By Guest Blogger Norma Tucker
A friend sent me an e-card on July 4th – a video that pictured perfectly formed seashells, underwater flora, colorful fish, and other amphibians. Above the waves of the waters, delicate birds flew in unison. The background music played “America the Beautiful.” Script floated above the animation, “from sea to shining sea.”
I thought about the repeat of “sea to shining sea” in light of ongoing findings that warn us of the depletion of certain species of fish and other marine life, how pollutants have affected these underwater creatures and the waters upon which they are dependent, and the effect of all this on our food chain. I considered this in light of the coming New Year and the practice of Tashlich* – casting off our sins of omission or commission, our transgressions, bread crumb by crumb, into flowing waters. Sins cast to waters that flow from creeks and rivers and other tributaries to our shining seas. Crumbs infused with sins that our fish consume, that the angler catches and sells, and we hungrily devour. Sometimes we become sick, infected, suffering the by-products of human pollution.
In the Middle Ages when the practice of Tashlich began, our sages rationalized about fish and their exposure to human sin and its consequences. Since fish lack eyelids, eyes always open and aware, the sages concluded that fish are immune to “the evil eye”**– in this case, crumbs of sin. (These guys, and they were guys, always seemed to find an angle – no pun intended. They, also, said the water had to be flowing).
We now know through scientific studies that lack of eyelids does not make immune the evils of pollution on our marine life, and, by extension, upon the waters that irrigate our crops and grasses and feed our livestock. We, in turn, feed and dress from the products of these plants and animals.
I ponder. Is not a sin cast-off to the waters as dangerous a pollutant as a plastic bag or bottle, spilled oil, human garbage? Pollute – “to make impure or morally unclean.” (my vintage print version of Random House Webster College Dictionary, 1992). Are we not making our waters morally unclean by casting to them our sins? Sins ingested, infecting, and too often, repeated.
I wonder. How to continue this tradition – to cast off, to morally cleanse our personal slate of what we consider to be our individual sin(s)of the past year, and, yet, to not morally infect our waters and our peoples. How do we purify ourselves and the waters upon which all life depends?
Perhaps instead of casting sin to the waters, we could offer our learning. Let our new found insights flow to shining seas and to those who partake along the way. To offer a prayer of sorts, a holy and wholesome offering. “I now know and understand the extent of my transgression, and with this prayer, I offer to all who partake the wisdom I gained ——————– now you finish the sentence ——-.”
*There will be two (2) TRS Tashlich opportunities offered on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah.
For full disclosure, I have never participated in a Tashlich ceremony.
** For more information, type into your search engine, Tashlich evil eye