Jewish atonement ritual performed during the High Holy Day season.


  • Practice 1
  • Origin of the custom 2
    • Scriptural source 2.1
    • Questionable early sources 2.2
    • Maharil 2.3
    • Shelah 2.4
    • Ramah 2.5
  • Opposition to the custom 3
  • Mainstream acceptance today 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6


The ritual is performed at a large, natural body of flowing water (e.g., river, lake, sea or ocean) on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, although it may be performed until Hoshana Rabbah. The penitent recites a Biblical passage and, optionally, additional prayers. Optionally, if the ritual is performed not on the Sabbath, small pieces of bread (not breadcrumbs) are thrown into the water.

Origin of the custom

Scriptural source

The name "Tashlikh" and the practice itself are derived from an allusion mentioned in the Biblical passage (Micah 7:18-20) recited at the ceremony: "You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."[1]

Questionable early sources

  • Josephus ("Antiquities" 14:10, § 23) refers to the decree of the Halicarnassians permitting Jews to "perform their holy rites according to the Jewish laws and to have their places of prayer by the sea, according to the customs of their forefathers". However, there was an ancient Jewish custom to site diaspora synagogues on the seashore, as an expression of desire to return to Zion [citation needed].
  • The Zohar (Vayikra 101a,b) states that "whatever falls into the deep is lost forever; ... it acts like the scapegoat for the ablution of sins". Some believe that this is a reference to the tashlikh ritual.


Most Jewish sources trace the custom back to Rabbi Jacob Mölin (d. Worms, Germany, 1427) in his Sefer Maharil. There, he explains the custom as a reminder of the binding of Isaac. He recounts a midrash about that event, according to which Satan threw himself across Abraham's path in the form of a deep stream, in an attempt to prevent Abraham from sacrificing Isaac on Mount Moriah. Abraham and Isaac nevertheless plunged into the river up to their necks and prayed for divine aid, whereupon the river disappeared.[2]

Mölin, however, forbids the practise of throwing pieces of bread to the fish in the river, especially on the Sabbath. This would seem to indicate that in his time tashlikh was duly performed, even when the first day of Rosh Hashana fell on the Sabbath, though in later times the ceremony was, on such occasions, deferred one day.


Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (d. Tiberias, 1630) offers the earliest written source explaining the significance of allusions to fish in relation to this custom. In his eponymous treatise, Shelah (214b), he writes:

  • Fish illustrate man's plight, and arouse him to repentance: "As the fishes that are taken in an evil net" (Ecclesiastes 9:12);
  • Fish, in that they have no eyelids and their eyes are always wide open, allude to the omniscienceof the Creator, who does not sleep.


Rabbi Moses Isserles (Krakow, d. 1572), author of the authoritative Ashkenazi glosses to the Shulchan Aruch, explains:[3]

The deeps of the sea allude to the existence of a single Creator that created the world and that controls the world by, for example, not letting the seas flood the earth. Thus, we go to the sea and reflect upon that on New-Year's Day, the anniversary of Creation. We reflect upon proof of the Creator's creation and of His control, so as to repent of our sins to the Creator, and so he will figuratively "cast our sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:18-20).

Opposition to the custom

The Kabbalistic practise of shaking the ends of one's garments at the ceremony, as though casting off the klippah, caused many non-kabbalists to denounce the custom. In their view, the custom created the impression among the common people that by literally throwing their sins they might "escape" them without repenting and making amends. The Maskilim in particular ridiculed the custom and characterized it as "heathenish". A popular satire from the 1860s was written by Isaac Erter, in his "Ha-Ẓofeh le-Bet Yisrael" (pp. 64–80, Vienna, 1864), in which Samael watches the sins of hypocrites dropping into the river. The Gaon of Vilna also did not follow the practice.

Mainstream acceptance today

Jews in Rosh Hashanah on Aleksander Gierymski's picture "Święto trąbek I"

Today, most mainstream Jewish denominations view tashlikh as acceptable. It is generally not practised by Spanish and Portuguese Jews, and it is opposed by the Yemenite Dor Daim movement and by a small group of followers of the Vilna Gaon in Jerusalem.

Many Jews in New York City perform the ceremony each year in large numbers from the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. In cities with few open bodies of water, such as Jerusalem, people perform the ritual by a fish pond, cistern, or mikveh.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Zivotofsky, Ari. "What’s the Truth About ... Tashlich?". Jewish Action online. 
  2. ^ "Ask the Rabbi: Shabbat Rosh Hashana 5765". Eretz Hemdah Institute. 
  3. ^ Isserles, Moshe. Torat ha-'Olah. p. 3:56. 
  4. ^ Rabbi Yirmiyahu, Kaganoff. "Appreciating Tashlich". Retrieved 2 September 2013. 

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.