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How to Cast Away Your Sins and Protect the Environment

How to Cast Away Your Sins and Protect the Environment

mother and baby duck swimming in water

Tashlichthe Jewish tradition practiced during the Days of Awe (the 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur), involves symbolically casting away one’s sins or wrongdoings. This ritual is often performed by tossing bread crumbs into a body of water. For many, Tashlich is an important and meaningful tradition. But, practicing Tashlich with bread crumbs can be dangerous for geese, ducks, and other waterfowl – it keeps them from eating the food that is nutritious for them, and it spreads disease. So, how should people practice the important tradition of casting away sins without doing harm in the process? We asked some rabbis about their environmentally friendly Tashlich practices:

“A member of our congregation taught us that bread crumbs are bad for animals, and since then, we’ve used untreated wood chips. It works very well!”
-- Rabbi Cory Weiss, Temple Har Zion, Thornhill, Ontario

“I use the stones that go into the bottom of a fish tank. They are small pebbles, come in colors, do not harm the water, and are not ingested by fish. I buy a bag and use a small cup to ladle out handfuls to congregants. Individuals find a place at the water’s edge and throw them when they are ready.”
-- Rabbi Shelley Kovar Becker, Gishrei Shalom Jewish Congregation, Southington, CT

“One year when I led a service for teenagers, we wrote down sins/mistakes from the past year on small pieces of paper. Then we took our papers and put them through a paper shredder. It was powerful to take the time to reflect on the past year, write about it, and then shred to begin a clean slate.”
-- Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz, Temple B’nai Abraham, Livingston, NJ

Do you have any environmentally friendly Tashlich traditions that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

Marissa Solomon is the digital communications producer for the Union for Reform Judaism. Based in New York, she is originally from Ann Arbor, MI, and has a degree in public policy from the University of Michigan.

Marissa Solomon
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