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Q & A: Tashlich


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QUESTION: Why do some people say Tashlich on the second day of Rosh Hashana when the first day falls on a Sabbath, while others say it on the first day (in areas where there is an eruv)? What if someone missed saying Tashlich? Finally, what is the source for this custom?
Zvi Kirschner
(via email)
ANSWER: We will first address the source of Tashlich, and then deal with your specific questions.In his encyclopedic work Otzar Erchei HaYahadut, HaRav Yosef Grossman, zt”l, states as follows in his discussion of Tashlich based on Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Hilchot Rosh Hashana Ch. 129): “On the first day of Rosh Hashana after the Mincha prayer, but before shekia, it is customary to go to the seashore or to a riverbank, preferably outside the city [limits]; it
[the body of water] should contain fish in order to remind us that we are compared to fish that are captured in a net, and through this we will return to Hashem in repentance.

“It also serves as a good omen that we will multiply and be fruitful like fish; and the evil eye will
not prevail over us just as it does not affect fish [which are hidden in the water and generally
protected from the evil eye.]”

If there is no body of water, ocean or river in that locality, one goes to a water well or a water pond and one says the verses found in the machzorim (Micah 7:18-20, Psalms 118:5-9 and Psalm 31, with some machzorim substituting or adding Psalm 33 and other tefillot for parnassa).”

As for the word “Tashlich,” it is found in Micah (7:19), “… Vetashlich bi’metzulot yam kol chatotam – You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

We go to a stream of water because of the following (I Samuel 7:6): “… Vayish’avu mayyim
vayishpechu lifnei Hashem … vayomru sham, chatanu l’Hashem - … They drew water and poured it out before Hashem … and they said there, We have sinned to Hashem.”

Targum Yonatan (ad loc.) explains that they poured out their hearts like water in repentance
before Hashem. Rashi (ad loc.) explains it as “a sign of submissiveness: we are before You like these waters that are poured out.”

The Midrash (Tanchuma, Parashat Vayera 29) cites the following: “When Abraham brought his son Isaac to be bound for a sacrifice [on Rosh Hashana], Satan transformed himself into a large river before them. When [upon crossing] the water reached their necks, Abraham prayed and the river dried up.”

Aside from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch upon which R. Grossman obviously bases his discussion, we also find that the Rema (Orach Chayyim 583) mentions this minhag in the name of the Maharil. The Mishna Berura (ad loc.) quotes the Pri Megadim as a reference as well.

We find another reason in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (ad loc.): We go to the riverside because it is the custom to anoint kings next to a river, and on Rosh Hashana we anoint Hashem as our King.

We also find another possible early source for Tashlich in Yitav Panim by the Admor R. Yekutiel Yehuda Teitelbaum, zt”l, the Sigheter Rav (Vol. 1, page 28), who sees a hint to this custom in Psalm 137: “Al naharot Bavel sham yashavnu gam bachinu bezochrenu et tziyyon… – By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, there we cried, as we remembered Zion…”

My uncle, HaRav Sholom Klass, zt”l, in his discussion on this topic, quotes the Aruch
HaShulchan (Orach Chayyim 583) who cautions against Tashlich becoming a ‘social scene.’ He also quotes his grandfather (my great-grandfather), HaRav Yaakov Epstein, zt”l, who was of the family of Aruch HaShulchan, who cited R. Yitzchak Elchanan’s opinion that it is a far greater mitzva to sit and learn Torah than to waste one’s time going to Tashlich. My uncle notes that R. Epstein never went to Tashlich.

However, my uncle concludes that the majority do indeed follow the Rema (citing the Maharil). The custom is to say Tashlich, and we do not violate a custom.

Next we address whether saying Tashlich is universal to all Jewry or only to Ashkenazic Jews, as it would seem from the above discussion that our source is the Maharil as cited by the Rema. R. Yosef Caro (the Beit Yosef, whom Sephardim follow) makes no mention of this practice. Thus it would seem that Sephardim do not go to Tashlich.

Yet we find that the Rishon LeZion Rav Ovadiah Yosef, past Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel,
was asked if one should go to Tashlich on the first day of Rosh Hashana if it falls on the Sabbath (Responsa Yechaveh Da’at, 56).

The question in and of itself points out that both the questioner and R. Ovadiah Yosef accept as fact that Sephardim do go to Tashlich.

In his notes, R. Ovadiah Yosef explains that in this matter Sephardim follow the Arizal, and
disputes the Gaon R. Moshe Sternbuch, who states in his Mo’adim U’zemanim (Vol. I, 34) that the Gaon of Vilna did not say it, nor do many Gedolim as well as Sephardim.

R. Ovadiah Yosef also explains that going to Tashlich on Shabbat is permissible only where the body of water is within the boundaries of the locality’s eruv.

He reasons that we follow the rule of “zerizim umakdimim lemitzvot – The zealous perform their religious duties early.” [The Gemara (Pesachim 4a) refers to Abraham's haste in performing the mitzva of the Akeda].

Thus, it would be proper to say Tashlich on the first day, even on a Sabbath, rather than wait until the second day of Rosh Hashana.

However, a problem arises because there are numerous prayers that we are accustomed to recite as part of Tashlich, and we fear that people might carry a machzor outside the permitted boundaries, much as we delay blowing the shofar to the second day of Rosh Hashana when the first day falls on a Sabbath, because “he might carry it four cubits in the public domain”  (Rosh Hashana 29b). In such a case, R. Ovadiah Yosef agrees that we delay until the
second day.

However, after citing an almost equal number of sources for both sides of the issue, he concludes that Sephardim will recite Tashlich on the first day, including those who are more stringent and do not carry even in an area that has an eruv; they are able to go to Tashlich by having minors carry the machzorim for them.

Ashkenazim, however, generally follow the Chida (Birkei Yosef ch. 583), who states that it is a Kabbalistic rule that we do not say Tashlich on the Sabbath, but postpone it to the second day.

Similarly, the Gaon R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin, zt”l, notes in his Hamo’adim BaHalacha (Hilchot Rosh Hashana) that it would be permissible to go to Tashlich on the first day that falls on a Sabbath. However, he cites the Pri Megadim who states that “in some places I have seen that when the first day falls on Shabbat, they go to the river on the second day…”

It seems that the custom in all places is not to go to Tashlich on a Sabbath but rather to wait until the second day.

In Likutei Maharich (Rosh Hashana Vol. 3 p. 772) the Gaon R. Yisrael Chaim Friedman notes that if one did not say Tashlich on either of the two days of Rosh Hashana, one says it on any of the days of Aseret Yemei Teshuva, the Ten Days of Awe between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

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About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


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