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The Symbolism of Tashlich: Casting Away Our Sins and Burdens

Updated: Mar 31

tashlich feast of trumpets biblical holiday

An Invitation To Cast Off Your Burdens

We've all either walked up a mountain, taken a hike, or are at least familiar with the process. Whether or not you get to the top, hiking can be intense. There are moments when only sheer determination will bring your burning, shaky legs another step forward. And it seems like just when you are about to call it quits, a friend comes alongside you to offer you some encouragement, or you notice a plateau a little way up and find the energy you need to carry on. (And of course the added expectation of the start of a pretty great view). 

Now, imagine along the way, you began picking up rocks. Some big and some small. They may be manageable at first; in your vigor, you may not even notice them. But eventually, those rocks will begin to get heavy. Really heavy. That's what sin is like. Life is full of seasons. If you don't know that yet, give it some time, and you will become very familiar with it. Because of our human nature, we inevitably pick up sin along the way. Some of it is inherent to our personality and background, while some are bad habits learned along the way or a response to how we perceive reality. Often, it's a mixture of all of the above. 

You may not notice the weight of these sins on a daily basis. But when it comes time to release them, you will undoubtedly discover two things:

1. How heavy they were

2. How much better you feel now that they are off of you. 

That's what the Jewish celebrations of Rosh Hashanah and the Tashlich ceremony are all about.

tashlich feast of trumpets biblical holiday

Rosh Hashanah and Tashlich

Tashlich is a Hebrew word that translates to "casting off" and is associated with the high holiday Rosh Hashanah or the Feast of Trumpets. Although there is no direct command to have a Tashlich ceremony in the Torah, many Jews celebrate the Biblical new year by gathering around a body of water to cast off their sins from the past year. 

The practice was inspired by the prophet Micah who says, "He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:19)

Tashlich Traditions It's customary for Jewish people to gather on the first day of Rosh Hashanah with stones or bread crumbs to represent their sin from the past year. But this isn't some sort of holy New Year's resolution. Instead, a Tashlich service helps prepare for the highest Holy Day- Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement.  Typically, participants enjoy liturgy (guided prayers) and a traditional tashlich prayer. Rabbis prefer that Tashich services be at a natural body of water that contains fish (for man can't escape judgment any more than a fish could escape a net), although any flowing body of water will do—even running water from a hose! 

Is Rosh Hashanah Just for the Jewish People? 

No! Although practiced commonly in Judaism, all are invited to participate in the Jewish holidays thanks to Jesus. Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi himself, who came to fulfill the Jewish law and extend an invitation to the rest of the world. Through his death and resurrection, now, any who believes in Him has a place in his family. Therefore, we are accepted. We move from being outcasts to being children of God. We move from living with the burden of sin to living with freedom. 

A Modified Messianic Tashlich Practice

Here at Twenty Six Eight, we embrace Jewish customs. We love the practical and tangibly visual way of casting off sins and we have modified it for our community.  Where the Jewish people gather around a body of water, we gather corporately in our church building. And while Jewish participants come with stones or pieces of food, our congregation comes with an emblem of repentance in hand. 

As we enter a new year, we prayerfully consider what it is that God wants us to turn away from. Themes can be as expansive as control, fear and insecurity or as practical as eating too much sugar or not following through with everyday commitments. Whatever it is that you believe God is asking you to turn from, find an emblem to represent it. It can be pictures, letters, or actual items that are connected to your sin. 

After a time of worship and hearing from The Lord, all are invited to lay their emblems down at the altar and enter into the new year with freedom and joy.  Just like the hiker who picks up rocks, we are not called to live with years of baggage, sin and pain. And carrying them for so long actually prevents us from picking up the things that Jesus does have for us. 

A Few Practical Considerations 

Interested in celebrating with us? We would love to have you! Here are a few practical considerations to help you fully enter into what we are doing.

Don’t live in the Treasure Valley?

Here are some other ways you can enter into the season no matter where you are!  After service, our emblems are cast away into the dumpster, so plan on getting rid of something you are actually ready to part with.

Decide on an object you can lay down. 

After you discover what you are being called to lay down, don't forget to pray over what you are being invited to pick up. For example, if you lay down fear, you may be invited to pick up peace or joy. If you lay down sugar, you may be invited to pick up health. 

Can’t join us for our celebration?

Celebrate Trumpets from home with our Live Trumpets service and participate in laying something down by throwing something in the trash.

Bring a shofar!

(Or plan on enjoying some horns). A big part of Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of trumpets. Biblically, these trumpets were shofars, or ram's horns. We conclude the evening with celebratory shouts and horns. You will find everything from traditional, full-sized ram's horns to children with plastic horns.

Don’t have a horn? Praise Jesus to a worship song and shout to God with joy.

Check out our Fall Holidays Guide for more tips on preparing for all of the Fall Holidays in 2021. 

Finally, and most importantly, come into the season with expectation. God wants to meet with you. These holidays are an appointment to meet and hear from God. So come ready to hear! 

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