A Rosh Hashanah By The River

Sep 17, 2015

Sam Berman, 6, from the Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh, gets ready for the Tashlich ceremony held during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. During the service, bread is thrown in the river to symbolize the letting go of sins from the previous year.
Credit Lou Blouin / The Allegheny Front

A sign at the 18th Street boat launch near Pittsburgh’s Birmingham Bridge explicitly states “DO NOT FEED THE DUCKS AND GEESE.” And technically speaking, the 70 or so people gathered here tossing bread into the Monongahela River, triggering a feeding frenzy in the water, aren’t doing that.

The bread they’re throwing is just a symbol: a spiritual stand-in for the sins and baggage from the past year. And if the bread/sins can make it past the gauntlet of water fowl, the water, according to scripture, will carry them away.

In the Jewish ceremony of Tashlich, celebrated in the afternoon during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, water is essential. But there’s apparently some flexibility as to what form it takes.

One congregation in New Jersey, for instance, found enough spiritual satisfaction throwing leftover bread into the path of a running garden hose behind the synagogue.

The group gathered today on the ‘Mon’ was apparently looking for a little more authenticity. At least as much authenticity as can be wrestled from a setting where the roar of passing jet skis and the splash of boats being launched into the river are a constant backdrop.

But no one seems bothered by it.

Jews, Rabbi Keren Gorban explains, are used to being mixed in with lots of other people. And Rosh Hashanah, at the end of the day, is all about having a good time — which both the boating and New Year’s crowds are presently having riverside.

Read the full story at the website of our partner The Allegheny Front.