Tashlich means to cast off.
Jews go to a natural, flowing body of water (if possible) on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, before sunset, to symbolically cast out sins which are represented by breadcrumbs. Some people prefer flowing water that has live fish. Fish don’t have eyelids so their eyes are always open. Is this similar to G-d’s constant, merciful watching over us?
Rosh Hashanah is a period of self-introspection, and Tashlich requires that we look back over our behavior from the past year before we relinquish mistakes and cast away our sins. This ritual may have begun during the Middle Ages – around the 13th century. Rabbis feared that superstitious people (pagans) would believe that tashlich rather than teshuvah (atoning for sin) had the power to change their lives. Yes, throwing crumbs isn’t the way to repent for sins and be granted atonement, but this ceremony is tangible and great for children. So, the rabbis made the practice symbolic rather than superstitious by connecting the water feature to bible passages. Kings of Israel were crowned near springs and Rosh Hashanah is the day we coronate G-d as King of the Universe.
Here is how to observe Tashlich:
First, read out loud the passage below from Micah 7:18-20
Who is a G-d like you pardoning the sin and overlooking the crimes of the remnant of his heritage?
He does not retain his anger forever because he delights in grace.
He will again have compassion on us, and he will subdue our iniquities.
You will throw all their sins into the depths of the sea.
You will show truth to G-d and grace to Abraham as you have sworn to our ancestors since the days of long ago.
Then take a few moments for personal prayer…Cast the breadcrumbs into the water…that’s it!