Happy New Year
The High Holidays have arrived. It's a fine thing, getting two new starts every year - Rosh Hashanah is just fine with me. I particularly like tashlich; I remember happily how every year my kids and I would take a casual ramble down to the tributary which runs through our neighborhood. We'd lie on the swinging bridge and throw bread crumbs (actually, usually bits of cracker) into the water - this was supposed to be symbolizing our sins. We'd watch the water carry them away. Sometimes the water was low and it didn't carry the crumbs away very fast. We would watch them swirl languidly and feel a bit anxious; it was time for them to head on downstream.
Why is it preferable to do Tashlich by a river that has fish?
a. Since fish have no eyelids, their eyes are constantly open. This symbolizes God's constant protective watch over the Jewish people.
b. Just as fish are suddenly caught in nets, so too we are caught in the net of judgment for life or death. Such thoughts should arouse a person to repentance.
c. This symbolizes our hope to be fruitful and multiply like fish.
d. In order that the evil eye shall not affect us, just as it cannot affect the fish that are hidden under the water.
3) What if the river has no fish?
Tashlich may still be said there.
4) Is one permitted to throw breadcrumbs to the fish?
No, it is forbidden to feed the fish on Yom Tov.
I ask you, how are we supposed to keep the fish from eating the crumbs?
I also have a fabulous recipe for honey cake, a traditional food for the new year.
On the other hand, I feel less Jewish during the High Holidays than at any other time of year. People who were born Jewish have a childhood history of dressing up and trooping to some huge space where tons of people, many of whom never go to the synagogue any other time of years, have shown up - because they, in turn, were forced to do the same when they were kids.
I hate crowds, and I don't like the idea of all these strangers packed into a room together, and I don't like the way the rabbi and the "officers," knowing there are tons of strangers in the room and that this is their yearly chance to hook them, have a different mien than during the rest of the year.
I don't like the way - unable to resist a large captive audience which is feeling repentant - they shill for donations. I don't like the way they charge a huge amount of money for tickets. All these things seem alien to me.
I wish I could do Yom Kippur with a handful of people. We would read prayers and discuss the holiday and meditate quietly. But that's not the Jewish way - the high holidays are SUPPOSED to be crowded and formal. The congregation is supposed to feel distant and uncomfortable.
I have no problem with repenting; the problem is, I repent constantly. Brooding over my errors, I feel regretful and embarrassed every day. I'm constantly apologizing; I keep up with my guilt load on a daily basis.
The biggest problem I have with Yom Kippur is this: I'm good at feeling depressed and remorseful, but lousy at feeling forgiven. When you leave the synagogue at sundown, you're supposed to feel relief. My feeling is always: I will never achieve forgivenness.
I can't forgive myself. Ask me how I feel about the gauche letter I sent a friend in second grade. It still gives me shudders of misery and embarrassment, it can still make me blush and groan. There is no statue of limitations.