Tashlich: When the Bread is the Sin

This year, maybe it’s time to start out our days of introspection and reflection by considering what happens when the bread that we cast into water doesn’t represent sin, but is the sin itself. Not in a “You eat carbs? I can’t speak to you!” way, but in considering the “bread” or “dough” that so many of our representatives seem to have traded in their ethical responsibilities in exchange for receiving. Have we, then, too?

Before we celebrate creation, can we face that we have witnessed some destruction: of ethics, of civility, of unity; and of our own power to stop this. Can our personal introspection encompass recognizing a lack of transparency when dark money passes through PACS to our representatives, even “legally” from Russian oligarchs with US citizenship or US companies… and ties to Putin. Of watching efforts to create safeguards for elections and to prevent further cyberattack and election manipulation being shot down, manipulated or disbanded by the very representatives receiving such support?

Maybe it’s time to examine whether we are willing to compromise Jewish values, reverence for Jewish law and guiding principles because we want to support governments we perceive as more favorable to our interests.  What is the bread that we hold onto – and are we willing to cast it into waters of unblinking, all-seeing fish, into the still waters of creation that preceded our notions of safety or ownership or proprietary entitlement?

Are we unwittingly grooming our children to create immigration policies that wrench children from their parents’ arms though we are here only because our ancestors did what these parents did? Are we, despite our best intentions, raising children who align themselves with the kind of power movements responsible for the deaths of so many Jews throughout recent history?  Maybe the bread we clutch should remind us of the meager rations of those in camps, and when we say “Never Again” we should examine whether trying to assimilate into power groups is really the best way to achieve that.

We have ten days to reflect on whether ends justify means, on what we are losing every day, on the power of language and the language of power, and on what it means to be spiritual and communal and whether those things can and do presently coexist. We have ten days to feel good about mumbled prayers and abundant tables and good intentions and doing for our own.  Or we can relinquish our hold on the bread and stand together in awe and contemplation, casting our sin into waters of fish who have no eyelids and swim with eyes open… we too really seeing each other, ourselves and our relationship with g-d and the world around us, now devoid of the crumbs of understanding we have taken for granted as both our reference and our due. Can we use these ten days to act out of conscience and harmony rather than out of fear, to include and reach out and seek to understand and respect and wonder in creation?

Fear of judgement so easily leads us to defensive stance.  Even as we look toward ultimate judgement, we congregate with an eye toward how we appear to others and how others interpret our words and actions.  Are our outfits slimming and stylish? Do we look youthful? Are our spouses and children pleasing? Have we avoided ostensible shame in our professions or personal lives? Instead of looking to community judgement, maybe this is the year we embrace our ability to be clear-eyed in how we view the world around us.  Maybe this year, we are open to see corruption wherever it comes from and not rush to excuse it, open to understand that people come and dress in all kinds of colors and shapes and sizes and accept the beauty of aging as we embrace the life cycles of creation, open to enjoying silliness and not dismissing fervor or awkwardness or earnestness, to seeing human frailty and shortcoming without judgement so that people are not destroyed over shame and can grow and move forward – and we can move forward too. Maybe this is the year that we understand the best gifts we give our children are not ease and comfort but real belief in the unique nature of who they are, because it is that love which will allow them to see more than we can ever understand.

Wishing a season of awe and repentance and gratitude and moving forward to all, with reverence toward truth and in humanity in all it’s diversity.  May ultimate judgement be both all seeing and merciful, and may we not hide behind curtains of safety, stereotype, caricature or conformity but dance into this new year as our unflinching, true and best selves.

About the Author
Judi Zirin is an attorney and freelance writer in the New York area.
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