By Mabel Frank, MHWOW Program Manager
New year, new you? With the High Holidays fast approaching, it’s time to reflect on your year past and set intentions for the new one. Tashlich, a Rosh Hashanah ritual packed with symbolism, might be the perfect way to cast off your sins and renew. That’s why we’ve created a Tashlich: A Guided Audio Experience. You can listen to the recording we made on your own or with your community, or use the below script to lead a reflection at your Rosh Hashanah programs. You may also choose to add other activities to this ritual: singing, sharing, bread crumb throwing, swimming, prayer, writing, apple and honey eating, or anything else that will enhance your reflection.
Listen here or read on:
Hello! Before getting started on our reflection, let’s learn a bit more about what Tashlich is. The Tashlich ritual typically takes place on Rosh Hashanah or in the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It’s an opportunity for you to reflect on the year past, reckon with any sins or transgressions you’ve been carrying, and cast them away, to return to your true self. You can do this physically, by symbolically throwing bread crumbs, seeds, pebbles, or flower petals into a body of water, or, entirely internally, through visualization or reflection.
Now you’ll begin to examine your year: its ups, downs, and turns. Remember that everyone encountered difficulties and made mistakes, overcame challenges, and succumbed to negative forces, so don’t resist truth or sincerity. Use this time to be honest with yourself and move forward into the new year.
Feel free to close your eyes, direct your gaze downward, whatever is most comfortable for you, and we’ll start with a poem, Coming Up on September by Marge Piercy:
White butterflies, with single
black finger paint eyes on their wings
dart and settle, eddy and mate
over the green tangle of vines
in Labor Day morning steam.
The year grinds into ripeness and rot,
grapes darkening, pears yellowing,
the first Virginia creeper twining crimson,
the grasses, dry straw to burn.
The New Year rises, beckoning
across the umbrellas on the sand.
I begin to reconsider my life.
What is the yield of my impatience?
What is the fruit of my resolve?
I turn from frantic white dance
over the jungle of productivity
and slowly a niggun slides,
cold water down my throat.
I rest on a leaf spotted red.
Now is the time to let the mind
search backwards like the raven
loosed to see what can feed us.
Now, the time to cast the mind forward
to chart an aerial map of the months.
The New Year is a great door
that stands across the evening
and Yom Kippur is the second door.
Between them are song and silence,
stone and clay pot to be filled from within myself.
I will find there both ripeness and rot,
what I have done and undone,
what I must let go with the waning days
and what I must take in.
With the last tomatoes, we harvest the fruit of our lives.
Now you can open your eyes and take a moment to ground yourself. Maybe you’re walking, maybe you’re sitting or laying down. Notice what’s around you: Are you outside? Inside? Are there trees? Water? People? What do you hear? Is it hot outside? Cold? Bright, dark, sunny, or cloudy? Take a few deep breaths, release any tightness or tension you feel in your body, find some stillness.
Another year has passed, a year full of good, of brief moments, important shifts, of the senses and feeling. As you think through the collection of memories that comprise your year, bring yourself back to about a year ago: How was your life different? How were you different? What did you want from the year? From yourself? What promises did you make? What expectations did you set?
This was a year of growth and learning, wasn’t it? Recall, what did you have access to this year that supported you? Was it people or things? Education? Finances? Opportunities? What did you learn?
Notice the light around you. Is it coming from the sun, a lamp, the moon, or stars? How did you bring light and goodness into the world? Who, or what, brought light and goodness into your life?
There was joy this year. What made you laugh? What memory makes you smile, even now?
There were also hardships. There were challenges and new spaces made for renewal, opportunities, relationships. What ended in your life? What did you grieve? What started? What was renewed?
As you finish this year, what has stayed with you? What has been on your mind? Your heart? Something you said or did that may have harmed someone else. Now that you have it, how can you let it go? Loosen your grip on it, release any tension you’re feeling, and let it fall away. What about something you did that harmed you? Feel it fully, then relax your body and let the weight fall away.
Now, begin to tune back into the world around you. Feel, see, hear. What’s next for you? How will you enter this year with intention? What will you learn or do? How will you be there for the people you care about? How will you live more fully?
Thank you for joining us in this reflection, we hope it was meaningful and productive for you. Shana Tova, Happy New Year!