1. It Means Cast Away

Tashlich is the Hebrew imperative to “cast away,” taken from the verse, “He shall return and grant us compassion … and You shall cast into the depths of the sea all their sins.”1 As we shall discover, this verse is part of the Tashlich service.

Read: What Is Tashlich?

2. It’s Done Near Water

Tashlich is performed near a lake or a river, preferably one with fish and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. In some neighborhoods, a local pond can do the trick. In others, specially dug pools of well water are used.

3. Rosh Hashanah Afternoon Is the Ideal Time

The time for Tashlich is on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, after the Mincha service. In the event that the first day of Rosh Hashanah coincides with Shabbat, when carrying in public spaces is forbidden and it is not practical to bring along the requisite prayer books, Tashlich is held on the second day of the holiday instead.

Those who are unable to do Tashlich during the ideal time may do so until the eve of Yom Kippur.

4. It is Rich With Meaning

As suggested by its name, the Tashlich ceremony involves symbolically casting our sins into the water.2

Said in the presence of fish, we pray that our numbers increase like fish, who multiply abundantly and who are not subject to ayin hara, the "evil eye."3 In addition, the fish, who have no eyelids and never blink, remind us of G‑d’s watchful eye, and how He is constantly watching over us. Water flows freely and provides nourishment, symbolizing G‑d’s kindness, which we wish to evoke on the day when the world stands in judgement before Him.4

The water also reminds us (and G‑d) of how Abraham waded through neck-deep water on his way to follow G‑d’s command to sacrifice his son, Isaac.5

Read: The Origins of Tashlich

5. It Is Also a Coronation Ceremony

When King David’s son Solomon was anointed as his successor, King David commanded that it be done at the Gihon Spring.6 The Talmud7 explains that it was standard practice to crown new kings near a spring to symbolize the wish that their reign continue uninterrupted, just like the waters of the spring, which flow undisturbed.

Since Rosh Hashanah is the day when we accept G‑d’s kingship, it is fitting that this ceremony takes place near flowing water.8

6. The Text Corresponds to the 13 Attributes of Mercy

When Moses stood on Sinai begging for forgiveness after the sin of the Golden Calf, G‑d taught him the 13 Attributes of Mercy.

Any Rosh Hashanah Machzor (prayerbook) should have the text for Tashlich, which begins with the final three verses of the Book of Micah,9 which contain 13 phrases corresponding to the 13 Attributes. We then say Psalm 118:5-9, which corresponds to the nine related attributes evoked by Moses when he begged for forgiveness after the sin of the Spies.10

When saying the verses, we have in mind the corresponding attributes, but we do not verbalize them.

We then say Psalm 33 and Isaiah 11:9, followed by a prayer asking G‑d to accept our prayers and that we merit to return to Him and be forgiven for our sins.

Read the Text in Hebrew and English

7. Giving Bread to Fish Is a Problem

Many people enjoy taking along bread and tossing it to the fish. However, there is no actual source for throwing food to the fish, and in some of the earliest sources for the custom of Tashlich, as far back as the 14th century, the rabbis decried this practice. The primary problem is that on Jewish holidays we may only feed animals that are dependent on us, and not wildlife like fish.

Read: The Problem With Feeding Fish at Tashlich

8. We Shake Our Garments

There is a custom to shake the corners of one’s garments (or tallit katan) to symbolically show that we are casting our sins into the river, ready to begin the new year with a clean slate.

9. The Rebbe Would Lead a Parade

Starting in the 1940s, when Chabad relocated to Brooklyn, the Chassidim would walk just over a mile to the pond at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens to perform this ritual. In 1941, just months after he arrived in New York, the Rebbe organized the walkers into two rows, and had them march down Eastern Parkway while singing a Chassidic melody.

Famously, in 1956, there was a heavy downpour, and the Rebbe led everyone through the storm. But when they arrived at the park, they were met by locked gates. Without missing a beat, the Rebbe jumped over the gate and encouraged the Chassidim to follow suit.

Read: When the Rebbe Climbed the Fence

10. There Has Been Renewed Interest Recently

All around the world, this ritual has seen a renaissance, with communities gathering together for Tashlich. Often they take along a shofar in order to perform the mitzvah for anyone who may not have attended services that morning.

Discover How Tashlich Has Been Reborn in Estonia