Tashlikh and the Thrill of Potential
Every year, my sister’s in-laws announce their big Rosh Hashanah gathering for 4:00PM on the first day of the holiday. They extend their most generous invitation to my mother and me and now, of course, to my husband as well. It’s a lovely evening, but it’s in Scarsdale. Every year, as we accept the invitation, both my mother and I think wistfully about the one ritual we will be missing: Tashlikh on the Upper West Side.
I grew up in a kosher home, traditional Conservative, observing the rich customs and rituals of the Jewish tradition. We even built a sukkah every year in the backyard. But my family didn’t do Tashlikh. I suppose it’s because there wasn’t really anywhere to go to take part in the customary tossing of bread crumbs into the river, symbolically “casting off” the previous year’s sins. We lived in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. The closest body of water was Sheepshead Bay, which wasn’t really within walking distance. Plus, we didn’t drive on the holidays.
So Tashlikh was new for me when I started coming to BJ. The spiritual activity itself—which, for me, always became a meditation toward self-betterment—was powerful. And, after I’d tossed the last of my bread crumbs and was ready to take that sunset stroll along the Hudson River, I was always amazed and thrilled to find all walks of Upper West Side Jewish life sharing the moment. This is the ultimate Jewish social scene, full of possibility. There are the fresh-out-of-college NYC newbies meeting up with old camp buddies; new parents with their babies in strollers and new grandparents astride; kids running around; small gatherings of friends and congregations. All ages, multiple generations, and undoubtedly someone you knew at some point in your life. For me, it was always about who I would see on that pedestrian path. Who would I run into that might introduce me to someone else that might introduce something else into my life? Granted, I’m a very social being, but this is the thrill of Tashlikh—the possibility that some fresh new energy would be injected into my life: a ski trip, a date, a new job idea, a book club, a band, a painting class, a biking buddy. In fact, I found each of these at one point or another, stemming from a chance meeting during Tashlikh.
Tashlikh has come and gone, but if we can treat Shabbat services and the BJ events we attend throughout the year as opportunities to connect with someone new and see things with fresh eyes, the possibilities are endless. There are over 100 new members at B’nai Jeshurun, each bringing with them new energy and fresh ideas. And in an already thriving congregation of over 1,600 members, the potential for new connections and perspectives for each of us individually and for the congregation as a whole is astounding.